Electrified commercial trucks will see 10-fold growth through the next decade, according to a new study.

Navigant Research says that growing awareness of better air quality and stricter emissions targets will drive fleets to transition over to electrified trucks and away from diesel through 2026. While diesel trucks have gotten cleaner through incremental technology improvements, the added cost is making electrified vehicles more competitive.

Global annual sales of electrified powertrain medium- and heavy-duty trucks are predicted by Navigant to grow from about 31,000 vehicles in 2016 to nearly 332,000 by 2026. Vehicle categories included in the study are hybrid (gasoline and diesel), plug-in hybrid (gasoline and diesel), battery electric, and hydrogen fuel cell.

Conventional diesel trucks have seen improvements in emissions in recent years through changes in systems such as exhaust aftertreatment and advanced fuel injection systems. While there have been government incentives to adopt clean-diesel technologies, their added initial and operating costs have made hybrid, plug-in, and fuel cell vans and trucks more financially viable and attractive to fleets, the study said.

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Some fleets have been adopting electrified vehicle options, as the return-on-investment has been improving in vehicles coming to market. Government incentives and grants supporting zero-emission transportation options have also been behind the market trend.

Limited range has been a major stumbling block for adoption of the new alternative powertrains, as has been the case in light-duty passenger vehicles. Plug-in trucks have made more sense to fleets that work with a limited daily range and that do a lot of stop-start driving.

While not mentioned in the Navigant report summary, charging is bound to be a closely followed issue. Fleets, like consumers, will be watching for a growing charging infrastructure to be deployed, for better fleet utilization and ROI.

Navigant Research