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Alternative Light- and Heavy-Duty Vehicle Fuel Pathway and Powertrain Optimization


An increasing number of alternative vehicle fuel and powertrain options are evolving for both light-duty vehicles (LDVs) and heavy-duty vehicles (HDVs) to combat climate change and degraded air quality. Electricity, hydrogen, substitute natural gas, renewable gasoline, and renewable diesel are examples of alternative fuels, while internal combustion engines, fuel cell engines, plug-in battery engines, hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and electrical drivetrains are examples of components comprising powertrains. With such a diverse set of options for LDVs and HDVs, a systematic evaluation of the options that meet environmental goals at a minimum cost is required.

Using linear programming with fuel pathway and vehicle costs, emission constraints, realistic growth scenarios for travel and technology, and fuel feedstock availability, a methodology is developed (“Transportation Rollout Affecting Cost and Emissions, TRACE”) to assess combinations of fuel and vehicle pathways. Each pathway has an associated efficiency, cost, and emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and criteria air pollutants (CAPs). Techno-economic data from the literature and Wright’s Law project the cost of infrastructure to produce, distribute, and dispense fuel, and to produce vehicles through 2050.

The results from a Reference Case, comprised of business-as-usual fossil fuel and internal combustion vehicles (ICVs), projects costs of $1.43 trillion. For current LDV regulations in California, the optimization suggests adoption of ICVs fueled by renewable gasoline in the early years with many plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, a large population of zero-emission battery electric vehicles starting in 2030, and significant plug-in fuel cell electric vehicle (PFCEV) adoption in 2050. For all modeled HDV vocations (linehaul, drayage, refuse, and construction), TRACE projects ICVs fueled by renewable diesel until 2045, after which hybrids and PFCEVs are adopted for all vocations except refuse. This LDV and HDV rollout is projected to cost $1.28 trillion by 2050, 10% less than the Reference Case. Significant factors affecting results include battery costs, change in vehicle miles traveled, and zero-emissions vehicles (ZEV) constraints. For cases with proactive ZEV inducements, plug-in FCEVs displace ICVs while satisfying the long range and short fueling attributes provided today by ICVs, reducing GHGs an additional 18% and CAPs up to an additional 40%.

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