As the Inflation Reduction Act passed the House of Representatives today, the United States takes a definite step toward decarbonization with the opportunity to drive electrification as a compelling commercial approach. The shift from internal combustion engines is long overdue.
To effect actual change, we need to come up with strategies that can curb GHG emissions fast. It’s widely known that the transportation sector is the biggest polluter in the US, accounting for 27% of all emissions. While passenger cars may seem the obvious choice when assessing environmental impact, it is actually heavy-duty transportation that holds the greatest potential for more immediate change. And there’s a logic behind that.
Trucks used for freight transportation are almost four times more polluting than passenger cars on average. They are utilized more than passenger vehicles, which are parked 95% of the time, and their significantly smaller fleet offers the unique advantage of a straightforward roll-out. Access to charging infrastructure is often cited as a barrier to the widespread adoption of electric heavy-duty trucks. In addition, efficiencies gained by automating freight movement and creating an innovative ecosystem approach to coordination and transportation would allow for vehicles to serve their business purpose of delivering goods, eventually at a much lower cost and more safely. By prioritizing commercial charging infrastructure and technology, it is possible to safely accelerate the deployment of electric and autonomous vehicles and push the transportation sector toward an important turning point in driving decarbonization results.
Another often cited barrier is the initial high investment of the electric heavy-duty truck in comparison to internal combustion engines. The combination of tax credits and loan guarantees provided by the US deal can help overcome this obstacle by lowering the initial cost of cleaner electric transportation.
Once signed into law, this new piece of legislation will invest in carbon reduction strategies, energy development, health care, and make adjustments to the US tax code, with provisions expected to start taking effect still this year. The package of carbon reduction strategies and energy development is a historic step in fighting climate change through the support of innovative companies and business models. But it is also crucial to boost much-needed societal changes.
Electrifying commercial freight transportation will offer a radical improvement in life quality for disadvantaged communities, as they are more likely to be in close proximity to high-traffic interstates and port facilities. More than 80% of those living with constant exposure to heavy-duty transport-related pollution in the US are people of color. There is a direct link between decarbonization and equality that must not be dismissed if we’re serious about a cleaner, safer, and healthier future.
The US is showing the power of political will in reaching climate goals. May it also mark the shift in how we conceive transportation.