Truck manufacturers call for investment, coordination to support zero emission rollout

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Representatives from all of North America's major on-highway truck manufacturers – Daimler Truck, Navistar, Paccar and Volvo Group – outlined a shared vision for an industry-wide transition to medium- and heavy-duty (MHD) zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) while speaking jointly on a panel Thursday at the Green Transportation Summit and Expo, and called for investment and coordination to support ZEV rollout.

Noting that ZEV commercial vehicles are in production and ready for use in many applications Dawn Fenton, vice president of government and public affairs for Volvo Group North America, said the ZEV transition relies on more than OEM innovation. "To get these vehicles onto roads, our nation must prioritize a coordinated and comprehensive strategy, encouraging ZEV uptake and addressing gaps in charging and utility infrastructure," she said. "For this reason, Volvo Group applauds the recent adoption of the Inflation Reduction Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act which provide meaningful federal support for heavy-duty zero emission vehicle and infrastructure deployment."

The four OEMs are founding members of Partners for a Zero Emission Vehicle Future (PZEVF), a growing coalition of stakeholders from across the transportation industry that considers ZEVs to be the future of commercial transportation. PZEVF members include trucking associations, private operators, and other stakeholders committed to meeting environmental and economic goals of MHD ZEV deployment.

Members of the panel addressed a wide range of issues, including the benefits of a coordinated national approach to ZEV deployment, the importance of point-of-sale EV sales incentives to defray upfront purchase costs for fleets and operators, the challenges facing electric utilities tasked with upgrading grids, and the interplay of federal and state legislation in aligning policies and programs to support deployment targets. The Inflation Reduction Act, which contains tax credits for the purchase of MHD ZEVs and installation of charging infrastructure, was cited by panelists as an example of policy progress, who cautioned more must be done.

"In the early stages of the industry's transition to zero emissions, grants and incentives are essential to help operators and owners offset initial higher purchase costs and encourage deployment of these vehicles on our nation's roads," said Alec Cervenka, Kenworth's zero emissions sales manager, who represented Paccar on the panel. "Down the road in the future, as volumes increase and the industry brings to bear economies of scale, we eventually expect ZEV technology to provide a Total Cost of Ownership on par or better than the current diesel truck."

Panelists pointed to California as an example of MHD ZEV leadership, noting that more needed to be done to achieve the aggressive ZEV adoption goals that many states are pursuing, with investment in charging infrastructure as a key example.

"We are committed to zero emission trucks and buses. Successful build out of charging and refueling infrastructure is one of the key drivers to successful adoption of zero emission technologies," said Kevin Maggay, Navistar's senior manager of public policy, "As states look to grow deployment of commercial vehicle zero emission technology, infrastructure build out should lead and keep pace with vehicle deployments to drive a smooth technology transition."

Despite the challenges ahead, OEM representatives were adamant that, through collaboration and cooperation among public and private stakeholders, the end goal of ZEV commercial truck fleets was achievable.

"From consumers to policymakers to OEMs, it is clear the nationwide transition to ZEVs is necessary and imminent," said Daimler Truck North America eMobility Product Marketing Senior Analyst Kevin Otzenberger. "We must learn from the earliest lessons this nascent transition has to offer in order to make the long-term, nationwide deployment of ZEVs a success."