Josh Fisher | FleetOwner
Mary Aufdemberg, GM of product strategy and market development for Daimler Truck North America, gives the keynote address during the the 2024 Green Truck Summit during NTEA's Work Truck Week in Indianapolis.

Clean energy transition does not spell diesel's end

March 7, 2024
Daimler Truck North America reaffirmed its commitment to developing cleaner equipment alongside investing in alternative powertrains at Work Truck Week's Green Truck Summit, all while diesel remains "critical to our industry" said Daimler's Aufdemberg.

INDIANAPOLIS—While clean energy is the future, diesel will primarily power trucking’s near future. But as more U.S. fleets face a patchwork of regulations nationwide, planning will be imperative.

“The regulations landscape is very challenging,” Mary Aufdemberg, GM of product strategy and market development for Daimler Truck North America, said after her keynote address to open up the Green Truck Summit during Work Truck Week here.

She said that the OEM—which made nearly 40% of all U.S. Class 8 truck sales last year—and its dealers are ready for California Air Resource Board’s Advanced Clean Truck regulations and upcoming federal greenhouse regulations aimed at trucking fleets.

“Diesel is still very critical to our industry and will be in the majority of trucks, I believe, through most of this decade,” Aufdemberg said. “The first thing is we have to make sure that we’re ready to meet the NOx rules, the CO2 rules, from a diesel engine perspective. So, of all the investments that I shared with everyone today, one of the biggest investments we’re making is still on our engine platform.”

See also: How to prep for California's Clean Truck Check program

One of the investments DTNA is making is in its dealer network. On Tuesday, the OEM unveiled its Battery-Electric Vehicle Dealer Certification Program. It builds on the company’s Elite Support Program, which certifies dealers committed to delivering superior customer service.

DTNA’s two commercial EVs—the Class 8 Freightliner eCascadia and medium-duty Freightliner eM2—have been delivered to more than 50 U.S. fleets and logged more than 4 million miles, according to the OEM.

Diesel development isn’t over (yet)

The Diesel Era is nearing its end, according to the fourth State of Sustainable Fleets Market Brief published last year. The report outlines a future where new diesel engine development slows as zero-emission vehicles become the centerpiece of regulations in states representing about half of the U.S. economy.

"We believe that 2027 could very well be the last of the major diesel engine development programs that we see out there in the world—which is pretty amazing," Erik Neandross, chief executive of Gladsetein, Neandross & Associates, which produced the annual study, said during last year’s Advanced Clean Transportation Expo.

Much more public attention is on transportation efficiency this decade, but the industry has been squeezing more and more out of every gallon of diesel for years. A heavy-duty truck built 30 years ago produced more emissions than 60 new diesel trucks built today, Aufdemberg noted during her keynote address. 

See also: Engine oil marketers brace for new era of ‘hyper-efficiency’

“We have not stopped making this a cleaner world,” she said. "In the past 15 years, the emissions from semi trucks have been reduced by more than 20%, but we want to do more.” 

The global truckmaker is also developing alternative powertrains based on battery-electric and hydrogen. “If I look back in the last two to five years, we’ve seen tremendous innovation and amazing action,” Aufdemberg said. “We know that clean diesel will be an important part of this equation this decade as well as the next.”

Daimler Truck wants all its new trucks to be carbon-neutral by 2039 in the U.S., Europe, and Japan,  and globally by 2050. “But we also know we can’t do it alone,” she added.

DTNA, the parent company of Freightliner and Western Star trucks, partnered with Cummins to help it meet medium-duty truck regulations, Aufdemberg noted. Freightliner medium-duty sales made up 21% of the market in 2023, according to the American Truck Dealers trade group.

Daimler, Cummins, and Paccar are investing up to $3 billion in a commercial vehicle battery plant in Mississippi, which is expected to begin production in 2027. DTNA also partnered with Volvo Trucks North America and Navistar to form Powering America’s Commercial Transportation coalition to create a shared voice to promote and educate policymakers on nationwide ZE infrastructure. In Europe, Volvo Group and Daimler are partnering on a hydrogen fuel cell electric heavy-duty powertrain called Cellcentric.

“It’s super important now to get people around the table that don’t normally speak to each other in order to drive speed to market and get this done,” Peter Voorhoeve, VTNA president, said last month during an event announcing the PACT coalition.

About the Author

Josh Fisher | Technology Editor

Josh Fisher is the technology editor for Fleet Owner.

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