Nearly all commercial vehicles remain fossil-fuel powered, ETF study shows

An electric truck next to a charging station.
An Engine Technology Forum study found that 99.9% of commercial vehicles were still powered by internal combustion engines.

Internal combustion engines powered by gasoline, diesel, natural gas and propane are the primary choice for American commercial vehicles, an Engine Technology Forum (ETF) study shows. 

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The ETF analyzed S&P Global Mobility TIPNet data from December 2023. It found 99.9% of the commercial vehicles on the road then were powered by ICE. Diesel made up the largest share of fuels β€” 76% β€” followed by gasoline at 22%, then natural gas and propane. 

"As the timing and degree of transition to alternative vehicles and fuels remains in flux, the importance of continued investment in new technology ICE vehicles is vital to ensure continued progress on clean air and climate commitments," says Allen Schaeffer, executive director of the Engine Technology Forum.

Zero-emissions technologies made up the remaining 0.01% of the fleet. The largest portions of vehicles powered by electricity in the study were transit buses, which are 7.8% EV, followed by school buses at 0.4% EV. 

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There were more than 20,000 EV commercial trucks in classes 3-8, the ETF found. For every one EV commercial truck, there are 367 advanced diesel trucks. When narrowed to Class 8 trucks, there are 240 advanced diesel trucks for every electric truck. 

The majority of diesel trucks in operation were 2010 or newer models, the ETF says, which are equipped with the latest emissions controls. California had the fastest growing population of advanced technology diesel vehicles in operation with a 13.3% increase compared to 2022. Research shows these newer diesel engines can save 1.3 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions, 130 billion gallons of fuel, 1 million tons of particulate matter and 18 million tons of nitrogen oxide emissions, the ETF says. 

"Replacing older vehicles with new advanced ICE technology delivers substantial benefits," Schaeffer says. "It would take more than 60 of the current generation diesels to equal the emissions of a single heavy-duty diesel truck built in the 1990s." 

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Schaeffer also pointed out renewable fuels are increasingly playing a role in the commercial vehicle industry. In 2023, the ETF says more than 2.8 billion gallons of renewable diesel and 1.9 billion gallons of biodiesel were consumed. The group says renewable diesel fuel production capacity could reach 5.9 billion gallons per year by the end of 2025. 

California leads the way in EV adoption, the study says, with the state accounting for 25% of all EV commercial trucks in operation, followed by Pennsylvania, Washington, New York and Massachusetts. 

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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