How decarbonization powertrain technology adoption could play out

How decarbonization powertrain technology adoption could play out

A clear vision of the rollout of electrification, renewable fuels and autonomous technology.

I’m going to start this story on a personal note. We spend a lot of time talking about what the future of zero-emissions commercial vehicles will look like. Often times there are plenty of gaps in the visions of fully decarbonized product lineups by 2040 (give or take a few years depending on the manufacturer). But the future powertrain presentation given by Derek Kaufman, managing partner, Schwartz Advisors, at Heavy Duty Aftermarket Dialogue has to be the most detailed, well-thought-out and cohesive forecasts for how the trucking industry could decarbonize through a mix of powertrain technologies that I’ve seen.

And it’s wild.

There’s connective tissue running through every single truck technology that doesn’t limit itself to zero-emissions vehicles but also the impact that autonomous vehicles will have. It starts calmly enough as Kaufman discusses the current powertrain makeup in the market, but as he moves into 2030 and 2040 — watch out! There’s a compelling outline of the role of renewable diesel and other ICE-based alternative fuels in a decarbonization strategy coupled zero-emissions battery electric and hydrogen trucks, mingling with jaw-dropping quotes like this one:

“We also see in this time period that truck OEMs are going to start buying their customers,” Kaufman said during his 2040 market outlook. “A year and a half ago, Deloitte had a survey. They surveyed a bunch of trucking people and said, ‘Do you see this happening?’ Sixty percent said, ‘Yes;’ 32% said, ‘Probably so.'”

Sure, it’s not fair to take that quote out of context just for shock value. (Again, personally, it’s pretty amazing even in context.) So you can check out Kaufman’s full remarks, in context, in the video above.

For those looking for the quick takeaways. Here’s how trucking powertrain technology adoption could play out over the next 25-plus years.

The road to 2030

The industry is predominantly dominated by diesel trucks, accounting for 87% of the total, with a minor presence of electric and autonomous vehicles (AVs). However, the shift is imminent. By 2030, there is an anticipated increase in the adoption of renewable diesel, natural gas, and battery electric trucks (BETs), albeit with internal combustion engines (ICE) still playing a significant role.

From 2030 to 2040

BET adoption is expected to rise significantly, with renewable fuels gaining a firmer foothold in the market. Notably, the integration of 48-volt electrical architectures and battery swapping systems are anticipated to revolutionize the industry. The latter, in particular, addresses battery degradation issues, thereby enhancing the resale value of used trucks.

2050 and beyond

Looking towards the 2050s, the landscape of truck powertrains will be remarkably different. Diesel’s dominance is expected to plummet to a mere fraction, with BET and hydrogen-powered trucks gaining prominence. The role of AVs will be significantly expanded, impacting the truck sales market.

“I’ve been in the business for 40 years, and I’ve seen truck manufacturers work with the CARB and work with the EPA to reduce diesel by 98%. Now we’re going after the final 1%,” Kaufman said. “But I’ve also seen, in those 40 years, that the industry is struggling to make those types of moves and that government oversight can become governmental breach pretty quickly. I think that’s where we’re, so I think it’s time to stand up to say renewables have in place in climate sustainability.”

Watch the video above for Kaufman’s full presentation.

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