Electrifying all U.S. trucks is not just feasible—it’ll cost less than some might have you think

Last week, the Clean Freight Coalition (CFC), a group that includes truck dealers, freight carriers, and others in the U.S. trucking industry, dropped an attention-grabbing report suggesting that $1 trillion of investment in charging infrastructure would be needed to electrify 100% of the nation’s truck fleet. But as I’ll explain here, serious shortcomings in the analysis led to this inflated estimate, and it’s likely too high by an order of magnitude.

For a quick gut check, let’s look to an industry leader, Daimler Truck North America, which has provided the only complete analysis of commercial truck infrastructure investment that will be needed in the United States. This work is in the company’s public comments on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Phase 3 greenhouse gas emission standards proposal, and Daimler estimated an upper-bound cost for charging infrastructure of $66 billion to support 1.425 million electric trucks by 2032. The equivalent infrastructure cost per truck works out to $46,316. Meanwhile, the CFC report put the cost per truck at a level three times higher. What explains the large difference?

We identify some critical deficiencies in the CFC study. The CFC analysis imagines that all infrastructure is deployed everywhere, all at once; it assumes no change in costs over time; and it assumes twice the charging capacity needed for certain electric truck loads. In the world imagined by the CFC analysis, businesses do not plan, innovate, form partnerships, compete on cost, learn from experience, or grow profitable through effective charger utilization and economies of scale. This is not a realistic representation of how the energy transition will unfold and it produces unrealistic cost estimates.

Daimler, which knows a thing or two about running a profitable business, took a different approach. Its analysis used historical data from the company’s own projects to derive behind-the-meter infrastructure costs per kilowatt of installed power. The analysis also used a study from Boston Consulting Group for estimates of both optimized and worst-case front-of-the-meter utility grid capacity upgrades. Daimler assumed these costs fall over time as the industry learns how to connect to the grid more efficiently.

The CFC analysis has the additional shortcoming of excluding the most-efficient and least-cost pathways of supplying power to vehicles, including low-cost solutions that use existing grid capacity or deploy managed charging. Any serious analysis would illustrate how to deliver the greatest amount of infrastructure at the lowest cost. And it would present annual investments needed to deliver the infrastructure over a set time horizon. By avoiding this approach, the CFC analysis provides no information that can be acted on by policymakers in the real world.

What we know

We have a pretty good idea of how much charging infrastructure the U.S. commercial vehicle fleet needs. The national target for commercial trucks and buses is 30% zero-emission vehicles for new sales in 2030 and 100% in 2040. Accordingly, the Joint Office of Energy and Transportation and EPA just last week released the National Zero Emission Freight Corridor Strategy, which helps to prioritize where and when to deploy zero-emission vehicle infrastructure to meet these targets. Additionally, Inflation Reduction Act incentives support the deployment of as many as 1.1 million class 4-8 zero-emission vehicles through 2030, which would represent about 10% of the stock of these vehicles. The ICCT estimated that nearly 600,000 chargers providing 69,000 MW of nameplate capacity would serve them, although the stock of chargers needs to continue to grow beyond 2030.

Moreover, CALSTART has shown what a phased approach to deployment looks like. And the Electric Power Research Institute has mapped the daily energy needs of electric trucks using data from truck manufacturers down to the quarter mile across the entire United States.

What would be useful

EPA will soon finalize Phase 3 greenhouse gas standards for heavy-duty vehicles and the ICCT has shown how its requirements are achievable for manufacturers. But more policy actions to fully decarbonize the commercial truck fleet will follow the rule, and crafting effective strategies will require serious estimates of infrastructure cost, not weak analysis that distracts from constructive discussion. Now is the time to focus intently on the work that moves us toward our decarbonization goals.


Ray Minjares
Heavy-Duty Vehicles Program Director and San Francisco Managing Director

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Assesses the near-term charging and refueling infrastructure needs for Class 4-8 vehicles at the national and regional level.