Diesel-powered engines have garnered a reputation for their nasty emissions. Nitrous oxides may contribute to asthma and shortened life spans. Particulates are also bad for lungs and other living tissue. Of course, we cannot forget about the pollutant carbon dioxide, responsible for a host of issues such as climate change. Converting the fleet that hauls America’s freight has long been on the agenda for the trucking industry. [Full disclosure: This post has been generously supported by Montway Auto Transport.]

Improved air quality and noise reduction are especially important facets in metropolitan areas worldwide, because more people are moving to cities. For the first time in 2008, more people lived in cities than in the countryside. The UN predicts a global population of nine billion people by 2050, with approximately 70% of them living in cities. Not long from now, humans will need to transport goods to urban environments for large amounts of people, with decreased noise and emissions. Large cities such as Paris and London are considering a ban on internal combustion engines in city centers. Restrictions like these create a demand for not only electric and hybrid electric cars, but trucks as well.

Truck manufacturing companies are stepping up to the task. This month, a Tesla-inspired company called Nikola announced its hybrid hydrogen-electric semi-truck Nikola One, with a host of innovative features such as fuel cell technology and regenerative braking. Nikola joins with its role model Tesla and Mercedes to create a zero emissions heavy-duty vehicle. In Tesla CEO’s Master Plan Part Deux, Elon Musk outlines his desire to create fully electric and autonomous and transport trucks and buses, noting they “are in the early stages of development.” Mercedes also unveiled its fully-electric urban e-truck earlier this year, aimed at distribution transport of commercial goods.

Fully electric heavy-duty trucks are expected to hit the markets by 2020. What do these futuristic machines mean for the long-distance transport industry?

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