A new Navigant Research report says the global market of hybrid, plug-in hybrid and battery electric trucks and buses could grow from 16,000 units annually in 2014 to nearly 160,000 by 2023.

Admittedly, sales today are relatively low for medium and heavy duty vehicles (MHDV) but the market is expanding from infancy to something more significant.

In question are class 3-8 vehicles which encompasses highway-capable trucks and buses in excess of 10,000 pounds gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) to those over 26,000 GVWR including up to semi-sized vehicles.

Traditionally holding fleet buyers back has been the cost-benefit equation and these discriminating buyers would generally like a payback for advanced drivetrains within three years.

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Navigant contrasts consumer buying thought processes for personally owned passenger vehicles “where choices can be based on emotion and fashion as much as return on investment.” Not so for fleet managers, says Navigant, and for them it is all about the big picture and bottom line.

Fleet buyer considerations include the fact that enough heavy batteries to provide sufficient range for a large load-bearing vehicle like a delivery truck reduces it capacity. That’s been a deal breaker right there for some, Navigant says.

“As battery cell technology improves, this situation will be addressed, but progress is happening more slowly than many expected,” says Navigant.

Another highly relevant factor is the cost to replace the fleet as a whole, and not just cost of a single vehicle with another, says the report.

Where MHDVs could likely see inroads, it says, are niche applications such as where onboard electrical power replaces idling diesel engines or to provide temporary power to buildings or tools at remote sites.

“Low-emissions zones in cities are being introduced that will result in greater demand for vehicles that can be driven in electric-only mode,” says Navigant.


Highest growth is to be the Asia Pacific region but significant sales are forecast for North American and Europe as well.

Globally, penetration is projected to be low increasing from 0.4 percent in 2014 to 2.9 percent in 2023, and the greatest sales penetration of 9.6 percent is forecast for Western Europe. Among individual countries, Japan is forecast to reach 21.2 percent of electric or electric assist MHDVs by 2023.

Most popular drivetrain architecture will be forms of diesel electric hybrids followed by pure battery electric.

Navigant’s $4,600 full study is “a comprehensive examination of how the MHDV market is changing in various global regions on behalf of consumer and governmental interest in electric drive technologies.”

It was made after communicating with governments, vehicle OEMs, suppliers, trade associations, fuel providers, and infrastructure developers, and a free executive report is available from its website.