Hybrid truck sales are expected to pass 100,000 units annually by 2017, according to a report from Pike Research.

"The truck market has experienced seismic changes in the last few years," says senior analyst Dave Hurst. "As fuel prices have increased, truck manufacturers have responded by expanding their offerings of alternative drivetrains to help reduce emissions and fuel usage by trucks."

Pike's "Hybrid Medium and Heavy Duty Trucks" report examines the opportunities and challenges in the market for hybrid electric, plug-in hybrid, and battery electric medium and heavy-duty trucks. The report provides a comprehensive assessment of the different drivetrains, battery technologies, and key drivers of market growth. It also explores global government regulations regarding diesel emissions and vehicle purchase incentives and includes detailed forecasts through 2017.

The primary challenge facing the hybrid truck market remains the cost of the system. Hybrid electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, and battery electric vehicles all continue to have higher upfront costs that are significant enough to result in higher total cost of ownership for the vehicles.

While the typical operating cost of a diesel vehicle is significantly higher than that of other drivetrains, $0.72/mile vs. $0.60/mile for hybrid and $0.22/mile for BEV trucks, Pike Research's analysis indicates that the higher purchase cost and low cost of diesel in some markets means that the trucks are not able to recover the incremental costs for the electric drive system in their lifetime. As a result, government incentives and emissions or fuel economy regulations will continue to play a very important role in promoting hybrids and plug-in trucks.

Pike Research's analysis further indicates that most HEV, PHEV, and BEV trucks will utilize different chemistries of lithium ion batteries. The cleantech market intelligence firm expects that the use of nickel metal hydride batteries will peak in 2016, as vehicle manufacturers move their remaining systems toward Li-ion. The Li-ion market is expected to reach 3.6 million kilowatt hours globally in the medium and heavy-duty truck market by 2017.