The zero-emissions future for vehicles is approaching

ev car
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Have you ever caught a ride on an electric or fuel cell bus? Gotten a package delivered via natural gas-powered truck? Increasingly, the answer to these questions is yes.

The next question: When will these near- and zero-emissions (NZ and ZE) technologies become the new norm, competing with the vehicles of yesterday?

All signs point to 2025.

CALSTART, a national nonprofit consortium where I serve as CEO, recently welcomed more than a half dozen new global partners to our Global Commercial Vehicle Drive to Zero (Drive to Zero) program at the Tenth Clean Energy Ministerial and Fourth Mission Innovation Ministerial (CEM10/MI-4). Our new thought and action partners include Canada, the province of British Columbia, the cities of Vancouver and Helmond, the California Energy Commission, the Chile Sustainable Energy Agency and BAE Systems.

Drive to Zero’s mission is to transform the medium- and heavy-duty vehicle (MHDV) sector, which includes everything from transit buses to 18-wheelers to box trucks to school buses. We are uniting key regions of change, along with leading manufacturers and fleet users, to collaboratively speed adoption of NZ and ZE technology through requirements, policies, incentives, investments and infrastructure that support early market success.

Drive to Zero partners are enacting policies, regulations, incentives and other tools in these key regions to catalyze the beachhead strategy globally.
 

Our aim is to drive private and public sector technology innovation and economic and job growth, while also helping governments achieve Paris Accord targets and improving urban air quality. We pledge to bring about market viability for the MHDV sector in key urban communities by 2025 and achieve full market penetration by 2040.

The beachhead strategy

Drive to Zero is built upon a technology strategy we developed with the California Air Resources Board called the beachhead strategy. The strategy:

  • Identifies the commercial vehicle market segments where zero- and near-zero technology is likely to succeed first.
  • Bolsters early successes in those segments through policies, collaboration and coordinated activities to drive pathways into new segments where the technology can flourish next.

For zero emissions (ZE), the early beachhead markets are transit buses, shuttle vans, package delivery vans and trucks, terminal tractors, port equipment and regional distribution (freight) trucks.

Within those segments, we focused our research (PDF) on daily vehicle use, economics, technology readiness and the supplier base. We called these early adopter segments beachheads, a nod to the military strategy of conquering key areas in pursuit of complete victory.

If the beachhead strategy worked for the Allied Forces in World War II, then why not use it to defeat climate change and improve air quality?

Executing the 'Drive to Zero' approach

After meeting with worldwide suppliers and manufacturers, we quickly learned these beachhead segments are global in nature. The transit bus market is certainly a beachhead. China has an electric bus fleet 421,000 strong. Delhi, India recently approved an order for 1,000 electric buses.

In the United States, zero-emissions bus sales represent 10 percent of the market — up from virtually none of the market just three years ago. We are seeing similar advances in Europe.

Private industry is also turning to NZ and ZE technology. UPS, a global logistics leader, has committed that by 2025 it will achieve a 12 percent reduction in absolute greenhouse gas emissions in global ground operations, and obtain 25 percent of its electricity from renewable sources. In addition, 40 percent of its total ground fuel will be alternative fuel.

IKEA Group plans to go zero-emission (PDF) for all last-mile delivery in Amsterdam, Los Angeles, New York, Paris and Shanghai by 2020.

California will spend more than $70 million on incentives for electric package delivery trucks in 2019 alone.

Going global

Recently at CEM10/MI-4, Drive to Zero welcomed our innovative partners to implement the beachhead strategy on a worldwide basis and move us one step closer to our 2040 goal. We are identifying and sharing best practices and lessons learned to help the beachhead markets succeed all over the world. We are already sharing new tools with our partners, including a Policy and Actions Toolkit as well as a Vehicle Availability Guide that is being beta tested.

Activity coordination and information sharing from city to city and continent to continent will mean that we can learn from each other, inspire one another and get to our goal of full market penetration by 2040.

The path to zero is upon us. You can learn more about the Drive to Zero program and take the pledge by visiting our website at https://globaldrivetozero.org/.

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