ATRI: Renewable diesel 'promising solution' for lower emissions

Updated Apr 30, 2024
Tractor-trailer on highway and renewable diesel images

ATRI report coverATRIThe American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) recently released a new report that analyzes the benefits of employing renewable diesel (RD) as an alternative to battery electric vehicle (BEV) trucks.

This analysis is a follow-up to findings from past ATRI research on the topics of zero-emission vehicles and electric infrastructure challenges. In those past reports, ATRI utilized the U.S. Department of Energy’s GREET Model to confirm renewable diesel as a promising solution for lowering the trucking industry’s CO2 emissions.

While both RD and BEV pathways have implementation costs, the report concludes that relying on BEV to decrease CO2 emissions is nearly six times more expensive than using RD.

In the report, RD and BEV pathways are evaluated on three criteria: 

  • Environmental benefits
  • Operational capabilities
  • Financial viability

ATRI said it was confirmed that when trucks using RD today are converted to BEV, there is a significant negative environmental impact. Additionally, the report highlights operational benefits for trucking when using RD as an alternative, as well as significant infrastructure and new vehicle cost savings.

“My company quickly and successfully transitioned to renewable diesel in April of last year. ATRI’s research offers concrete evidence that this move is better for the environment and easier to achieve than other low-carbon options,” said Andy Owens, CEO and manager of A&M Transport of Glendale, Oregon.

Overall, ATRI said it estimated that a transition to BEV for long-haul trucking will cost over $1 trillion in electric infrastructure and vehicle purchase costs over 15 years. However, to achieve similar CO2benefits with RD, ATRI estimates a price tag of $203 billion, which ATRI said is a significant cost savings for achieving the same environmental benefits. 

Since RD is considerably more scalable than BEV and can be deployed immediately in trucks without modifications, it is likely that CO2 benefits using RD can be achieved on a much shorter timeline than with a BEV transition, according to ATRI.

A copy of the full report is available through ATRI's website here.

Hydrogen Fuel Cell & BEV Survey
The following survey was sent as a link in an email cover message in February 2023 to the newsletter lists for Overdrive and CCJ. After approximately two weeks, a total of 176 owner-operators under their own authority, 113 owner-operators leased or assigned to a carrier and 82 fleet executives and 36 fleet employees from fleets with 10 or more power units had completed and submitted the questionnaire for a total of 407 qualified responses. Cross-tabulations based on respondent type are provided for each question when applicable.
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