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Future Road Environmental Sustainability

Environmental Sustainability Overview

With the long-term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns throughout the world, climate scientists have warned that the continued use of fossil fuels for our energy needs will further impact global, national and local climates. Within the last decade there have been major shifts in the way we think about environmental sustainability and climate change, and how to address concerns while still moving freight effectively for sustained regional economic growth. Adoption of new technologies could result in fewer truck emissions, reduced noise pollution and an overall better quality of life for residents in the OKI region. Industry experts anticipate that trucks will adopt cleaner technologies at a slower rate than passenger vehicles, due to several reasons such as longer truck life cycles, battery technology/range, heavy duty charging infrastructure, etc.

Vehicle Emissions

Pollutant emissions from motor vehicles can be a major contributor to poor air quality. In the OKI region, these emissions account for about one-third of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent and fine particulate emissions. Motor vehicles account for up to half of emissions that, when combined with sunlight, form harmful ozone. The “ozone-precursor” emissions include volatile organic compounds (VOC) and nitrogen oxides (NOx).

OKI uses the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Motor Vehicle Emission Simulator (MOVES). This is a state-of-the-science emission modeling system that estimates emissions for mobile sources at the national, county and project level for criteria air pollutants, greenhouse gases, and air toxins. Forecasts for the OKI region show that county-level motor vehicle NOx emissions are expected to decrease by as much as 84%between 2020 and 2050. This includes both passenger cars as well as trucks. The MOVES model does not yet factor in the adoption of electric vehicles, so emission forecasts are viewed by OKI as being conservative. However, the adoption of more fuel-efficient technologies is expected to be slower by trucks moving freight. As a result, trucks as a source of NOx in the OKI region could increase in overall share of emissions by as much as 25 percent or more.

For the region as a whole and for many OKI counties, 2050 NOx truck trip emissions are forecasted to increase as a percent of all vehicle emissions. This is likely due to the forecasted growth in 2050 truck volumes.

County Level Emissions

County-level motor vehicle VOC emissions are forecasted to dramatically decrease between 2020 and 2050 by as much as 77 percent. However, because the adoption of more fuel-efficient technologies is expected to be slower by the overall fleet, trucks as a source of NOx in the OKI region will fluctuate – rising slightly (1-2%) in our Ohio and Indiana counties and decreasing (4-5%) in the three Northern Kentucky counties.

Motor vehicles emit CO2 more than any other greenhouse gas. A reduction in CO2 would have a dramatic benefit to the environment in the OKI region.  CO2 is also emitted by the burning of fossil fuels for power generation, manufacturing, residential heating, etc. Air quality forecasts show that county-level motor vehicle CO2 emissions could decrease between 2020 and 2050 in all OKI counties — except Boone County, which is projected to increase by 2.6%. This is likely due to the high growth and concentration of truck-related activities in and around the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG). CO2 emissions from truck movements is expected to rise as a percentage of all emissions slightly by 2050.

Truck Electrification

Electrification of medium- and heavy-duty trucks refers to technologies that use electricity for propulsion. Electric medium- and heavy-duty trucks can be constructed from production lines from the ground up. They can also be retrofitted to electrify a gasoline or diesel-powered vehicle. Trucks classified as medium duty are classes 5-6, which have gross vehicle weights ranging from 19,500 to 26,000 pounds. Heavy-duty trucks are any vehicle that exceeds 26,000 pounds and falls within the federal highway vehicle classifications of 7 and 8.

  • With less than 2 kWh per mile of energy consumption, Tesla claims its semi fully electric semi truck can travel 500 miles on a single charge. Using Tesla’s semi chargers, the vehicle can recover up to 70% of range in 30 minutes. (Source: (March 2023).
  • The first generation of the Volvo VNR Electric semi truck model has an estimated range of 150 miles per charge. Volvo’s plans for the new second generation VNR Electric is an estimated range of 275 miles per charge. (Source: (March 2023).)
White and teal panel truck parked next to white rectangular box with a long black cord.

Fully Electric Delivery Truck
Source: HDR, Inc. (2022).

