Enabling a Sustainable Future: Zero-Emission Vehicles Cost Analysis to Inform Decarbonization Pathways

Research output: NRELPresentation


Despite being only 5% of vehicles on the road, medium- and heavy-duty vehicles (MHDVs) are the second largest contributor to transportation emissions (21%) and a major source of local air pollution disproportionally affecting disadvantaged communities. This talk summarizes a cost analysis for zero emissions vehicles (battery electric EVs and hydrogen fuel cell FCEVs) for all medium and heavy duty applications, ranging from large pick-up trucks, to delivery vans, buses, and heavy trucks. Results show that with continued improvements in vehicle and fuel technologies (in line with U.S. Department of Energy targets and vetted with industry), zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) can reach total-cost-of-driving parity with conventional diesel vehicles by 2035 for all medium- and heavy-duty (MD/HD) vehicle classes without incentives. Assuming economics drives adoption, ZEV sales could reach 42% of all MD/HD trucks by 2030, reflecting lower combined vehicle purchase and operating costs (using real-world payback periods). Two technological solutions - battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) - are viable in multiple market segments, offering alternative pathways for decarbonization: a) BEVs tend to become cost-competitive for smaller trucks before 2030 and for short-haul (<500-mile) heavy trucks before 2035. b) Hydrogen FCEVs tend to become cost-competitive for long-haul (>500-mile) heavy trucks by 2035. Results are very sensitive to technology improvement trajectories, adoption decision-making, and uncertain assumptions about future freight demand, logistics, and vehicle use explored in multiple scenarios.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages34
StatePublished - 2022

Publication series

NamePresented at the Energy Insights Conference, 8-9 December 2022, Washington, D.C.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PR-5400-84729


  • decarbonization
  • electric vehicles
  • hydrogen
  • sustainable mobility
  • total cost of ownership
  • zero-emission vehicles


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