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  • American Transportation Research Institute

New ATRI research evaluates renewable diesel vs. battery-electric trucks to decarbonize

The American Transportation Research Institute released a new report April 23 that analyzes the benefits of employing renewable diesel as an alternative to battery-electric trucks.


This analysis is a follow-up to findings from past ATRI research on the topics of zero-emission vehicles and electric-infrastructure challenges. 


In those past reports, ATRI utilized the U.S. DOE’s GREET model to confirm renewable diesel as a promising solution for lowering the trucking industry’s CO2 emissions.


While both renewable diesel and electric-vehicle pathways have implementation costs, the report concludes that relying on electric vehicles to decrease CO2 emissions is nearly six times more expensive than using renewable diesel. 


In the report, renewable diesel and electric-vehicle pathways are evaluated on three criteria:

  • Environmental benefits

  • Operational capabilities

  • Financial viability


It was confirmed that when trucks using renewable diesel today are converted to electric vehicles, there is a significant negative environmental impact. 


Additionally, the report highlights operational benefits for trucking when using renewable diesel as an alternative, as well as significant infrastructure and new-vehicle cost savings.


“My company quickly and successfully transitioned to renewable diesel in April of last year,” said Andy Owens, CEO and manager of Glendale, Oregon-based A&M Transport. “ATRI’s research offers concrete evidence that this move is better for the environment and easier to achieve than other low-carbon options.”


Overall, ATRI estimated that a transition to electric vehicles for long-haul trucking will cost over $1 trillion in electric infrastructure and vehicle-purchase costs over 15 years.  


However, to achieve similar CO2 benefits with renewable diesel, ATRI estimates a price tag of $203 billion, a significant cost savings for achieving the same environmental benefits.  


Since renewable diesel is considerably more scalable than electric vehicles and can be deployed immediately in trucks without modifications, it is likely that CO2 benefits using renewable diesel can be achieved on a much shorter timeline than with a battery electric-vehicle transition.


A copy of the full report is available through ATRI’s website here.


ATRI is the trucking industry’s 501c3 not-for-profit research organization.


It is engaged in critical research relating to freight transportation’s essential role in maintaining a safe, secure and efficient transportation system.



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