Market Segmentation Analysis of Medium and Heavy Duty Trucks with a Fuel Cell Emphasis

Research output: NRELPresentation


The medium- and heavy-duty transportation sector is experiencing rapid changes in powertrain technology innovation with recent announcements of battery electric and fuel cell electric trucks being offered. However, the economics of these alternative powertrain vehicles are uncertain and difficult to compare directly. This analysis seeks to bridge the gap of techno-economic analyses for these alternative powertrain vehicles by comparing all of them within the same analytic framework. Specifically, this report evaluates the total cost of ownership (TCO) of six different truck powertrain technologies (diesel, diesel hybrid-electric, plug-in hybrid electric, compressed natural gas, battery electric, and fuel cell electric) for three different truck vocations (Class 8 long haul [750 mile range], Class 8 short haul [300 mile range], and Class 4 parcel delivery), for different Department of Energy technology statuses (2018, 2025, and Ultimate). The TCO framework includes direct costs (purchase price, fuel, operating and maintenance), indirect costs (dwell time costs due to refueling/recharging and payload opportunity costs from forgone revenue due to the truck being weight-limited), but excludes general operation costs (driver wages and benefits, insurance, tire replacements, permits, tolls) that are assumed to be the same across powertrains. The TCO was evaluated for four scenarios that reflect typical business operating conditions. The TCO analysis results highlight that each powertrain technology may have an economic advantage on a TCO basis in certain business operating conditions and depending on fuel price realized. For Class 8 long haul trucks when payload opportunity costs are not incurred, battery electric and fuel cell electric powertrains could be cost competitive with diesel if the 2025 targets are achieved and fuel prices are low. If payload opportunity costs are incurred, battery electric powertrains are not estimated to reach TCO parity with diesel even if Ultimate targets and low electricity prices are realized, indicating a need for significant vehicle lightweighting. In Class 8 short haul commercial applications when payload opportunity costs are not incurred, battery electric, fuel cell electric, and compressed natural gas vehicle powertrains have very competitive TCOs with diesel if the 2025 targets are achieved. In Class 8 short haul commercial applications when payload opportunity costs are incurred, the battery electric vehicle powertrains can achieve TCO parity with diesel only if the Ultimate battery prices are met ($80/kWh). In Class 4 parcel delivery truck operating scenarios where there are no dwell time costs incurred, the plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, battery electric vehicle, and fuel cell electric vehicle could be cost-competitive with diesel and compressed natural gas with current (2018) technology performance and costs. In general, the payload opportunity costs can be a significant driver to TCO for the Class 8 long and short haul commercial vehicle applications while the dwell time costs could be a major TCO cost driver for the Class 4 parcel delivery vehicle if the business scenario realizes those costs.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages36
StatePublished - 2020

Publication series

NamePresented at the Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Program 2020 Annual Merit Review and Peer Evaluation, 15-19 June 2020

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PR-5400-77834


  • advanced powertrains
  • battery
  • class 8
  • FASTSim
  • fuel cell
  • heavy duty
  • hybrid
  • hydrogen
  • medium duty
  • SERA
  • sleeper cab
  • total cost of ownership
  • truck


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