With Money on the Table, What's the Best Move for Green Trucking?

Last week, U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced that the Department of Energy is taking aim at the long-overlooked trucking industry, awarding $115 million toward "super truck" efficiency projects.

The majority of the financing is directed toward improving Class 8 fuel efficiency, and grants were awarded to companies such as Cummins Inc., Navistar, and Daimler Trucks North America to develop technologies to halve fuel use in heavy trucks, shrink the size of the engine, and develop a cleaner diesel engine.

Heavy trucks have enormous potential for greater efficiency and fossil fuel reduction. An infusion of cash into the industry can pay off big, helping reduce dependence on foreign oil and stimulating the economy.

But has this investment been made wisely? Trucking experts at Rocky Mountain Institute say key factors will determine whether or not we get a bang for the bucks.

The Challenge of Bringing Innovation to Market

Hiroko Kawai and Mike Simpson of RMI's Mobility and Vehicle Efficiency practice point out that while innovation is valuable, the focus needs to be expanded to application.

"Innovations have to be encouraged and supported," Kawai said. "But, funding must reduce the cost of innovation and implementation. We need to challenge companies to not stop at a demonstration project, but produce marketable technologies that are directly applicable to the industry."

Simpson said there is opportunity now to move past the incremental. "Plenty of technologies exist today to double trucking efficiency," he said. "The true challenge lies in overcoming the barriers -- industry risk-aversion, low profit margins -- that are keeping these technologies from penetrating the market."