In August, the Obama administration announced the first-ever fuel efficiency standards for heavy-duty trucks and buses. On October 5, three experts convened by Climate One said that the trucking industry is ready to meet the new rules.
John Boesel, CEO, CALSTART, noted that the new federal fuel economy standards build upon earlier rules, which took force in 2010, requiring new trucks to control criteria pollutants such as particulates, ozone, and NOx. The fuel economy rules require semi-trucks to reduce fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2018.
“What’s exciting now is that we have some decent public policy in place. And the engineering talent that was dedicated to cleaning up the criteria emissions is going to be applied to helping reduce our dependence on oil and cut greenhouse gas emissions. It’s a really exciting period. I think we’re going to see a lot of innovation in this space,” said Boesel.
The new rules “will encourage fleets over this short term to develop best-available technology that is there today. It won’t really be technology forcing,” he said. At the same time, he added, fleets will be looking at alternative fuels, especially natural gas, when they make economic sense.
Mike Tunnell, Director of Environmental Affairs, American Trucking Associations, agreed, pointing out that with diesel prices hovering in $3 to $4 gallon range, “fleets are beginning to look more, in America, at alternative fuels and natural gas in an effort to cut some of the fuel costs.” But, he cautioned, there is a flip side: the upfront costs for equipment are higher, and fuel availability becomes a concern.
Climate One’s Greg Dalton picked up on the supply worries later, asking if fleet operators were concerned energy firms might not meet California’s Low-Carbon Fuel Standard, which aims to reduce the carbon intensity of California’s transportation fuels by 10 percent by 2020.
“There will be some concerns,” said John Boesel, “but this is a regulation that will encourage them to be more innovative and more creative than they have been in the past. I think they’re up to the challenge. You look at what the [light] truck manufacturers and the car manufacturers have done. There have been some tough standards put on them, and they have as a result innovated and developed more efficient vehicles. Now it’s time for folks on the fuel side to be part of that party.”
David Mazaika, Chief Operating Officer, Quantum Technologies, said that plenty of examples, including hybrid buses now in service, prove that the fuel standards can be met. “It certainly can be done; the industry just needs to focus on that. Now, with the new legislation, there are some targets out there that the industry can focus on and really strive to meet.”
“The technology is out there to be able to support these types of levels,” he said. “It will be a wide spectrum – everything from aerodynamic improvements to hybrid-drive systems and different fuels.”
– Justin Gerdes
October 5, 2011
Photos by Ed Ritger
The Commonwealth Club of California