A recent study conducted in the United States that was commissioned by a diesel advocacy group says converting older trucks to modern diesel engines is a quicker and less costly way to lower harmful emissions than adopting electric trucks.
The study by Stillwater Associates explores the advantages and disadvantages of adopting electric trucks, finding that it would cost a trucking fleet three times more than converting to today’s new-technology diesels.
This is mainly down to the fact that there are few heavy duty electric trucks currently available on the market. This factor will probably become less significant as electric technology becomes more prominent and ultimately cheaper.
New-technology diesels are referred to as those built from 2007 to the present day, which all feature diesel particulate filters (DPF). Those built after 2010 also feature nitrogen oxide-reducing equipment to reduce emissions.
The study says cutting particulate matter, or soot, has the greatest benefit in improving air quality. Soot is known to harm lungs and lead to numerous health problems and DPFs used since 2007 are said to have cut soot by 98 per cent.
In comparison, the study claims electric trucks would only cut soot by 95 per cent due to coal fueled power-plants being factored in.
Considering 80 per cent of New Zealand’s energy comes from renewable resources, it could be assumed that soot would be cut down more by EVs than converting old diesels to new alternatives. This does depend on electricity demand if the grid required more energy to charge said EVs and if fossil fuel-based energy production needed to be ramped up to cope.
In fairness, low-carbon and renewable biodiesel fuels can cut emissions even more according to Gary Yowell, the Stillwater researcher who did the study.
Bio-fuel can be used in all diesel vehicles today, so fueling trucks in the area studied with 100 per cent renewable diesel resulted in three times larger cumulative greenhouse-gas reductions by 2032 than the EV scenarios, the analysis indicates.
The study states EV trucks beat diesels in reducing nitrogen oxide emissions though.
With that being said, countries reliant on fossil fuels like coal to generate electricity may not see the benefit in switching to an electrified fleet of trucks.
However, countries like New Zealand could see the benefit in using electric trucks, especially in urban areas, due to our rich renewable energy resources.