Luckily, Smith believes, the U.S. is not starting from scratch. “One of the great advantages of our long-term goal of electrification is that we already have the basis for a distribution system in place. That is not the case for other possible alternatives to petroleum, such asor alcohol-based fuels, for which entirely new purpose-built, nationwide infrastructures would have to be designed and constructed from scratch.” He noted that as electrical wires cross this country, reaching into every home and building, the U.S. transportation industry must take that base and build upon it.
“We must improve the siting process for interstate transmission lines, increase the rate of return on investments in modernizing the grid, implement time-of-day pricing, require utilities to install smart meters over a fixed period, and put policies in place to ensure that companies can build the generating capacity that an electrified transportation system will require,” Smith stressed.
“Electrical power is generated from largely domestic sources whose prices are more stable and mostly disconnected from volatile world markets,” he pointed out. “It can be solar, it can be hydroelectric, it can be wind, it can and should be increasingly nuclear, it can be coal, it can be natural gas. So with cars powered by electricity, no one fuel source—or producer—would be able to hold our transportation system and our economy hostage the way a single nation can disrupt the flow of petroleum today.”
Yet it is hybrid vehicle technology, particularly dieselelectric combinations for work trucks and transit buses, that most likely will be the leading alternative power choice in the world’s medium-heavy commercial truck and bus market by 2020, according to Frost & Sullivan’s research.
Transit buses, in particular, will make up the lion’s share of hybrid fleets in terms of installation rates, while mediumheavy trucks featuring parallel hybrid architecture will account for the majority of the production volumes, Kar notes. The reason for such near-term dominance by hybrid systems is that they place the least amount of demand on infrastructure while reducing petroleum consumption by heavy trucks and buses.
“There’s just no money available for the scale of infrastructure necessary for widespread use of all-electric vehicles or ones powered by compressed natural gas and liquefied natural gas,” Kar stresses. “That makes hybrid technology the easiest alternative powertrain for fleets to adopt.”
The firm also believes 59% of the transit buses in North America will be powered by hybrid-electric systems by 2020, with hybrids making up 15% of the heavy commercial vehicle (HCV) population.
By contrast, only 12% of transit buses and 4% of HCVs will be all-electric. Only 7 to 8% of transit buses and HCVs will be powered by either compressed natural gas or liquefied natural gas, Frost & Sullivan predicts.