By Raleigh Gerber on

Fighting Our Climate Crisis and Air Pollution with Advanced Clean Trucks Powered by Renewable Natural Gas

Soon the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach will adopt policies that determine the future of port trucks. Some stakeholders will argue for policies that prioritize business and port competitiveness over health. Others will advocate for policies that only focus on a zero emissions future. Ironically, these positions both perpetuate the status quo of old diesel trucks and their associated emissions of air and climate pollutants.

Diesel does not need to be the winner in this policy debate. Advanced clean truck technology that is affordable and cost-effective exists today that reduces both air and climate pollution. This solution to air and climate pollution combines the cleanest alternative engine technology with the lowest carbon fuel in renewable natural gas (RNG).

In the final of this three-part series, Clean Energy Vice President Greg Roche, explains the reasons why we need to immediately deploy this advanced clean technology:
7. RNG-powered trucks are affordable and available today
8. RNG-powered trucks are the most cost-effective solution
9. All of the above
Read Part II of the series here.

 7. RNG-Powered Trucks Are Affordable and Available Today

The Ports’ 2018 Feasibility Assessment for Drayage Trucks released earlier in 2019 examined the readiness of various clean truck technologies to haul the goods. The study included an assessment of the costs for the clean technologies. After all, what good is a technology that is unaffordable. The comparative cost of zero emissions should send shivers up the spine of anyone concerned about keeping our ports economically competitive with the other ports in the US. A compressed natural gas (CNG) truck was found to only cost about one-half more than a diesel truck. Battery electric trucks were estimated to cost 3.6 to 6.5 times the cost of a diesel truck including the charger.

Ultralow-NOx CNG truck $192,719
Current battery electric truck with 207 mile range & charger $465,000
Future battery electric truck with 600 mile range & charger $831,000


To put these cost differences in perspective, if battery electric trucks were available, which they are not today, the extra cost above RNG-powered trucks to replace the 8,000 oldest port trucks would be $2.2 BILLION to $5.1 BILLION. This is serious money. Money that the trucking industry doesn’t have. A cost that will render our ports at a huge competitive disadvantage to other ports. Not to mention, where else could $5 billion be spent to get a much better return on cleaning our air. The massive project to replace the Gerald Desmond Bridge was only $1.5 billion, a comparative bargain to battery electric trucks.

 8. RNG-Powered Trucks Are the Most Cost-Effective Solution

California taxpayers and businesses have limited funds. Maximizing the usefulness of scarce resources depends on understanding cost-effectiveness. What is the return for each dollar spent? To illustrate cost-effectiveness by example, say the oldest port trucks emit 100 units of NOx. Replacing old diesel trucks with RNG-powered trucks will eliminate 98 units of NOx. Replacing with battery electric trucks will eliminate 100 units of NOx if only tailpipe emissions are counted. Only counting the tailpipe, which is what proponents do, factually ignores the emissions that occur from the power plants that charge the batteries. But to play along with the partial accounting, the power plant emissions will be ignored for this example. Using truck costs from the Ports’ feasibility study mentioned above, the relative cost-benefits can be compared. Because battery electric trucks cost 2.4 to 4.3 times the cost of RNG trucks, every dollar spent deploys many more RNG trucks. Because RNG trucks reduce emissions about the same as battery electric trucks (again pretending only tailpipes matter), the total emission reductions are 2.4 to 4.3 times greater for every dollar invested. The following table shows the comparison.

Amount Invested RNG-Powered Trucks
NOx Reduction Units
BE Truck, Low Range
NOx Reduction Units
BE Truck, High Range
NOx Reduction Units
$200,000 98 0 0
$500,000 196 100 0
$1,000,000 490 200 100
$2,000,000 980 400 200
$1,542,000,000 784,000 332,000 186,000


The $1.5 billion investment shown in the above table will replace all 8,000 of the oldest port trucks with clean RNG-powered trucks but less than half if by battery electric. The chart below shows the stunning comparison. For the same investment amount, RNG trucks reduce emissions by 98% for all 8,000 trucks compared to only 23% to 42% reductions by battery electric. There really is no comparison.

 9. All of the Above

For those that resist taking immediate action today, the facts and science are being ignored. Ignored in favor of resisting change or ignored in favor of waiting for something more perfect to come along. Both positions end up in the same place: no action today perpetuates diesel. In Los Angeles County, over 100,000 children are born each year. Over the next 3 years, when the 8,000 oldest diesel port trucks are banned, over 300,000 children will be born into polluted air and soaring climate pollution – unless action is taken today to change this future.

Read Part I of the series here.
Read Part II of the series here.