Highway vehicles in the United States are classified from Class 1 to Class 8, based upon the vehicle's gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR). Class 2b and Class 3 trucks (8,501-14,000 lbs. GVWR) include utility and delivery vans, step vans, heavy pickup trucks, and urban delivery trucks, falling in between light-duty passenger vehicles and heavy-duty commercial vehicles. With annual sales of 500+ thousand vehicles per year, Class 2b and Class 3 trucks appear in the majority of commercial vehicle fleets, serving a wide range of business and customer service applications. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) estimates that heavy-duty pickups and vans account for 23% of Class 2b through Class 8 vehicle fuel use. Although these vehicles are widely used in large and small commercial fleets, there is very little published information on fleet composition, vehicle usage, fuel consumption, or environmental impact.
Supporting the electrification of the light commercial fleet may be one of the most cost-effective strategies for reducing fuel use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, given that these vehicles accumulate many miles each year, and the extensive power demands for truck-mounted/mobile equipment for goods refrigeration and cabin comfort. More significant health benefits may also be obtained from Class 2b and Class 3 vehicles because they are used primarily for local driving, vehicles are often kept at a central location, vehicles are driven in frequent stop-and-go and short-range duty cycles, and some vehicles idle extensively at job sites. Short range, stop-and-go, heavy-idling duty cycles can be ideal for plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs). However, fleet owners have paid limited attention to electrifying their Class 2b and Class 3 commercial fleets, and manufacturers are currently offering a limited selection of commercial PEV options.
The research team will employ a case study analysis approach to assess the costs and benefits of PEV conversion for an array of commercial fleets operated in the Atlanta metro area. From the perspective of each commercial fleet owner, the research will quantify the marginal life-cycle cost associated with PEV conversion (compared to traditional diesel and gasoline operations), the PEV payback period, and therefore the magnitude of subsidies that may be required to incentivize PEV fleet conversion. The research will quantify the cost and benefits of providing subsidies for the electrification of light-duty commercial fleets (given the large benefits expected to accrue given their extensive annual mileage), and compare these benefits to the current policy of offering incentives for personal vehicle purchases. Hence, this research will also assess the feasibility of offering federal and state incentives designed to encourage the electrification of light-duty commercial fleets.