The launch of the Nikola Two tractor just days ahead of Earth Day — April 22 — was a fitting and, perhaps, deliberate gesture by the company to spotlight the trucking industry’s progress in improving its level of environmental responsibility. During an event April 16-17 in front of about 2,000 people, Nikola rolled out the next iteration of its Class 8 vehicle — which can be outfitted with either hydrogen-electric fuel cell or all-electric powertrains — and also introduced new zero-emissions offerings targeting other segments.
The unveiling of these products was the latest in a string of introductions from equipment-makers who are preparing for the future; a future where toughening clean-air rules and advancements in power technology are coalescing to compel the industry toward new power sources, and away from fossil fuels.
But in the history of the trucking industry, these are just the latest steps in a long line of advancements that have made trucks cleaner and more fuel-efficient. Believe it or not, we’re sneaking up on 10 years since federal regulators in 2010 enacted stiffened limits on nitrogen oxide emissions that led truck- and engine-makers to adopt selective catalytic reduction. Diesel particulate filters have been around longer. Today’s trucks are cleaner than they’ve ever been, but the push toward more electrified solutions suggests we’re not done.
As more participants get into the fray, the number of choices will expand — and we think that’s good for the industry. That’s because there is not one perfect solution that will satisfy the needs of every motor carrier. For some, there are applications in which electric power makes sense. For others, diesel is the only game in town. Down the road, perhaps some combination of the two could be practical. Add natural gas into the mix of possibilities.
No one thinks diesel-powered trucks are going away anytime soon, but more power options for trucks means more ways carriers can get the job done for customers and get goods into the hands of consumers.
On Earth Day, and every day, that’s the core mission of the trucking industry. More ways to move trucks down the road to fulfill that mission are coming, and we can’t wait to see what’s next.