Zero-emission integration in heavy-duty vehicle regulations: A global review and lessons for China


In major markets worldwide, policy windows are opening for wider adoption of zero-emission heavy-duty vehicles (ZE-HDVs), creating a major opportunity to retire diesel HDVs and eliminate their high levels of pollution. Policymakers in China, Europe, and California, among others are exploring paths for promoting ZE-HDVs. Meanwhile, manufacturers and commercial fleets are pledging to electrify trucks and vans in their production and operations. The movement toward zero-emission heavy duty vehicles (ZE-HDVs), while still young, is gaining momentum.

As these and other regions seek to accelerate adoption of ZE-HDVs, they will need to overcome several challenges: limited ZE-HDV model availability; higher overall costs (especially upfront costs compared with internal combustion engine vehicles); lack of consumer demand; and inconvenient recharging and refueling. This paper recommends seven policy actions for tackling these obstacles:

  • Set a vision. Articulate long-term targets for ZE-HDV phase-ins that send signals to government agencies at all levels and give industry confidence to undertake research and development and product planning.
  • Create concrete regulations. Translate high-level political targets to actionable, concrete vehicle regulations that manufacturers can follow, avoiding favor toward any technology or application.
  • Set a high bar for limiting pollution. Stringent HDV CO2 and GHG standards raise the cost for diesel HDVs to comply, and stimulate the advance of ZE-HDV technologies.
  • Create purchase incentives. Purchase subsidies can lower the capital cost of ZE-HDVs. At the same time, fees on high-polluting internal combustion vehicles can discourage their use and generate revenue that can be used to fund subsidies.
  • Provide operational incentives. Reducing operating costs, for example through discounted road tolls, can help ZE-HDVs improve their total cost of ownership advantage over diesel vehicles.
  • Create supportive infrastructure. Governments can help provide charging infrastructure and hydrogen through policies that expand this infrastructure in pace with vehicles’ market growth.
  • Shape the market. Set purchase requirements for fleets, such as city-owned HDVs. Fleet requirements provide a push for ZE-HDV adoption and complement vehicle regulations and sales requirements.

The potential for cleaning up heavy-duty fleets is huge. China is rolling out its commercial vehicle New Energy Vehicle policy, the European Union is working on Euro VII emission standards, and California is finalizing its Advanced Clean Fleets Regulation. Policymakers in these markets would do well to explore the policy instruments described in this paper to accelerate this crucial area of transport decarbonization.

Zero-emission vehicles