By Mike Kastner
NTEA Senior Director of Government Activities
Oil prices have dropped to levels that would have been hard to believe just six months ago, but don’t let that affect your long-term planning. As the economy recovers, so too will fuel prices. It’s important that advances continue in the commercial production of trucks with increased efficiency and new technologies. Markets and governments will call for more fuel efficiency.
OEMs recognize the long-term need for efficient vehicles. If there was ever any doubt that fuel efficiency will be an integral part of the industry’s future, just review the Big Three restructuring plans as submitted to Congress in early December. General Motors detailed plans for increased production of fuel-efficient and alternatively fueled vehicles; Chrysler pledged to produce more than 500,000 electric-drive vehicles by 2013; and Ford said it will introduce a commercial battery electric vehicle by 2010.
Ford is expected to detail its accelerated vehicle electrification plan at the North American International Auto Show, Jan. 17–25, 2009 in Detroit, MI. The company expects to market by 2012 an entire line of hybrids, plug-in hybrids and battery electric vehicles.
Environmental concerns will be a continuing catalyst for advancements in vehicle technology. The “greening” of manufacturing as a whole, and motor vehicle manufacturing in particular, is here to stay. The Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA) recently released a report citing that tailpipe CO2 emissions reduction alone will not ensure sustainable mobility. JAMA called for optimal efforts to reduce CO2 emissions throughout the life cycle of automobiles, from the design stage, through manufacture and use, to final disposal.
Oil prices and customers’ “green” concerns will be market drivers in the quest for more fuel efficient and environmentally friendly vehicles. An even stronger push for advanced technology vehicles will come from the government — at every level.
California has already issued regulations to reduce emissions from diesel reefer units. It enacted The Global Warming Solutions Act in 2006 to address climate change issues within the state. The law requires the California Air Resources Board (ARB) to develop programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. One of the measures ARB proposed and recently debated is the Heavy-Duty Vehicle Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction Measure based on the Environmental Protection Agency’s SmartWay Program. Among other requirements, it would mandate that tractors and trailers operating in California have specified aerodynamic equipment to improve fuel efficiency.
At its December meeting, the European Parliament’s Temporary Committee on Climate Change set a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% in comparison to 1990 levels by 2050. To do so, it may mandate a 20% increase in energy efficiency by 2020. A vote on the final report is scheduled for February.
More than 900 mayors have signed the U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, in which cities pledge to reduce carbon emissions by 7% below 1990 levels by 2012. The Agreement now represents more than 81 million Americans. Also, since transportation is a major source of carbon emissions, many government fleets are trying to incorporate hybrid and other fuel-efficient vehicles. To-date, nearly 50 towns and cities in almost 40 states have green fleet programs, as do numerous county and state governments.
Learn more about the future of hybrid and alternatively fueled work trucks at the NTEA’s Green Truck Summit, scheduled March 3, 2008 in conjunction with the 45th Annual Convention and The Work Truck Show® 2009 at the McCormick Place West Building (Chicago, IL). See the enclosed Work Truck Show brochure for more information or visit NTEA.com.