Colorado Energy Offices Releases Life-Cycle Emissions and Costs of Medium- and Heavy-Duty Vehicles Study

DENVER – September 25, 2019 – The Colorado Energy Office today announced the release of a Life-Cycle Emissions and Costs of Medium- and Heavy-Duty Vehicles in Colorado study. Authored on behalf of the office by the Cadmus Group and Argonne National Laboratory, the study was undertaken to understand and compare life-cycle emissions from alternative and traditionally-powered school buses, transit buses, refuse trucks, and short- and long-haul trucks.

Using an analysis tool developed by Argonne National Laboratory, the study estimates emissions, total cost of ownership, payback period and marginal damage costs for various fuel technologies. Some results of note include:

  • Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), and Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) have much higher life-cycle carbon monoxide (CO) emissions than diesel and lower nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions.
  • Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) from landfill gas has much lower life-cycle emissions for all pollutants except CO. By avoiding methane flaring at landfills, RNG receives an emission “credit” resulting in a negative emission number for certain pollutants.
  • Electric vehicles have much lower greenhouse gas (GHG), NOx, and volatile organic compound (VOC) life-cycle emissions than diesel CNG, LNG or LPG vehicles.

The analysis quantifies the economic costs of environmental damages from emissions for each vehicle type and finds RNG from landfills, hydrogen derived from renewable electricity, and electric vehicles have the lowest damages. Additionally, diesel vehicles have the highest emissions damages, and vehicles powered with fossil natural gas have damages that are marginally better than diesel vehicles.

The study also examines how emissions will change over time for electric vehicles powered by electricity from  Xcel Energy, the largest utility in Colorado. In 2017, Xcel Energy’s energy mix was largely coal, natural gas and wind. Xcel Energy’s Colorado Clean Energy Plan portfolio will grow wind and solar generation and retire coal generation through 2027. As renewable penetration in Xcel Energy’s grid mix increases between 2017 and 2027, emissions per mile of electric vehicles powered by the utility decline for all air pollutants.

“This study provides analytical backing to the recent steps Colorado has taken including both the adoption of a zero emission vehicle standard for passenger cars and the reallocation of the remaining $48 million in funding from the VW settlement to focus on electric and renewable natural gas vehicles,” said Will Toor, executive director of the Colorado Energy Office.

The study is available for download here.

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