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The Future of Zero Emission Heavy Transportation

Like most business sectors, the Semi-truck industry has to deal with operating expenses that are simply a part of doing business. Currently, a major cost on the trucking industry is fuel. There are several companies that are looking to drastically reduce operating cost by placing zero-emission trucks on the road. However, several questions remain. Among these questions: When will we begin to see fully electric semi-trucks on the road? Will these vehicles ever be suitable for OTR trucking? And how much will these future vehicles cost?

The electric trucking movement is being driven by several factors of the trucking industry. For example, trucking contributes to 7 percent of greenhouse gas emissions annually, and the trucking industry burns 28 billion gallons of fuel every year to transport 80 percent of goods being moved from one location to another. The move to zero emission trucking is now seen as a high priority effort that may be financially lucrative.

Tesla has a broad vision on how electric technology will operate and be sustained long term. The company envisions recharging stations powered by fields of solar panels, thus drastically reducing cost to charge up batteries. The company's debut into zero emission trucking is a prototype named "Semi" an electric semi-truck that can travel up to 500 miles before recharging. Tesla anticipates putting the $180,000 Semi in operation sometime in 2019 with full production soon thereafter.

Arizona-based Nicola has entered the market with its Nicola One, an electric semi-truck that uses hydrogen to power a battery. This vehicle can travel up to 1200 miles between hydrogen refills and has a lighter battery than fully electric trucks, which would increase its payload capacity over models like Tesla's Semi. Like Tesla, the company predicts it will have a truck on the road in 2019, but this is a fuel cell vehicle, and there is currently no existing hydrogen refueling infrastructure. Nicola claims it will have 14 hydrogen stations operating by 2021 and 700 stations across the U.S. and Canada by 2028.

Other companies have begun their own expeditions into the zero-emission trucking market. Kenworth and Toyota are working on fuel cell prototypes while Daimler, Peterbilt, and Volvo have showcased electric rig models that these companies feel will dominate over startup models like Nicola One.

The zero-emission semi-truck industry seems to be filled with predictions and aggressive plans that may or may not be realized within the time frame these companies have predicted. While zero-emission vehicles seem like a possibility for local trucking companies, their use in OTR trucking is likely much farther in the future. The trucking industry will likely be slow to adopt such an ambitious transformation, and it remains to be seen if the operating cost savings are worth more than the purchase price of these vehicles.

While the zero-emission trucking market is an interesting concept, it's safe to say that diesel powered semi-trucks will dominate the nation's highways for the foreseeable future. If you are interested in learning more about the semi-truck industry, please contact us and visit Country Supply for more trucking news and information.


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