Compared to light-duty vehicles, heavy-duty trucks require significant power levels to charge quickly. The Rocky Mountain Institute’s 2019 Seattle City Light: Transportation Electrification Strategy, reported the power demand of a single Class 8 truck (1.6 MW) to be equivalent to that of 1,200 U.S. homes. Options range from “slow” DC fast chargers at 50kW to 350kW stations. Slower chargers are more affordable but require longer to charge vehicles. Faster chargers can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to procure and install, but offer much faster charging speeds. Volvo estimates its second generation VNR can charge from 20 to 80% using a 250kW fast charger between 60 and 90 minutes, depending on if it is a 4 or 6 module pack VNR. Currently, the Tesla Megacharger installed in some locations (1.5 MW) is estimated to be able to charge a heavy duty truck to 80% in 30 minutes. As with any technology, charging speeds typically increase in subsequent generations as the cost of charging stations and the installation continue to fall over time.

Fast charging heavy-duty trucks will require power levels similar to large-scale industrial users. The following infrastructure will be required to enable this:

High-voltage power supply

Electric utilities will generally prefer to locate charging stations within proximity of high-voltage, three-phase power lines.

Nearby substation(s)

A nearby existing substation will reduce the cost of installing new charging infrastructure.

Power generation capacity

Electrification of the transportation system will significantly increase power generation needs.

Example of Truck Electrification Study

The West Coast Clean Transit Corridor Initiative is a collaborative effort and study between 16 utilities to support the development of electric vehicle charging facilities between San Diego and British Columbia for heavy-and medium-duty freight haulers and delivery trucks. The study aims to implement electric vehicle charging sites at 50-miles intervals, along I-5 and adjacent highways to significantly reduce pollution caused by freight transportation and create jobs. After the collaborative developed a report that outline conceptual charging sites, the utilities began conducting grid readiness assessments to prepare for the necessary infrastructure installations and upgrades that would support vehicle charging capacities of at least 3.5 megawatts.

The study proposes a phased approach to electrifying I-5 with the first phase focused on installing charging facilities for medium-duty electric vehicles, like delivery vans, by 2025. The next phase would later expand charging capacities to accommodate electric big rigs by 2030 to meet the future increase in charging demands of electric trucks. Also included in the report are strategies for electric utilities to promote and expand EV charging infrastructure.

Parked semi-truck plugged into a post.

E-Truck Charging Infrastructure
Source: HDR, Inc. (2022).

National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Formula Program (NEVI)

In November 2021, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), enacted as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs, a National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Formula Program (“NEVI Formula”) to provide funding to states to strategically deploy electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure and to establish an interconnected network to facilitate data collection, access, and reliability. Enactment of this legislation compelled OKI’s member states to adopt a NEVI Plan which would qualify them for federal NEVI funding.

Links to each of OKI’s three member states’ NEVI plans are below with a short summary of each State’s NEVI vision for the next five years.


In response to receiving $100 million in federal funding under the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Program (NEVI), from FY2022-2026, ODOT will further develop fifteen of these designated AFCs with additional electric vehicle infrastructure to fully build out a network of NEVI compliant corridors throughout Ohio. These AFCs will be located along common, over the road freight corridors and will facilitate future electrification opportunities in the freight and logistics industry, particularly for lighter use cases.


In response to the NEVI program’s allocation of $69.5 million in funding for Kentucky, KYTC nominated its remaining interstates and parkways/expressways as EV AFCs and plans to fully build out the state’s entire Interstate and Parkway system, using NEVI compliant EV infrastructure pending the nominated corridors’ acceptance. Currently, KYTC’s planned EV charging infrastructure is not intended for freight. Eventually, KYTC expects that local freight companies will likely have dedicated charging infrastructure at depots, and long-distance freight will require substantially more power than what is currently needed at a NEVI-compliant station. In the future, KYTC will incorporate potential guidance related to freight into plan updates. As hydrogen becomes an increasingly feasible fueling option for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, Kentucky is exploring the potential for hydrogen truck refueling stations in the state along proposed Hydrogen Alternative Fuel Corridors I-64, I-65, and I-74, none of which are located in the OKI region.


