Electric powertrains, cleaner-burning diesel technology and alternative fuels are continuing to improve, and original equipment manufacturers, shippers and carriers are all moving toward net-zero goals, according to the fifth annual State of Sustainable Fleets report.

“If I had to really sum up the report for this year, there’s one word that comes to mind: growth,” said Erik Neandross, president of GNA, which produced the report. “Over the last 30 years, the market has had ups and downs, but over the 30-year period, the markets have grown 1,000%.”

While discussing the report in his keynote speech at the Advanced Clean Transportation Expo in Las Vegas, Neandross said that announcements about new, clean technologies are “seemingly nonstop.” He added that challenges remain, including costs, the amount of power available on the grid and infrastructure needs.

“We know it is not going to be easy. We know it is not going to be cheap, and we know it isn’t going to be a straight line quarter after quarter,” Neandross said.

Even still, OEMs are as committed as ever, and fleets are investing in new solutions. Neandross said the three big drivers are massive global investments in clean technology, growing commitments around sustainability and carbon reductions, and regulatory requirements. “We have a couple of really critical regulations that were adopted that are going to accelerate our move forward to lower carbon fuels and zero-emission vehicles in every sector: light, medium, heavy,” he explained.

Fuel and technology growth included:

Renewable Diesel: The national consumption of RD increased by 68% year over year, according to the report. Renewable diesel is considered a “drop-in” fuel, meaning it can be used as a direct replacement for diesel fuel in diesel engines. Most consumption occurred in the West Coast states. The report found that 75% of fleets currently using RD would buy it in greater quantities if they could access it without additional cost, and 63% have asked their providers about the option.

Natural Gas: Fleet demand for natural gas increased again in 2023, concentrated among existing users. Additionally, more than 150 new renewable natural gas production facilities came online in 2023. The growth helped sustain CNG prices and helped them be competitive with other fuel choices. The demand for RNG among fleets also grew for the third consecutive year.

Electric Vehicles: More than 26,000 battery-electric trucks, vans, and buses were delivered to fleets in 2023, doubling since 2022. Cargo vans and pickup trucks made up 90% of those deliveries. Tractor deliveries grew sixfold, from more than 100 to nearly 700 units, while volumes doubled in virtually all other sectors. The State of Sustainable Fleets report found that at least 39% of the fleets surveyed in every sector reported using BEVs in 2023, the highest use rate across the five leading clean drivetrains for fleets.

Hydrogen: Growth of hydrogen in 2023 was spurred by federal investments in hydrogen production and infrastructure, notably the Department of Energy’s allocation of $7 billion to seven proposed fuel production and distribution hubs spanning 16 states. It will be several years before the H2 hubs meaningfully impact fuel price and supply, but the program is expected to reduce the risk for investors exploring hydrogen fuel and vehicle production. Major OEMs pursuing the hydrogen space include Kenworth, Peterbilt, Toyota, Hyundai and Nikola.

Diesel Technology: Fleets purchased about 7% more commercial trucks in 2023 than in 2022, signaling an upswing in demand as fleets rush to purchase new trucks before the EPA’s MY2027 heavy-duty engine standard kicks in. Estimates suggest this standard could raise diesel vehicle costs by approximately 12%.

Overall Energy Solutions

Charging infrastructure gaps and delays dominated discussions in 2023. Reliable access

to sufficient power is crucial to the success of any private or public charging facility, and

electrical service has become the make-or-break element of the first depot-sized projects, according to the report.

During the event, Penske Transportation Solutions and ForeFront Power announced their new joint venture — Penske Energy — to help commercial fleet operators plan, design and deploy optimized EV charging infrastructure capabilities that support and safeguard their operations.

Penske Energy will provide fleet operators with comprehensive EV charging and energy infrastructure advisory consulting, including strategic and operational planning, technology assessment, infrastructure designs and practical project implementation.

“We’ll work with our longstanding supplier partners in the energy and energy infrastructure sector and bring to bear the best possible solutions available for our commercial fleet customers,” said Drew Cullen, senior vice president of fuels and facilities at Penske Transportation Solutions.

Available Technology

Penske Truck Leasing has a wide range of low- and zero-emission solutions available today, including CNG, battery-electric and late-model diesel vehicles as well as renewable diesel. Learn more by contacting us today.

Penske Transportation Solutions is a member of this year’s Green Supply Chain Partner list that has been released by Inbound Logistics magazine. According to the publication’s editorial team, Penske is among the 75 honorees that “walk the walk” regarding its supply chain sustainability efforts.

