In the short term, new all-electric vehicle mandates from around the globe won't affect North America much. But the long-term trendlines favoring electric vehicles seem clear. Photo: Scania

In the short term, new all-electric vehicle mandates from around the globe won't affect North America much. But the long-term trendlines favoring electric vehicles seem clear. Photo: Scania

Back in June, President Donald Trump shocked the world when he withdrew the United States from the Paris Accords – a multi-nation pact aimed at reducing carbon emissions into the atmosphere and curbing  rising global temperatures and subsequent climate change. Once those shockwaves had receded, the rest of the world pretty much shrugged its shoulders and went on its way without us. Since then, France, India, Norway and – just this week – Great Britain all announced plans to end the sale of gasoline- and diesel-powered passenger cars at various points in the future – usually around 20 years out. All told, at least 10 other countries have some type of mandates on the books aimed at eventually boosting electric vehicle sales and cutting emissions from gasoline and diesel engines.

At the moment, none of these announcements seem to affect medium- or heavy-duty trucks. There are simply operational realities with trucks that cannot be ignored. That said, it seems pretty clear that sooner or later these regulations will have an impact on the North American automotive and truck market. And that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

First off, let’s note that I’m not looking for similar legislation in the U.S. any time soon. I wouldn’t be surprised if some individual cities go the gasoline/diesel route at some point, and the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are already knocking on the zero-emissions door for trucks. But outside of that, the vast distances we have to deal with in the U.S. and the lack of any kind of high-speed rail service dictates that our vehicles will keep on burning dinosaurs for the foreseeable future.

On the other hand, we seem to be in the twilight of the great American love affair with the automobile. Millennials don’t seem to be terribly interested in cars beyond a means for moving around. And it’s likely that the onset of practical electric vehicles, autonomous technology, and ride-sharing capabilities will accelerate those trends.

That means there will likely be a fairly robust market ready for the next generation of all-electric cars, trucks and vans that European and Asian OEMs are surely already hard at work designing. And you can be sure those OEMs will certainly turn their attention here once they've perfected their designs.

It’s also worth pointing out that the United States is also a leader in automotive battery development and electric vehicles. So there could be a ready-made market waiting for American-made electric passenger cars – and even heavy trucks, if concepts by Tesla and Nikola prove out in the coming months.

In the short term, these all-electric mandates from overseas won’t change much here in North America. The trend lines seem clear: Gasoline and diesel are on the way in a lot of places around the globe. And it’s happening a hell of a lot faster than I would’ve guessed just a year or so ago. To be sure, there are a myriad of technological hurdles to overcome before we see a wide-scale deployment of electric cars and trucks – namely vehicle range and recharge times. But that’s a big part of these announcements; giving companies the lead time to get started on those technological issues.

We’ll start getting answers soon on what the future of electric transport will look like. And if the recent explosion of technology over that last decade has taught me anything, it’s that events tend to move much faster than we’ve become accustomed to over the last 50 years or so.  

Author

Jack Roberts
Jack Roberts

Jack Roberts

As a licensed commercial driver, HDT senior editor Jack Roberts often reports on ground-breaking technical developments and trends in an industry being transformed by technology. With more than two decades covering trucking, in Truck Tech he offers his insights on everything from the latest equipment, systems and components, to telematics and autonomous vehicle technologies.

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As a licensed commercial driver, HDT senior editor Jack Roberts often reports on ground-breaking technical developments and trends in an industry being transformed by technology. With more than two decades covering trucking, in Truck Tech he offers his insights on everything from the latest equipment, systems and components, to telematics and autonomous vehicle technologies.

View Bio
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