Author Archives: Jason Mathers

A momentous week for trucks: Walmart unveils “Jetson” truck and President Obama announces next generation fuel efficiency standards

(This post originally appeared on EDF + Business)

What a great week it’s been for the future of trucks. Walmart unveiled a prototype, concept next generation tractor-trailer truck that they have affectionately dubbed “Jetson.” This morning, President Obama laid out a timeframe for action on developing the next generation truck efficiency standards – standards that will improve the fuel efficiency of American trucks, bolster energy security, cut carbon pollution, save money and support manufacturing innovation.

Innovation is critical to curb the growing climate pollution and fuel consumption from our nation’s freight trucks – which are projected to increase by 40 percent between now and 2040. But innovation is best supported by strong standards.  A well-designed efficiency program can speed the deployment of clean, energy-efficient technologies and the infrastructure to support their widespread use nationwide.

We have seen the success of this combination many times.  The trucking industry has delivered incredible innovation in meeting stringent standards for particulate matter and oxides of nitrogen, and the first phase of greenhouse gas and fuel efficiency standards. And through their own innovation, manufacturers are meeting these standards in advance of compliance deadlines, doing so for lower costs, and delivering substantial, real-world benefits.

The second phase of fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas standards for trucks and trailers will build on this foundation of success. But they will also build on the innovation of companies like Walmart who are pushing the envelope. 

 The unveiling of Jetson, officially called Walmart Advanced Vehicle Experience (“WAVE”) came during a live webcast of Walmart’s annual Global Sustainability Milestone Meeting on Monday.

At first glance the prototype truck is simply cool looking, and explains why it got the nickname Jetson.  But it is also incredibly fuel-efficient. The tractor is super aerodynamic – in order to achieve the dramatic aerodynamics, the driver sits in the middle of the cab and the engine is under the cab instead of in front of it.  The entire cab lifts up to give access to the powertrain.

The trailer also benefits from advanced aerodynamics. And it is built “almost exclusively from carbon fiber.” Because of this, the trailer weighs 4,000 pounds less than a standard trailer, which would enable it to legally carry more product. The front end is also convex – which enhances the aerodynamics and increases storage capacity.

The power system for the truck is a revolutionary combination of a microturbine; battery storage; electric motor.

While some of the technologies in the Jetson truck may not be street ready in the next few years, Walmart sees value in pushing itself and its vendor partners – Peterbuilt Trucks, Great Dane Trailers and Capstone Turbine – just a little bit farther. And their efforts demonstrate the potential to truly revolutionize our heavy trucks and trailers. Doing this well will require a combination of innovative technology and strong, well designed efficiency standards.

The cleaner freight trucks being made in America today show that when our nation works together we can achieve lasting progress for our economy and our environment – through innovation and common sense policies to advance and secure the transformative cleaner freight trucks of tomorrow.

Posted in News | 1 Response, comments now closed

New Truck Efficiency Standards Are Great News for American Innovation

We've partnered with businesses, builders, and local communities to reduce the energy we consume. When we rescued our automakers, for example, we worked with them to set higher fuel efficiency standards for our cars. In the coming months, I'll build on that success by setting new standards for our trucks, so we can keep driving down oil imports and what we pay at the pump.

- 2014 State of the Union Address

First, here’s the bad news:

Climate pollution from America’s heavy trucks is projected to increase by more than 130 million tons between now and 2040. That’s expected to be the largest increase in emissions from any single source.

The average new heavy-duty diesel truck sold last year got slightly less than six miles per gallon.

Most of these trucks travel upwards of 120,000 miles and burn more than $80,000 worth of fuel per year.

This inefficiency has real costs for our economy. We import millions of barrels of oil to fuel heavy-duty trucks. Businesses, both small and large, spend billions on the fuel needed to move freight. You and I pay for this too, when we buy those products.

Now here’s the good news:

It doesn’t have to be this way. We have the tools today that we need to change this.

We have the technology to decrease freight truck emissions. We can cut 20 percent off our current trajectories by 2030, and go much further by 2040.

In fact, a recent analysis by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy found that it’s realistic to expect new trucks to achieve something approaching a 40 percent fuel consumption reduction, compared to 2010 trucks, within the next decade,

Well-designed federal standards can foster the innovation necessary to bring more efficient and lower emitting trucks to market. Manufacturers need to be confident in market demand in order to develop and launch efficiency improvements. Scaled production can drive down costs, further enhancing the payback truck fleets will experience through lower fuel bills.

EDF has set out a blueprint for rigorous greenhouse gas and fuel efficiency standards. Through smart, well designed policies and American innovation, we can cut climate pollution and save fuel costs while strengthening our security and winning the race to deploy clean energy technologies in the global marketplace.

Many companies already have developed — and are bringing to market — the tools we need to meet a strong standard.

Examples include:

Eaton, a manufacturer of truck transmissions — they’ve launched a powertrain package that can improve fuel efficiency by up to six percent.

Cummins, Inc. and Peterbilt Motors Co., which build truck engines and manufacture trucks, respectively – they partnered last year to build a truck that uses 50 percent less fuel than typical long-haul tractors, according to an article in the Indianapolis Star. It averaged 9.9 miles a gallon in road tests. They did this through a suite of improvements; including capturing otherwise wasted thermal energy.

