More and more, government leaders and automakers are pushing for the adoption of electric trucks. A study from Research & Markets says, in fact, that the market for electric trucks and buses will grow at a CAGR of 148.5% and 44.9%, respectively, from 2020 through 2026. However, electric vehicles aren’t alone. Alternative fuel-powered trucks — such as propane-powered vehicles — are gaining in popularity.

Decarbonization of MD-HD Vehicles

A new comparative analysis analyzes the carbon footprint of medium-duty and heavy-duty (MD-HD) engine vehicles powered by propane and electricity. The analysis, “Decarbonization of MD-HD Vehicles with Propane,” found that propane-fueled MD- HD vehicles are a lower carbon footprint solution in 38 US states and Washington, DC, when compared to MD- HD electric vehicles (EVs) charged from the electrical grid.

Fifteen states and Washington, DC, have proposed full electrification of MD-HD trucks by 2050 with a target of 30% “zero-emission” vehicle sales by 2030. The rationale behind the proposals is based on the assumption that the electrical grid will be fully decarbonized by that time. Likewise, policy based on exhaust carbon dioxide (CO2eq) emissions alone, as opposed to life-cycle analysis results, misses the full picture. The analysis shows, however, that the promise of electrification gets conflated with actual decarbonization.

Propane Provides a Low Carbon Solution

The study also reveals that MD-HD vehicles powered by renewable propane provide a lower carbon footprint solution in every US state except Vermont, where electricity is generated by, and imported from, Canadian hydroelectric power plants. Renewable propane is derived from sources such as beef fats, vegetable oils, grease residue and other biomass feedstocks.

One of the most important highlights of PERC’s study is that decarbonization can be accelerated by adopting propane as the fuel of choice for MD-HD vehicles. The conclusion is supported by a life-cycle analysis of equivalent CO2eq emissions between electric and propane-fueled vehicles across the US using CARB carbon intensity values along with a powertrain efficiency analysis. The US Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center also notes that not only is propane more cost efficient in MD-HD trucks, but also vehicles that use such fuel produce lower amounts of harmful air pollutants and greenhouse gases.

Without question, the world needs to accelerate its decarbonization, but electric solutions aren’t the answer when much of the grid energizing them is powered by the burning of coal. Utilizing clean fuels like propane for MD- HD trucks today can get us moving on that path sooner rather than later.


About the Author

Emily Holbrook has a long history of writing and editing for B2B magazines, consumer publications and companies in various industries, including energy management, sustainability, insurance and financial services