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This week, all eyes are on zero-emission trucks. It’s time for policymakers to go bold.

As leaders from government, business and tech meet this week at CERA Week, The Work Truck Show and the ATA Technology and Maintenance Council annual meeting, the growing availability of zero-emission trucks will be center stage.

The last five years have seen tremendous progress in the availability of and fleet interest in large, zero-emission vehicles. This electric truck revolution is being spurred by growing private sector investment, rapidly maturing technology and clear government leadership. As a result, these trucks are moving from the showroom floor to highways and local streets across North America.

Among the many signs of progress are:

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Walmart and Pepsi push for policy action on zero-emission trucking

PepsiCo and Walmart operate collectively over 18,000 freight tractors. So, when these companies make a joint statement on the future of trucking, folks pay attention.

In a blog post published earlier this week, executives from PepsiCo and Walmart noted their support for federal policy action on trucks, as well as the importance of state leadership in ushering in a zero-emission future.

The companies wrote that:

“The Biden administration rolled out an executive order to advance light-duty electrification and ‘smart fuel efficiency and performance standards’ for medium- and heavy-duty trucks… Walmart and PepsiCo are encouraged by this ambition and momentum and are ready to work with the administration, Congress, and state and local officials in shaping effective solutions that will enable a zero emissions future for fleets.”

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U.S. in for the long-haul on zero-emission freight

The U.S. Department of Energy joined by Vice President Harris yesterday announced a $127 million investment to drive the future of zero-emission trucks. The announcement demonstrates the growing role that electric trucks are playing today — both in the trucking industry and as a climate solution — and how the capacity of these vehicles can be further enhanced in the coming years, especially as Congress considers making bold investments in the weeks ahead.

While trucks only represent 4% of vehicles on the road, they are responsible for more than half of transportation smog pollution and are the fastest growing source of greenhouse gases in the U.S.

They are also projected to be the largest driver of the sector’s oil demand growth.

Thankfully, America’s fleets are embracing zero-emission trucks. Recent EDF analysis found over 100 fleets are currently operating or ordering zero-emission trucks, and this demand is driving massive investments by vehicle manufacturers.

But more work remains to develop zero-emission solutions for the most challenging truck uses, including long-haul trucking, which is responsible for the majority of fuel use and emissions from this sector. DOE’s investments announced today will begin to get at this hard-to-decarbonize sector, while also providing funding for charging infrastructure.

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New group of leading fleets leverages collaboration to overcome barriers to truck electrification

Electric trucks are one of the most consequential climate investments companies can make today. These vehicles are increasingly available, able to do the job required of them, and fleets are embracing them.

As fleets make the transition to a zero-emission future — especially first movers — they are required to develop solutions to numerous challenges that electrification currently presents. This includes (but is not limited to) optimizing routes, designing charging systems that can fit within the operations of their current facilities, and engaging drivers around this new technology. It’s a daunting task.

To support fleets as they address this unprecedented pace of change, EDF has partnered with the North American Council on Freight Efficiency, RMI and CALSTART and have created the Electric Fleet Readiness Group.

This group is comprised of leaders from top private fleets that are deploying or exploring zero-emission electric class 6-8 trucks within their operations, including: Dependable Highway Express, Manhattan Beer Distributors, NFI, Pitt Ohio, and Anheuser-Busch, among other fleets. Collectively the companies participating in the fleet readiness group operate over 50,000 trucks and have already deployed over 50 electric trucks with announced plans for hundreds more.

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4 actions fleets must take to be sustainability leaders today

Electric trucks provide an opportunity for organizations with fleets to fundamentally transform the environmental impact of their operations. But rather than the incremental progress of better pollution control equipment and improved fuel efficiency we’ve seen play out over the past two decades, the technical innovation in electric vehicles over the past few years has been brisk.

For example, recent EDF analysis demonstrates that well over 125 fleets are either running zero-emission trucks today or have them on order. Manufacturers, meanwhile, are investing billions in the technology and bringing new models to the market at a breathtaking pace.

The rapidity of change in this space can make it challenging for fleets to calibrate their ambition. And yet, the current decade is critical to put the medium and heavy-duty vehicle sector on a path toward a clean energy future. Here are four actions fleets must take to be sustainability leaders today:

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Leadership, bold action needed to scale electric trucks and buses

A recent report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance highlights the urgent need for policymakers to prioritize truck electrification, which could have sweeping benefits for the climate, public health, and American jobs. The annual EV outlook includes (for the first time) a comparison of the zero-emission vehicle adoption path needed to achieve net-zero by 2050, as well as a business-as-usual scenario where fleet operators continued to externalize the health and climate damage from operating combustion trucks.

For large trucks and buses, the difference between these scenarios is stark. According the BNEF summary, “by 2040, zero-emission medium and heavy commercial vehicles are 95% of sales in our Net Zero Scenario, but just 30% in the ETS. This represents an ‘adoption gap’ of 65 percentage points in 2040.”

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