Smart Truck Systems, a supplier of aerodynamic products to the trucking industry – they have a product that can cut fuel consumption from tractor-trailer combination trucks by over 10 percent through advanced aerodynamics.

Also available to us:

To understand the positive economic potential of adopting strong truck fuel efficiency standards, we only need to look back to the start of this month.

On January 1st, our nation’s biggest trucks became subject – for the first time ever – to fuel efficiency standards. These standards cover trucks from large pick-ups to tractor-trailers. They will cut climate pollution by almost 300 million tons while saving truck operators $50 billion.

For combination tractor-trailer trucks, these standards will cut annual fuel costs by more than $18,000 at today’s prices. The fuel savings will pay back the increase in upfront costs in less than five months.

Companies that rely on trucking to move goods stand to benefit significantly too. These companies will see a decrease of around eleven cents in the total cost-per-mile to move freight. Across their supply chain, large freight shippers will save millions of dollars each year because of this rule.

These are real savings that businesses, big and small, are starting to see in their bottom line today.

These first generation standards were created with the broad support of the trucking industry and many other key stakeholders. Among the diverse groups that supported the standards were the American Trucking Association, Engine Manufacturers Association and the Truck Manufacturers Association, the United Auto Workers — and of course EDF.

But this is just the beginning.

With the right political and commercial will, we can build on the partnership created during the development of the current standards to find common ground on the next phase of truck efficiency rules.

We can do this in a way that enables American businesses to thrive, cuts the need for imported oil by hundreds of millions of barrels a year, and slashes climate pollution by more than 100 million tons a year.

That’s why it was great to hear President Obama’s call to action in the State of the Union Address about the next phase of truck standards. We already knew that we could do it – now it looks like we will.

(Click here to read more about this issue, including EDF's blueprint for rigorous greenhouse gas and fuel efficiency standards)

Posted in Cars and Pollution, Economics, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Policy | Comments closed

Hail to the Chief, Indeed: President's truck order will bring fuel-saving technologies to scale

This was originally posted on the Innovation Exchange blog.

There is no question that tools exists today to significantly reduce fuel consumption by medium and heavy-duty trucks. The recent National Academy of Sciences’ report on reducing emissions from these vehicles explored this in-depth as did another recent report from NESCAUM. The key question is: can we deploy these tools at an acceptable cost?

The answer is closer to “yes” than ever before, thanks in part to President Obama’s statement last week instructing the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop rules to reduce emissions from medium and heavy-duty trucks – which consume over a quarter of the nation’s liquid fuels.

The most advanced of our fuel-saving tools, such as the hybrid system for medium-duty trucks, face a significant upfront cost barrier. While these systems can payback over the lifetime of the vehicle, the ROI timeline is too extended for most businesses to justify the cost without external incentives. Other, more incremental strategies such as single-wide tires face cultural and cost barriers as well. The resulting upfront capital cost versus long-term operating savings conundrum slows the adoption of these tools and delays emission reductions.

Fuel-saving components need to be produced at a large enough scale to spread out the fixed costs over time while simultaneously bringing the dollar cost down. By creating a nationwide standard for greenhouse gas emissions, the President has put us on a path to finally reach this scale. Imagine that instead of spreading the fix costs of developing and producing medium-duty hybrid powertrains, or single wide tires over a few hundred vehicles a year, these costs are spread over tens of thousands of trucks annually. The ROI for any one unit will instantly be much more attractive. This is what can happen with a strong federal rule.

How will this impact the business community? Consumers, shippers and carriers will be better off with more efficient, cleaner trucks. Operating costs will be lower and less exposed to fuel price volatility. The increased capital costs should be manageable with the advantages of scaled economies. Some of the increased upfront cost will likely be recouped through hire residual values too.

Of course, technological improvements alone aren’t sufficient. There remain many opportunities to reduce emissions through better operational practices, particularly for freight. From reducing empty backhauls, cutting idling, dropping curb weight, decreasing packaging and improving trucking loading, every truck trip can get more done. Some trips can be avoided all together or simply moved to more efficient modes of transportation.

Medium-and-heavy duty trucks will continue to play a vital role as we transition into a carbon constrained world. These trucks are needed to deliver food and beverages to restaurants and stores, drop off packages at homes and offices, and move goods across the nation. However, they will use less fuel for each of these actions. That’s a good thing for the environment, our pocketbooks and energy security.

Posted in Cars and Pollution, Climate Change Legislation, News, Science | Comments closed

Redefining Green for Corporate Fleets

Jason Mather's profileNearly 7 million passenger vehicles on the road today are in commercial operations. These vehicles are driven hard, averaging nearly double the mileage, fuel consumption and emissions of personal vehicles. As a result, fleets are not only expensive to operate, but are also a major source of global warming pollution.

Environmental Defense Fund has been working with some of the largest commercial fleets – including Fortune 500 titans Abbott, DuPont and Owens Corning – to identify ways to reduce fuel consumption, costs, and greenhouse gas emissions. Our efforts have delivered results. Fleets that fully implemented the program outlined below reduced their emissions by an average of 14 percent, and reduced lifecycle operating costs by 4 percent.

Read More »

Posted in Cars and Pollution | Comments closed
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