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Now in its fifth year, the State of Sustainable Fleets 2024 Market Brief sheds light on an industry meeting the moment of an active transition. It was released today on day one of the Advanced Clean Transportation (ACT) Expo in Las Vegas, and is available to download at no cost by clicking here. It was created by clean technology consulting firm, GNA, a TRC company. Penske Transportation Solutions, Volvo Trucks North America, and Chevron serve as title sponsors. Dana, Exelon, and S&P Global Mobility are supporting sponsors.

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Penske Transportation Solutions is taking part in this year’s Advanced Clean Transportation Expo in Las Vegas. Billed as the largest advanced commercial vehicle technology show, the conference will be held from May 20-23 at the Las Vegas Convention Center, where another year of record attendance is expected.

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Innovation, research and development of commercial vehicle technology continue to increase, and there has been an unprecedented wave of private investment, public funding and policy focus across the commercial transportation sector, bringing more sustainable solutions to fleets.

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Sustainability within the supply chain continues to improve, creating economic and environmental benefits for shippers and transportation providers. A wide range of solutions that can reduce carbon emissions, increase efficiency and improve operations is already available, and new solutions are on the horizon.

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Renewable diesel — an advanced fuel option that reduces greenhouse gas emissions while meeting the same specifications as petroleum diesel — can be added to existing fuel truck systems to help lower a fleet’s carbon footprint. As a drop-in fuel that can be used in place of ultra-low-sulfur diesel (ULSD), renewable diesel is helping bridge the gap as the trucking industry moves toward zero-emission vehicles without extra equipment or infrastructure cost related to battery-electric vehicles.

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The use of sustainable vehicles and fuels is growing in medium- and heavy-duty fleets, and fleets are adopting a range of technologies and have plans to add alternative technologies going forward.

“We believe that 2027 could very well be the last of the major diesel engine development programs that we see out there in the world — which is pretty amazing,” said Erik Neandross, CEO of Gladstein Neandross & Associates, which created The State of Sustainable Fleets 2023 report.

The report, sponsored by Penske Transportation Solutions and released during the Advanced Clean Truck Expo on May 1, examines the current state of prevalent sustainable vehicle platforms for medium-duty (MD) and heavy-duty (HD) fleets and identifies the trends shaping the industry’s future.

For the first time since the report launched in 2020, 75% of fleets that have never used leading clean drivetrain technologies plan to increase use in the next five years. “Across clean fuel types, we’re seeing accelerating momentum and an increasing commitment to low-carbon fuels and zero-emission commercial vehicles,” Neandross said.

Regulatory requirements and government incentives are helping to move projects forward, but Drew Cullen, senior vice president of fuels and facility services for Penske Transportation Solutions, said all fleets are trying to do the right thing even outside of regulatory pressure. “We’re all trying to get workable solutions that we can fit into our business to make a difference,” he said, adding that operational capabilities are critical.

Cullen spoke as part of a panel presentation following the report’s release. He was joined by Thomas de Boer, vice president of commercial road transport for Shell, and Ari Silkey, general manager of North American surface transportation for Amazon.

Battery Electric Vehicles

Interest in battery electric vehicles (BEVs) has continued to increase. Orders for MD and HD BEVs surged 640%, with nearly 30,000 MD orders and 2,400 HD battery-electric school bus orders placed in 2022.

“Zero-emission vehicles and other alternative powertrains, infrastructure, renewable energy and funding all continue to make significant strides in meeting and exceeding fleet sustainability targets,” Cullen said.

At least half of fleets across 11 different fleet types, including logistics, transit, school, cargo and delivery fleets, have operated an MD or HD battery-electric vehicle in the annual survey and 92% of those fleets plan to grow their use. The report found that 85% of fleets taking part in the survey are using electric yard trucks.

A memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed by 17 states and the District of Columbia set a goal of reaching 100% ZE sales for MD and HD vehicles by 2050. Although the MOU is voluntary, 13 of these states have taken action to reach the goal by adopting or beginning to adopt California’s Advanced Clean Trucks requirement for ZEV sales in their states.

Hydrogen Fuel Cells

Legislators and regulators are investing in hydrogen production and fueling infrastructure, and private investments by global leaders are also targeting production. The public hydrogen station network grew 12% and the first plans to build station networks outside of California were announced for the central, mid-Atlantic and southwestern U.S.

