A myriad of new powertrain technologies are competing to usurp diesel as the heavy duty vehicle powertrain of choice. Of these, FTI Intelligence finds that the economic case for battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell powertrains in the US market will be favorable faster than previously expected. Our results indicate that we stand on the precipice of revolution in the road freight sector, with heavy investment across the value chain required, particularly in model availability, charging and fueling.


When buying a class 8 heavy duty vehicle (HDV), the key purchasing criteria used to be only the total cost of ownership (TCO) of the vehicle. The TCO was an effective metric for evaluating legacy technology which demonstrated little variation in revenue generating potential. These days, however, we stand on the precipice of seismic change in all transportation sectors as the need to decarbonize grows more urgent by the day. A myriad of powertrain technologies are competing to usurp diesel as the HDV powertrain of choice; to evaluate these technologies we should no longer consider just the TCO but should consider it alongside the revenue generating potential and emissions reduction potential of the new technologies.

In this paper we will explore the key factors behind the adoption of new powertrain technologies and develop a timeline for their adoption. Our analysis indicates that battery electric and hydrogen vehicles will become the most favorable powertrain technologies within the decade. To support uptake within this timescale, heavy investment will be required across the value chain, particularly in model availability, charging and refueling.


Total Cost of Ownership Analysis

While there are now other factors to consider when purchasing an HDV, the TCO remains a key metric and demonstrates significant variation among future powertrain technologies. In particular, while the TCO of legacy HDVs is expected to rise in the future, the TCO of HDVs utilizing new powertrain technologies is expected to drop rapidly as these technologies mature. Key drivers include economies of scale, the cost of fuel, battery cost and fuel cell cost. Battery pack costs have decreased by around 60% over the last five years and are forecast to continue to drop steadily.


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