We’ve been hearing a lot in the news lately about electric vehicles. So, why the big push all of a sudden?
It really comes down to a matter of timing. We’ve reached the point where necessity and available technology have converged to create a clear path to an electric future where our nation’s vehicles are concerned.
That need may be even greater with trucks than with other vehicles. Trucks carry 72.5% of all freight moved in the U.S., according to the American Trucking Associations. That adds up to nearly 12 billion tons transported annually.
And the number of trucks on our roads is growing by the day. These past few decades have seen the growth of imports to West Coast ports that require cross-country transport. E-commerce has contributed greatly to this demand. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, there are about 13 million trucks of all classes on our roads today. That’s up from 10.7 million in 2010, 8 million in 2000, and 6 million in 1990.
Numerous studies show that the burning of fossil fuels has contributed to climate change. Most of today’s trucks run on diesel, making them a significant source of climate- and health-threatening pollution. The burning of diesel fuel releases seven times the amount of nitrogen dioxide produced by the gasoline that powers most automobiles.
However, now we have affordable alternatives to the internal combustion engine. Advances in battery technologies now make long-distance travel possible. The newly passed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act also earmarks $7.5 billion to build a network of charging stations. This will be in addition to private investments in chargers, especially those installed at company depots.
Additionally, there is now political will. The recent COP26 conference in Scotland resulted in a number of significant cooperative antipollution measures, including one in which 15 countries—Canada and Mexico among them—agreed to work toward 100% zero-emission new truck and bus sales by 2040. Although the U.S. did not sign that specific pledge, two of the nation’s Big Three automakers, Ford and GM, say they will phase out production of gas- and diesel-powered models in favor of electric vehicles (EVs).
While these are welcome changes for our planet, I do realize that the transition will take time. We don’t have the capacity with our existing solar panels, windmills, and other green technologies to produce all of the electricity needed for EVs and the rest of our world’s power needs. Some power will have to come from fossil fuels for a while yet. In the meantime, we need to throw our EV initiatives into high gear, building out the infrastructure that will take us into a cleaner, greener future.