Although the affects of  Covid 19 on global economies have been drastic and dire particularly suppressing vehicle sales and production, zero-emission (ZE) truck and bus models are believed to be on the verge of a major surge in the United States and Canada.

Calstart’s Global Commercial Vehicle Drive to Zero’s Zero Emission Technology Inventory  (ZETI) survey shows that by the end of this year, the U.S. and Canada are on track to have 169 different Zero Emission commercial vehicle models available or soon-to-be-available for purchase compared to 95 models in 2019, that represents  a 78 per cent increase.

That growth is expected to accelerate even faster from now to 2023, with electric truck availability  expected to more than double to 195 models– a huge boost for the clean commercial vehicle segment, with similar trends can also be seen in other leading markets including China and Europe.

Medium-duty trucks urban delivery  trucks are among the fastest-growing vehicle segments in the U.S. and Canada  along with transit buses. These segments represent the vehicles most suited to zero-emission technologies because of the urban duty cycles, with lots of stop start driving, known routes and daily distances   with the ability to recharge at depots overnight.

The growth in electric delivery vehicle models meshes with the e-commerce sector, which has experienced strong growth due to  the Covid-19 crisis..

Calstart’s latest ZETI data also shows that Zero Emission commercial models across nearly all vehicle types currently demonstrate driving range capabilities which equal most users needs. Most ZE buses can travel between 160km and 300 km on a single charge while there is already a decent number of ZE trucks with usable working ranges of around the 80km to 300 km, which is sufficient for most urban delivery operations, while  and longer ranges over 500 km are expected to arrive in the next two to three years.

Driving this North American model proliferation is a mixture of market demand, policy drivers and an increasingly attractive business case. On the demand side large corporations such as Amazon, Ikea, FedEx, and UPS have made significant commitments and investments in manufacturers of Zero Emission commercial vehicles such as Tesla, Nikola, Rivian, Arrival and Chanje  in recent months.

Australian vehicle technology company SEA Electric, which has been responsible for a healthy uptick in ZE medium-duty-vehicles in North America, recently opened a new facility in Torrance, California, after winning a number of West Coast EV truck orders in 2019.

On the policy front in the USA, the state of California continues to lead the field as am initiator of policies that drive clean transportation technology.

California has already initiated such programs as Innovative Clean Transit regulations and the California HVIP  (a program that provides tens of millions of dollars in discounts to purchasers of clean trucks and buses),  and it may soon require an increasing proportion of sales of new commercial trucks in the state to be zero-emissions.

New York state recently relaunched its NY Truck Voucher Incentive Program, which, like the California initiatives, offers purchasers of clean trucks and buses tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars in discounts on new clean vehicle purchases.

Canada recently committed to the purchase of 5000 ZE buses, offering financial provisions to leading transit agencies to incentivize vehicle purchases and charging infrastructure adoption.

The business case for electric vehicles is growing rapidly particularly when it comes to the cost of batteries. Battery pack prices have fallen 87 per cent from around $US1100 per kWh in 2010 to $US156 per kWh in 2019, according to Bloomberg.

Bloomberg further estimates that by 2023 prices will fall even lower to  around $US100/kWh. These falling prices are particularly attractive for commercial vehicle customers, who operate their fleets over long distances  meaning they can quickly offset higher vehicle capital costs with large scale operational savings.

The Covid-19 crisis has sharpened society’s focus on just how critical transportation and the vehicles that enable it are to the global economy and human’s daily lives.

The crisis has also given a glimpse of the clean air and climate benefits the planet could benefit from if zero-emission trucks and buses increase in major centres around the planet. More than ever sustainable economic growth, well-paying jobs in a growing economic sector and a clean air future are within the grasp  of the world as advanced technology zero emission trucks and buses  will be increasingly available.