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Fighting Climate Change — Lessons Learned from the Front Lines

Climate change-vehicles-transportation
Climate change-vehicles-transportation

Deploying zero-emission technologies in the critical medium- and heavy-duty vehicle markets proves to be an effective tool for fighting climate change and creating jobs.

Dan Raudebaugh

Executive Director, Center for Transportation and the Environment

“We are the last generation that can take steps to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Future generations will judge us harshly if we fail to uphold our moral and historical responsibilities.” — Ban Ki-moon, Former U.N. Secretary-General

In the United States, transportation is the largest emitting economic sector, accounting for nearly 30% of greenhouse gas emissions. Our existing transportation infrastructure is powered almost entirely by pollutant-heavy fossil fuel systems.

Within this sector, medium-and heavy-duty vehicles do a lot of the environmental damage. These vehicles are larger and more robust than passenger vehicles, and use correspondingly larger, less fuel-efficient engines.

The Center for Transportation and the Environment (CTE) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit founded in 1993 with the belief that advanced technology and innovation can solve the world’s environmental problems. We are the national leader providing technical support to medium-and heavy-duty vehicle operators looking to deploy zero-emission vehicles in this space.

Use the right tools for the job

CTE’s experience deploying zero-emission trucks and buses around the country has proven that successful deployments require matching the appropriate technology to the application. Different operational demands necessitate different technology solutions, each with benefits and tradeoffs for various operating conditions, duty cycles, and operator resources.

For the current state of transportation technologies, two solutions qualify as zero-emission: hydrogen fuel cell and battery electric. Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles typically have a longer range and faster fueling times than battery electric vehicles, and hydrogen-powered fleets are more easily scaled due to the ease of fueling compared to charging. Battery electric vehicles, however, are simpler and more efficient machines—converting energy into useful activity at a much better conversion rate than hydrogen vehicles—and typically have lower vehicle and operational costs.

The bottom line

In many cases, zero-emission vehicles are superior to the diesel and gasoline-powered vehicles they replace. In most cases, when all things are considered, they have lower life cycle costs as well. Successful deployments require proper planning, and most operators still need technical support, but these technologies continue to prove themselves in the field every single day.

While there are still challenges to be addressed, zero-emission vehicles work, and targeted investments in these markets will limit the consequences of climate change, improve lagging transportation development, and move the United States away from dependence on foreign resources and vulnerable fossil fuel supply chains. And if we are truly committed to addressing climate change, we need to invest in all zero-emission transportation technology solutions we have at our disposal.

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