According to the report, a viable refueling landscape could soon exist as these vehicles become commercially available. Among respondents, 10% of fleets using clean vehicles have operated fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) in the last two years, with 63% expecting to grow their FCEVs in the coming years. Transit and regional/long-haul goods movement fleets have the highest use rates, with approximately 17% reporting use of at least one FCEV.

Natural Gas Vehicles

Fleet demand for natural gas vehicles (NGVs) continues to rise, indicating high user confidence and satisfaction with this mature, clean drivetrain technology. Plus, compressed natural gas (CNG) and renewable natural gas (RNG) continue to offer price advantages compared to diesel. On average, surveyed fleets that used natural gas in the last two years used it for approximately 20% of their vehicle population, the largest penetration rate among users of any of the clean drivetrains in the study.

Propane Vehicles

Propane engines on the market today already meet stringent new engine emission requirements, and the propane vehicle and fuel market also continue to play a role in the industry, especially with bus fleets. The study found that 57% of fleets surveyed plan to increase their propane consumption during the next five years.

After two years of declining sales, industry reports indicate that sales of new propane vehicles increased 11% overall in 2022, thanks to a surge in demand for medium-duty paratransit, municipal and utility vehicles.

Renewable Diesel

Renewable diesel (RD) has proven to be a sustainable drop-in fuel that can replace diesel and both the production and use of the fuel has grown. In 2022, domestic RD production doubled from 800 million gallons in 2021 to more than 1.7 billion gallons. On the demand side, national RD consumption increased by more than 45% for the second year in a row, and it represented 83% of all bio-based diesel consumed in transportation in California for the first three quarters of 2023.

“The expansion of renewable diesel gives others options when a zero-emission piece of equipment or renewable natural gas isn’t a solution for them,” Cullen said.

Penske offers RD at several of its locations on the West Coast. “We realized this is a true drop-in fuel that comes with a much lower overall emissions footprint than regular petroleum diesel,” Cullen said.

Overall, fleets and their industry partners are working together to decrease emissions. “It feels really good that the industry is progressing, and a lot of these partnerships are coming together all over the place and continuing to move things along,” Cullen said.

Download the report: The State of Sustainable Fleets 2023

Reducing emissions is a top priority among federal and state lawmakers, and the U.S. Department of Transportation has announced a new deadline — Feb. 1 — for state departments of transportation to establish transportation-related emission-reduction goals.

The federal government has also announced more than $27 billion in federal funding to help states reach their targets, including $5 billion to build out an electric vehicle charging network, $2.5 billion to deploy electric vehicle charging and hydrogen, propane and natural gas fueling infrastructure, and $400 million to reduce truck idling and emissions at ports.

The new requirements and funding are among several regulatory initiatives designed to improve sustainability, which is also taking on greater importance as customer, consumer and investor interest in companies’ environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals increases.

Fleets can reduce emissions in several ways, including turning to late-model equipment, deploying electric vehicles and using renewable diesel fuel.

Late-Model Equipment: Late-model equipment with significant fuel economy improvements, reducing emissions. The North American Council for Freight Efficiency’s 2022 Annual Fleet Fuel Study found that fuel efficiency for all heavy-duty Class 8 combination vehicles went from 5.97 to 6.24 mpg during the last three years.

Vehicle Selection: Spec’ing the right vehicle for the application improves efficiency and fuel economy while also reducing operating costs and the risk of mechanical failures. Different fleets have different needs, and a cross-country vehicle, for example, is spec’ed very differently than a tractor used in regional applications.

Aerodynamic Devices: Installing EPA-verified aerodynamic devices on tractors and trailers can save fuel by minimizing aerodynamic drag and maintaining smoother airflow. Technologies include side skirts (a pair of panels affixed to the lower side edges of a trailer) and trailer tails, both of which reduce drag.

Auxiliary Power Units: Auxiliary power units (APUs) reduce the need for idling, allowing fleets to reduce fuel costs, increase engine life and improve driver comfort. Fleets can choose either an electric APU that runs on batteries or a diesel-powered APU that runs on a small diesel engine that burns a small amount of fuel per hour. APUs could range from $8,500 to $12,500, but that cost is recouped in fuel savings over about two and a half years.

Preventive Maintenance: Preventive maintenance helps keep the tractor operating at peak performance, which has a direct impact on fuel economy. The North American Council for Freight Efficiency reported that fleets can achieve fuel savings between 5% and 10% through preventive maintenance.

