NACFE outlined the major factors fleets should consider when selecting an alternative fuel powertrain. - Graphic: NACFE

NACFE outlined the major factors fleets should consider when selecting an alternative fuel powertrain.

Graphic: NACFE

The North American Council for Freight Efficiency has identified six key factors for heavy-duty truck fleets to consider when selecting which powertrain to operate, especially alternative fuel powertrains.

In a recently-released report entitled, “The Messy Middle: A Time For Action,” NACFE concluded that now is the time for fleets to begin to wade into the “messy middle” of decarbonizing trucking. With so many powertrain options at hand, including battery-electric, hydrogen and natural gas, the decision-making process can be challenging.

NACFE outlined the major factors fleets should consider, which will help make a sound decision. The key factors are:

  1. Well-to-Wheel Impact
  2. Regulations
  3. Duty Cycles
  4. Fuel Pricing
  5. Infrastructure
  6. Customer and Shipper Goals

Well-to-Wheel Impact

When considering an alternative fuel from diesel, NACFE officials say it’s important to fleets to consider the where the energy being used to produce the fuel is coming from.

In battery-electric powertrain options, for example, fleets must work with the local utility to understand the mix of energy being used to produce the electricity.

  • Is it all coal or natural gas?
  • What percentage is renewable or nuclear?

“The average mix of sources throughout the US is approximately 40% renewable or nuclear,” NACFE writes in the report. “If the energy production source is at or above this threshold, electrification is good for the environment. If it is not at this level, work with your utility to understand their transition to decarbonization.”

Renewable natural gas has a negative carbon intensity, due to the use of methane as the feedstock, which is very harmful to the environment, NACFE wrote.

“Natural gas that is not renewable still emits 10% less CO2 than diesel, “ according to the report.

Ask: How green — meaning produced from renewable energy — is the hydrogen as you start operating your hydrogen vehicles and how so into the future?


Regulatory developments over the next five to 10 years will impact which powertrain options are reliable and practical.

NACFE suggests fleets consider the following questions:

  • What are the upcoming regulatory factors facing your fleet?
  • Are you in an area where a zero-emission vehicle is or will be required?
  • Related to the upcoming EPA ultra-low NOx requirements. Are there additional costs of an engine that meets regulations?
  • What are possible reliability problems that could create more downtime?
  • Are solutions other than diesel more reliable or cost effective?

Duty Cycles

“When it comes to alternative fuels, duty cycle matters. If the duty cycle is more regional with stop-and-go runs and lighter loads, then electrification could be a good option,” NACFE wrote in the report. “If you run long haul, then [hydrogen fuel cells] (once the technology matures) or RNG might be the correct solution.”

NACFE suggests fleets consider the following questions:

  • What type of duty cycle does your fleet run?
  • How far does the vehicle travel?
  • What is the typical load?
  • How often does the vehicle return to base?
  • How many hours a day it operates?
  • Where do you operate your vehicle? In flat regions or mountainous ones?
  • Are temperatures moderate or extreme?

Fuel Pricing

The cost — both from a capital and operational standpoint — and the volatility of the fuel or energy source needs to be understood along with the fleet’s energy demand, NACFE officials wrote.


After estimating the energy or fuel demand of your fleet, NACFE suggests looking into:

  • Availability of electricity
  • What type of chargers are best for your operation
  • The schedule required to install the chargers
  • Where fueling stations are

Customer and Shipper Goals

More companies are making sustainability commitments and goals. Fleets need to understand how their powertrain solutions address these needs, NACFE wrote.

“In the past, all that mattered was cost and whether the goods arrived on time. Today shippers are asking fleets what they are doing to reduce their carbon footprint,” NACFE wrote.

Originally posted on Trucking Info

About the author
Staff Writer

Staff Writer


Our team of enterprising editors brings years of experience covering the fleet industry. We offer a deep understanding of trends and the ever-evolving landscapes we cover in fleet, trucking, and transportation.  

View Bio