There was a time when diesel was seen as the go-to alternative for gasoline. Diesel can give your vehicle a longer life and save you money in the long run. Additionally, some evidence shows that diesel emits 40% less C02 than gasoline. These factors have led many consumers to embrace diesel over traditional gasoline–including the trucking industry.
Today, three out of four trucks are powered by diesel, and approximately 97 percent of large over-the-road Class 8 trucks–primarily used for highway freight–are powered by diesel. However, will this tight-knit marriage between diesel and the freight industry be able to combat increasing demands from alternative fuel sources like electric and hybrids?
There’s no denying that current consumer trends are shifting towards electric alternatives. While this is the case for drivers looking for better fuel-efficient ways for their morning commute to work, commercial companies are also realizing that EVs and hybrids are the next steps in the automobile’s evolution.
Recently, Amazon ordered 100,000 EV delivery vans from Rivian in 2020, and AT&T has committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2035 with four out of five new vehicles now being purchased being hybrids. Other companies getting into the electric craze include other big names such as Best Buy, DHL, Frito-Lay, FedEx, and many more.
It’s not just the question of whether or not more companies will start committing to electric and hybrid vehicles for their operations. There have been increasing talks of further regulating and restricting diesel-fueled vehicles. For example, the California Air Resources Board recently approved transitioning truck Transport Refrigeration Units from diesel to zero emissions by the end of 2029.
However, despite markets shifting towards alternative fuel sources, that doesn’t mean diesel’s days are numbered. For starters, with the large majority of freight truck units running on diesel, any transition to electric or hybrid would have to happen over a long period of time.
Many experts would agree that in the coming years, you will see a greater diversity of truck fleets, with a mix of electric, hybrid, and even hydrogen trucks. However, current market trends also predict that diesel will continue dominating the market for at least the next decade. There’s even been a debate that diesel will continue being a powerhouse until 2040 or longer.
The main reason is that there continues to be significant investment in diesel-fueled trucks for both national and global operations. There are a few factors that affect these continued investments:
- A general uncertainty/reluctance to invest in alternative sources
- The time it would take to transition to alternative sources
- Geopolitical concerns regarding the sourcing of rare metals needed for EVs
- The overall availability and performance of diesel and the fact that diesel is becoming cleaner and more efficient
- The question of the resale value of EV and hydrogen trucks in a market already dominated by diesel
Despite the shove from consumers, companies, and even some governmental entities to switch to alternative sources, diesel still has a strong foothold in the freight industry.
Even with the growing concern of climate change, alternative sources such as electricity and hydrogen may not be enough to nudge the freight industry to completely give up diesel. As such, as of now, diesel’s role in the freight industry appears to be stable, but its future may start to be challenged more.