Increasing fuel efficiency in the global freight trucking industry places #40 on Drawdown’s list of climate solutions. It could reduce atmospheric emissions of carbon dioxide by 6.2 gigatons by 2050, at a net cost of US$543.5 billion, but $2.78 trillion in net savings.
The key to such savings lies in sharply increasing fuel efficiency in the global fleet of transport trucks which today account for about 6% of annual emissions. “In the United States alone,” writes Drawdown, “trucks guzzle 50 billion gallons of diesel each year,” consuming 25% of total road fuel while constituting less than 5% of vehicles on the road. And “because freight activity appears to be increasing as incomes rise” around the world, “dramatic efficiency improvements are imperative.”
More aerodynamic design, hybridization, and “top-notch automatic transmissions” that eliminate excessive fuel burn due to poor driving habits are all integral to ensuring that new rigs will not be gas hogs.
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While there’s an up-front cost to the upgrades—around $30,000 per truck based on 2010 prices—drivers will save “almost as much as that in fuel costs per year.”
In some measure, most of the improvements being built into state-of-the-art rigs can be applied to old trucks (of which there are many globally, note the Drawdown authors, because they are generally built to last), leading to considerable savings in fuel. “According to Carbon War Room, for a typical heavy-duty truck in the United States, reducing fuel use by 5% results in a yearly savings of over $4,000.”
One roadblock that will be difficult to remove, writes Drawdown, is the problem of split incentives in cases where “owners who would pay for efficiency upgrades do not pay for fuel costs.”
Route optimization and avoiding running empty trucks will also help lower emissions, as the sector moves towards the long-term imperative of adopting fully electric engines.