Equipped with $99.6 million in NEVI funding, Indiana plans to build upon existing EV infrastructure by deploying the appropriate number of EV charging stations that will meet NEVI build-out requirements and develop a self-sustaining charging network at the end of the five year NEVI program. Though the state’s current EV Infrastructure Deployment Plan does not contain specified plans for freight, INDOT does note that they intend to incorporate emerging and evolving technologies and expand the program to freight transportation over the evolution of its implementation and beyond the five years of the NEVI program.

Alternative Fuel Corridors and Trucks

Alternative Fuel Corridors is a program run by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) that establishes a network of corridors to serve travel using alternative fuels. These corridors provide charging access for electric vehicles (EVs), in addition to refueling options for other fuel types, such as compressed natural gas (CNG), propane (LPG), or hydrogen (H2). States nominate corridors to the FHWA, and work to develop the fueling infrastructure to meet the criteria by each fuel type. More than 40% of the 2,600 miles of Alternative Fuels Corridor lane miles in the OKI region have been designated for EV charging infrastructure.

  • The Ohio Department of Transportation has designated 17 corridors across the state as Alternative Fuel Corridors. In the OKI region this includes interstates 275, 71, 74, and 75. For the last two years of AFC designation rounds, Ohio has nominated and further developed its propane Autogas and electric corridors.
  • Kentucky has a total of six AFCs including OKI interstates 71 and 75, and 275. Though Kentucky’s designated AFCs include CNG, LNG, and LPG infrastructure, a majority currently serve CNG refueling and electric vehicle charging. The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s (KYTC) most recent AFC nominations indicate a significant future investment in electric vehicle infrastructure and a venture into hydrogen fueling opportunities.
  • All of Indiana’s interstates including I-74 in the OKI region are AFCs. These corridors provide EV charging and CNG, LNG, H2, and LPG refueling infrastructure. A majority of Indiana’s AFCs serve CNG, LPG, and electric powered vehicles.
Large white hood and cab doors are open on a semi-trailer truck engine with man in suit looking at it.

Hydrogen Truck
Source: HDR, Inc. (2022).

Timing for the Adoption of Alternative Fuel Truck Technology

Several barriers exist for the wide adoption of electric and hydrogen fueled trucks including, but not limited to:

High Upfront Costs

Electric and hydrogen trucks are typically more expensive to purchase than their diesel counterparts, which can deter fleet owners from making the investment when the time arises to replace commercial vehicles.

Limited Range

Electric and hydrogen trucks have a limited driving range compared to diesel trucks, which can make it difficult for them to cover long distances or operate for long hours without stopping for recharging/refueling.

Lack of Infrastructure

There is a limited number of charging and refueling stations for electric and hydrogen trucks which makes it difficult for fleets to operate these vehicles.

Battery Weight and Size

Although size and weight have been decreasing dramatically over the past few years, electric trucks require large and heavy battery packs which can reduce the payload capacity of the vehicle and affect its overall performance.

Uncertainty Around Technology

Electric and hydrogen truck technology is still relatively new and there is some uncertainty around its reliability, maintenance costs, and overall performance compared to traditional diesel trucks.

Regulatory Challenges

The regulatory environment around electric and hydrogen trucks can be complex and uncertain which can deter fleet owners from investing in these vehicles.

Lack of Trained Workforce

Widespread adoption of electric and hydrogen fueled trucks require different skillsets and expertise for maintenance and repairs. The workforce that is trained today for diesel trucks may not have the same expertise for new alternative fueled commercial vehicles.

In February 2023, The U.S. Department of Energy awarded $7.4 million to seven projects serving 23 states to develop electric vehicle (EV) charging and hydrogen infrastructure for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles. One of the projects, led by Cummins, Inc. for the I-80 corridor in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, has a goal of 30% of fleets EV and fuel cell technologies by 2035. Based on current barriers and experimental status of current electric and hydrogen medium- and heavy-duty truck technology, the OKI region may not see a significant number of these vehicles on our roadways until 2040 or beyond.

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