Electric Vehicle Solutions: Penske has built and operates North America’s first heavy-duty EV charging network, and there are multiple paths to EV adoption. These include Class 8 trucks and light- and medium-duty equipment. Penske Truck Leasing offerings include the Freightliner eCascadia (class 8), Freightliner eM2 (class 6 and 7), Volvo VNR electric tractor (class 8), International® eMV™ (class 6 and 7), Ford E-Transit (Class 2), Orange EV e-Triever electric terminal truck (class 8 yard tractor), Freightliner Custom Chassis MT50e walk-in (class 5 and 6), and XOS walk-in (class 6).

Renewable Diesel Fuel: Renewable diesel fuel is a cleaner option that performs identically to ultra low sulfur diesel (ULSD) but has a well-to-wheel differential of 60% to 90%+ in greenhouse gas. Renewable diesel reduces particulate matter by more than 40%, carbon monoxide by more than 25%, total hydrocarbons by more than 20%, NOx by 10%, and lifecycle GHG emissions by up to 90%. Penske offers renewable diesel fuel at several locations on the West Coast.

Fleets are increasingly expected to be able to quantify their emission reduction efforts. Penske Truck Leasing has solutions, including an emissions calculator, to help fleets calculate savings and track results. Associates will also work with fleets to find the ideal equipment for their needs and test new technologies.

READING, Pa., October 30, 2023 – Penske Truck Leasing customer Balford Farms, a food distribution services and dairy products company headquartered in Burlington, New Jersey, is adding the first-ever electric truck to its fleet. The Orange EV yard tractor will support the company's warehouse and distribution center, which operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It will reduce Balford's carbon footprint by over 15 tons annually.

Balford’s environmental sustainability journey started over a decade ago with the installation of solar panels at their Burlington warehouse and distribution center.

“We’re thrilled about this opportunity to bring innovation into our truck fleet and expand upon our recent sustainability commitments and successes,” said Larry Walker, CEO of Balford Farms. “This new electric truck exemplifies our ongoing promise towards being an environmentally responsible leader in the food distribution industry while delivering efficiency and safety to our workplace, and the very best service to our customers.”

Balford specializes in providing warehousing and distribution services to quick service restaurant chains. Balford also markets and distributes their own Rosenberger’s dairy brand to customers throughout the Northeast U.S.

Penske Truck Leasing customer Balford Farms, a food distribution services and dairy products company headquartered in Burlington, New Jersey, is adding the first-ever electric truck to its fleet. The Orange EV yard tractor will support the company's warehouse and distribution center, which operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It will reduce Balford's carbon footprint by over 15 tons annually.

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Penske Truck Leasing has added Xos, Inc. battery-electric trucks to its fleet. Penske will deploy the trucks with multiple customers in various industries. The Xos Stepvan is a Class 6 vehicle purpose-built for commercial applications.

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Alternative fuel vehicles hold significant promise for reducing emissions, but new advancements in diesel-powered internal combustion engines are also helping fleets improve fuel economy and reach their sustainability goals.

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Penske Transportation Solutions was recognized in Los Angeles by the Climate Registry for its work with electric trucks. Penske was honored with an Innovative Partnership Certificate at the 2023 Climate Leadership Awards for being a part of the Freightliner Electric Innovation Fleet.

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In the fourth annual State of Sustainable Fleets Market Brief, commercial transportation fleets continue to report a resounding trend — their use of clean fuels and advanced vehicle technologies is rapidly accelerating.

Report author and leading clean technology consulting firm, Gladstein, Neandross & Associates (GNA), unveiled the findings at the Advanced Clean Transportation (ACT) Expo in Anaheim, California.

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Wesco International, a global distribution and supply chain services provider, is experiencing success with operating a pilot program with Ford E-Transit electric vehicles, provided by Penske Truck Leasing. The units are being used in three major markets as part of the company’s overall electrification and sustainability strategy. Wesco is leveraging these E-Transits in Atlanta, Orlando and Phoenix.

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Penske Truck Leasing has increased the size of its electric truck fleet with the addition of a pair of MT50e all-electric walk-in vans from Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp. Penske has delivered these trucks to customers in the healthcare field.

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Penske Truck Leasing and Daimler Truck North America (DTNA) commemorated the delivery of two battery electric production model Freightliner eCascadia semi-trucks. The delivery of these heavy-duty electric vehicles is a significant milestone for both companies and marks the culmination of a period of co-creation, refinement and field-testing that kicked off nearly five years ago.

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Penske Truck Leasing announced it has expanded its use of renewable diesel in California through a preferred supplier agreement with Shell Oil Products U.S. The move is a continuing effort by Penske to help reduce emissions across its truck rental, heavy-duty truck leasing and logistics fleet operations.

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