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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Life Cycle Modeling of Technologies and Strategies for a Sustainable Freight System in California

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California’s freight transportation system is a vital part of the state’s economy but is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and generates an even higher portion of regional and local air pollution. The state’s primary strategy for reducing emissions from the on-road freight sector relies on deploying new vehicle and fuel technologies, such as electric medium- and heavy-duty vehicles. The market for electric truck technologies is developing rapidly.

The goal of this research is to quantify the life cycle environmental impacts and life cycle costs for on-road goods movement in California to estimate the abatement potential and economic costs and benefits of electrifying California’s freight truck sector. The study compares the emissions and costs of urban conventional gasoline and diesel Class 3–8 vehicles with electric heavy-duty vehicles (i.e., electric trucks) for a range of freight and commercial vocations. A model of freight vehicle operations is developed based on representative vehicle location data, and linked with life cycle emissions inventory, technology cost, and pollution health damage cost data. The model is then used to assess energy and capacity requirements for electric trucks and battery systems and explore the impacts of a range of charging strategies and vehicle duty cycles (i.e., vocations) on energy, costs, and emissions between 2020 and 2040.

Where emissions occur, and how emissions of different pollutants are affected by factors including vocation, duty cycle, powertrain configuration, and fuel pathway, will influence the effectiveness and economic costs of emissions reduction strategies. On a per mile basis, replacing a conventional gasoline or diesel truck can reduce CO2-equivalent (CO2e) emissions by 50%–75% compared to conventional gas and diesel vehicles. Statewide, 100% electrification of in-state Class 8 vehicles by 2040 could reduce annual CO2e emissions by nearly than 30% (50 million metric tonnes per year), and electrification of Class 3 trucks statewide would likely half current PM2.5 emissions from transportation. The costs of emissions abatement from truck electrification ranged from $0.25 to $182 per metric tonne of CO2e for trucks deployed in 2020, but these costs are likely to fall dramatically by 2040. Full electrification of the in-state registered Class 3–8 vehicle fleet by 2040 would significantly reduce criteria pollutants and aerosols emissions; this in turn could reduce pollution related damages in the state by $507 million per year by 2025, and by some $1.6 billion by 2040.

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