The truck engines of tomorrow will embrace new technology with growth in electric and fuel cell options as well as improvements to the internal combustion engine. Speaking at NATSO Connect in Denver, Colorado, John Farrell, laboratory program manager for vehicle technologies at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, told truckstop and travel plaza operators that electric vehicle and fuel cell technology will reach the trucking industry, but there won’t be a lightening-fast change.
“Fleets and trucks on the road take a long time to turn over. This is going to be a long transition,” Farrell said, adding that electric vehicles are still expensive but can be cheaper to operate, especially as battery prices continue to fall.
Despite the growth of EVs, the internal combustion engine is not dead. “It will be around for decades,” Farrell said.
There is a lot of work being done to improve the efficiency of the internal combustion engine. “Engines are efficient as they’ve ever been, but there is a goal to keep getting better,” Farrell said, adding that each improvement comes with a cost. “The drivetrain is getting more expensive. On the flipside, electric is coming down. People are looking at the future and asking if there will be a crossing point and if so, when is that?”
Farrell said battery cost reductions are leading to the growing interest in the technology. However, the majority of battery cost reductions over the past decade have been realized due to engineering improvements. “Achieving the next round of dramatic costs reductions requires chemistry changes. These chemistry changes are going to be hard to realize and commercialize,” he said.
Photo credit: Lisa Burwell/NATSO
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