What is going to be the push that medium-duty fleets need to adopt electric vehicles? That tipping point will be caused by a few different factors over the next several years. It won’t be an overnight shift. The transportation industry is realizing that changes are coming, and the momentum behind electrification is increasing.

Upcoming Regulations

California Air Resources Board passed its Advanced Clean Truck regulation in March 2021. This regulation will lower nitrogen oxides (NOx) standards by 75% in 2024 and 90% in 2027 and mandate the purchase of zero emission trucks in California starting in 2024. Environmental Protection Agency is working on its own round of new regulations in the form of the Cleaner Trucks Initiative, which also places lower limits on tailpipe emissions.

Both of the regulatory actions will change the way engines are currently tested for regulatory compliance. Diesel engines have shown to exceed current emission standards under heavy loads and during low speed high idle duty cycles. Both CARB and EPA regulations will test engines for compliance under these conditions.

Lower Battery Cost

Lower costs of batteries will be another factor. Battery costs are dropping as supply chains mature and demand increases. The per kilowatt hour price of a lithium battery has dropped 98% over the past three decades, and will soon be on par with combustion engine prices. The average price in 2021 currently sits at $140 per kilowatt hour. Industry experts have pointed to $100 per kilowatt hour as the price point at which electric and combustion engines powertrains will equalize from a cost standpoint.

Plus, battery technology is evolving rapidly. A major breakthrough in solid state battery technology could drive the price per kilowatt hour well below the $100 mark. Unique partnerships, like the one between clean mobility leader ROUSH CleanTech and battery manufacturer Proterra, put companies in a position to take advantage of technology developments and economies of scale.

Air Quality Awareness

A final factor in driving the tipping point is public climate change awareness, which is growing louder every year. Consumers are demanding that their favorite brands and elected officials take an aggressive stance in the fight against climate change and improve air quality in disadvantages communities.

California’s Clean Transportation Revolution

The city of Los Angeles is taking aggressive action to lower its carbon footprint and improve the health of its residents. One reason is due to the health disparities that exist in Los Angeles in frontline and low income communities adjacent to major transportation routes and industrial neighborhoods.

The city sees battery electric trucks as a potential solution to creating more equitable health outcomes for all residents. City leaders also understand that electric trucks come with much lower operating costs, due to less required maintenance and lower fuel costs.

Working in partnership with the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD), the city of Los Angeles chose ROUSH CleanTech’s F-650 battery electric vehicles — due to its ability to meet the requirements of the California Zero Emissions Powertrain certification program, and for achieving California Hybrid and Zero-Emission Truck and Bus Voucher program eligibility. 

The zero-emission battery electric vehicle demonstration project is an important step toward Mayor Eric Garcetti’s goal of being carbon neutral by 2050.

By demonstrating the reliability, range and serviceability of vehicles like the ROUSH CleanTech F-650, other agencies can have confidence that these electric trucks are ready to work and serve the community. Demonstration programs like this one are crucial to giving fleet owners the confidence to adopt medium- and heavy-duty electric trucks on a wide scale.

The biggest hurdle heavier duty electric vehicles face is upfront purchase price. Large trucks and buses are built on a much smaller scale than passenger vehicles. Therefore, purchase prices continue to be two to three times the cost of a comparable internal combustion engine-powered vehicle.

Consumers and taxpayers are looking to business leaders and elected officials to lower the environmental impact of transportation. However, these organizations can’t afford to absorb the six figure upfront hit per vehicle required to introduce electric trucks into their operations. This is why funding agencies like SCAQMD are so crucial to provide the funding boost this technology needs to get robust supply chains built, and economies of scale up to speed. Funding is already occurring in the passenger vehicle space, in part to tax incentives. Commercial trucks and buses will follow a similar trajectory with the right funding from agencies like SCAQMD. 

Penske Puts Battery Electric Vehicles to the Test

Penske Truck Leasing is committed to being at the forefront of vehicle electrification and making impactful sustainability strides within the trucking industry. A company with the reputation for being an industry leader like Penske requires vehicles that are safe, reliable and supported long-term.

Penske’s full-service leasing customers rely on its trucks to sustain their daily business operations and require world-class service and around-the-clock support if over-the-road issues arise. If vehicles are out of service or have extended downtime waiting for repairs, it can have severe impact on revenue, customer satisfaction and ultimately on-time deliveries.

Knowing a company is going to be there for the long haul to support a vehicle is a major part of  a fleet operator’s decision-making process. Support after the sale is currently a major differentiator among the different brands of today’s electric trucks.

Penske and Roush have joined forces to help bring electric trucks to market. The companies are two iconic transportation industry brands with long histories of delivering excellent results on the racetrack as well as for their customers. Penske has  demonstrated world-class leadership in the medium- and heavy-duty electric vehicle space by working with a number of OEM partners to ensure that the current technology behind battery electric trucks will meet the requirements of full-service truck leasing.

Roush has a strong past in the electric vehicle space, going back to the late 1990s working on special EV projects for the Ford Motor Company and countless other customers since then. Bringing its own battery electric product to market in partnership with Penske is important to give commercial fleet operators confidence that this technology is ready for the demanding workloads required. Currently, Penske Truck Leasing is operating two ROUSH CleanTech battery electric vehicles in Southern California.


Adam Wilkum is director of eMobility for ROUSH CleanTech. He spearheads efforts to promote EV technology in the transportation industry while advising customers on the transition to ROUSH CleanTech’s battery electric vehicles. Visit ROUSHcleantech.com or call 800.59.ROUSH.