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Linehaul Trucking Systems Decarbonization Analysis INTERNAL REPORT to, Inc.

CSS Publication Number
Full Publication Date
August 25, 2020

Greenhouse gases (e.g., carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide) emitted by human activities are inarguably contributing to a changing climate. The transportation sector – which relies heavily on combusting fossil fuels such as gasoline and diesel and has long been a dominant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions – must be part of the solution to reduce emissions. This report explores the ways in which linehaul (heavy truck freight traveling long distances) can decarbonize. Both short-haul (commercial trips less than 250 miles from start to finish) and long-haul (trips over 250 miles) trucking are evaluated. The report focuses on three diesel truck alternatives: renewable natural gas (upgraded biogas) trucks, battery electric trucks, and hydrogen gas-powered fuel cell electric trucks.

This report analyzes the opportunities and challenges that multiple alternative powertrains present and addresses how each powertrain could be used to advance decarbonization and zero-emissions initiatives, depending on the priorities of linehaul owners. It seeks to guide further research and investments so that the linehaul transportation industry can move past technical limitations into a position where trucking decarbonization can be a reality.

Research insight was based on an extensive literature review, the Argonne National Laboratory’s transportation emissions and economic modeling tools, academic and fuel-vendor interviews, and a summer internship on Amazon’s Transportation Sustainability team. The Argonne models used were the 2019 versions of Greenhouse gases, Regulated Emissions and Energy in Transportation (GREET) and Alternative Fuel Life-Cycle Environmental and Economic Transportation (AFLEET).

Five criteria were determined to influence the fit of alternative powertrains for linehaul trucking: greenhouse gas reduction potential, vehicle availability, vehicle functionality, cost, and scalability. Ability to meet zero-emissions vehicle targets is a consideration within the greenhouse gas reduction criterion. Alternative transportation systems become competitive when their total cost of operations are near diesel parity, their carbon footprints from well-to-wheel (across the fuel supply chain, including fuel use) are lower than the diesel vehicle status-quo – especially if they approach zero emissions, and if they are scalable.

Research Areas
Mobility Systems
Publication Type
Full Citation

Dodinval, Claire. (2020) Linehaul Trucking Systems Decarbonization Analysis. CSS Reprt (INTERNAL to, Inc.) , University of Michigan: Ann Arbor: 1-96.