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A Fast Growing Industry: Clean Trucks - Can Arıhan

With numerous electric and hybrid cars already present on the streets around the world; clean technologies, which can significantly cut emissions, for trucks (in this article, the term "clean trucks" will refer to any eco-friendly truck that does not use the traditional combustion engine) and other heavy-duty vehicles seemed to be developing rather slowly. However, this stark difference is set to change.

Mainly, government regulations and incentives are leading the truck industry's transformation, which uses combustion engines as its most common technology, to a more environmentally friendly one. Clean Energy Wire notes that the European Union has already adopted rules that legally force newly registered trucks to have 15 percent lower emissions starting with 2025 and 30 percent starting with 2030.

China, the clean truck market leader with a 95 percent share of the global market (Forbes data), is also heavily investing in clean trucks. Clean Energy Wire figures prove how committed China is in transforming its heavy vehicle industry: China has around 400.000 electric buses as opposed to 4.000 in all Europe. Other countries are also slowly speeding up their efforts. For example, BYD, a Chinese firm, has recently signed a deal to supply over one thousand electric buses to Bogota, the Colombian capital.

The future of the clean truck industry is certainly not bound by governmental initiatives. Although the initial buying price for trucks with clean technologies may be higher than the traditional combustion engine trucks, the clean trucks prove to be more economical in the long term. Fuel savings and much lower maintenance costs make these clean trucks more and more competitive. According to Clean Technica, the main reason for the higher buying price of the clean trucks, the high cost of batteries, are getting rapidly cheaper. The astonishing drop of 89 percent in the last ten years in battery costs surely signals that clean trucks will become even more economical in the future.

To take a portion of this rapidly growing industry, both traditional players and newly founded start-ups are competing. For example, Clean Energy Wire quoted Swedish Volkswagen subsidiary Scania's CEO said: "In a few years, we will also introduce electric trucks for long-haulage that are designed for quick charging during the mandatory 45-minute rest periods for drivers." With its new electric truck named Semi, Tesla will certainly be an important player in the market. Pepsi, Walmart, and UPS have already pre-ordered this new Tesla model. GM is also entering the electric heavy-duty vehicle market, and FedEx has already agreed to be its first customer. Similarly, Amazon is set to expand its fleet with 100.000 electric delivery vans from Rivian, founded in 2009. The American online retail giant has also ordered to sign a deal with Mercedes Benz to strengthen its European fleet with 1.800 electric vans.

Such news of clean trucks and other heavy-duty vehicles with clean technologies being sold in large quantities should, of course, be welcomed. Nevertheless, there is still a long way ahead to transform an industry that traditionally has very high CO2 emissions. Despite the development of clean technologies for heavy-duty vehicles, trucks, and buses still take up six percent of the total greenhouse gas output of the European Union. Clean Energy Wire predicts that the transformation of the truck fleets in the European Union will not be so sudden, and it may take around 13 years (10 years in Germany and as high as 22 years in Poland, which has the EU's largest truck fleet).

In the United States, the race to transform 13 million trucks and buses into environmentally friendly ones is on but still in its early stages. According to Forbes, in the United States, there are over 120 projects to produce zero-emission heavy-duty vehicles that can be realized in the following years. Still, the United States is, at least for now, in no position to compete with China, the dominant country in the market. Many Chinese companies, BYD (the world's largest electric vehicle producer according to GreenBiz data) at the top, lead the clean truck production globally. However, it isn't easy to estimate how the rapidly changing market of clean technologies for heavy-duty vehicles will look like in a few years.

Turkey is yet to take major steps in producing clean trucks. It seems that Turkish firms will enter the clean truck market by buying these vehicles from foreign firms, at least for the near future. For instance, Utikad notes that Borusan Logistics, a leading Turkish firm, has already ordered Semi trucks from Tesla.

In summary, we have seen that the clean truck industry is emerging as an important market. Many firms are interested in it, along with the larger market of clean technologies for heavy-duty vehicles. This transformation of combustion engine trucks into low (or even zero) emission vehicles will certainly yield huge benefits for lowering the overall emission levels. However still, this process may take many years if the firms and governments do not take decisive and rapid actions.


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