Blog Post

EV mandates for the trucking industry are disconnected from reality.

May 02, 2024

The best approach to decarbonization provides the greatest environmental benefit at the lowest possible cost. Current regulations do neither while unleashing inflationary consequences that will be felt for decades to come.


Renewable diesel has a far smaller carbon footprint than battery-electric trucks and can be implemented at a fraction of the cost of electrification.

EV mandates for the trucking industry are an enormous mistake for many reasons validated by a new study from the American Transportation Research Institute. The report, Renewable Diesel – A Catalyst for Decarbonization, provides data using the U.S. Department of Energy's GREET model that proves renewable diesel (RD) has a much smaller carbon footprint over its lifecycle than do battery-electric trucks, and that widescale adoption of RD in trucking can be achieved at a fraction of the cost of electrification.

To be clear: the trucking industry is not opposed to battery-electric vehicles (BEV). Some fleets are testing them, and the initial results are mixed at best. What's abundantly clear from early adopters of this technology is that the hurdles to widescale adoption are so massive and undeniable that target and timelines mandated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) can be described as nothing more than utterly disconnected from reality.

This week a fleet manager for PITT OHIO, an early-adopter of BEV trucks, testified on Capitol Hill to explain the real-world challenges of commercial vehicle electrification to members of Congress:

What we do oppose are one-size-fits-all mandates that impose singular technologies onto an extremely varied industry like trucking while ruling out alternative fuel sources that offer greater environmental, operational, and financial benefits. Just as any good toolbox contains a diverse set of tools, each designed for specific tasks, the trucking industry needs a range of technologies tailored to different operational needs. Hammers are great at driving nails, but it's not advisable to build a house with just a hammer. BEV trucks might work well in specific trucking operations, such as urban delivery and school buses--but you cannot move the entire U.S. economy on battery-electric alone.

EPA's new Greenhouse Gas Phase 3 regulation classifies BEV trucks as "zero-emission," but that's only because regulators looked solely at tailpipe emissions and excluded the full life-cycle carbon footprint of battery-electric and other alternatives. It's no longer a secret that battery-electric trucks are not truly zero-emission vehicles, as the sourcing of rare minerals, the production of Lithium-ion batteries, and the electricity generation and transmission required to power them generate significant carbon emissions. Replacing a petroleum diesel truck with battery-electric does reduce the lifecycle carbon footprint by about 30%. However, substituting renewable diesel in place of petroleum provides a far greater carbon reduction of nearly 70%.

Renewable Diesel

One would think mandating the total overhaul of an essential industry that underpins the entire U.S. economy would deserve, at minimum, a simple cost/benefit analysis before making decisions of such seismic proportions. It stands to reason that the best approach to decarbonization would provide the greatest environmental benefit at the lowest possible cost. EV mandates do neither while unleashing inflationary consequences that will be felt for decades to come.

Full electrification of the U.S. trucking fleet, which California is trying to spearhead by 2036 with its own electric-truck mandate, would cost more than $1 trillion in infrastructure investment alone. That doesn't even account for the upcharge cost of the vehicles themselves. Battery-electric trucks range from 2-3x as expensive as a comparable eco-diesel truck. Considering that 96% of U.S. trucking companies operate 10 or fewer trucks, these mandates are simply cost-prohibitive for most truckers. It will put many out of business, cause consolidation in the industry, and drive prices up for consumers. If inflation is a concern, then hammering a massive, impossible, and unfunded mandate squarely onto the supply chain's central link is about the most foolish policy one could ask for.

"EPA and CARB's dogmatic hyper-fixation on BEVs as the only technology solution is simply bad environmental and economic policy."

Moreover, the limitations of battery-electric technology make this fuel unworkable for many trucking operations. Seventy-seven percent of U.S. trucks travel 250 miles or more daily, yet current BEV truck technology has a usable trip range of only 150-250 miles. In comparison, RD has no range limitations and can run 1,200 miles on a single fill-up. Since RD is a drop-in fuel that works in today's eco-diesel engines, there's no lengthy and costly infrastructure buildout required before.

Make no mistake: Trucking has gone all-in on reducing our environmental impact, and we've come a long way already. Over the past 40 years, we have cut NOx and particulate matter pollution by 99%. Today's clean-burn diesel trucks have reduced carbon emissions by 50% compared to pre-2010 models. Smart, pragmatic, and technology-neutral policies that allow for a range of low-carbon fuel sources are the necessary bridge to carry us to a zero-emission future, but EPA and CARB's dogmatic hyper-fixation on BEVs as the only technology solution is simply bad environmental and economic policy.