Regulatory considerations for advancing commercial pickup and van efficiency technology in the United States

Published: 2015.04.20

Nic Lutsey

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration are at work on the second phase of greenhouse gas and fuel efficiency standards for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles. The lightest segment of the heavy-duty fleet, commercial pickups and vans from 8,500 to 14,000 lbs. gross vehicle weight, represent more than 
half of all medium- and heavy-duty vehicle sales. Many of these vehicles share engines, designs, and functional attributes with large light-duty trucks, which are seeing notable increases in fuel efficiency under the influence of long-term light-duty vehicle efficiency regulations. As the regulatory agencies deliberate on the next phase of U.S. heavy-duty vehicle standards, the timing is ripe for a deeper investigation into several technical and policy options for commercial pickups and vans.

This assessment compiles data on sales, fuel economy, utility attributes, regulatory design, potential efficiency technologies, and adopted performance standards for commercial heavy-duty pickups and vans in the U.S. It also compares regulatory design and stringency related to commercial pickups and vans with other efficiency standards, in particular those that apply to full-size light-duty pickups and vans.

Key recommendations:

  1. Technology-forcing standards. Establish commercial pickup and van CO2 emission and efficiency standards that are as technology-forcing as the light-duty vehicle standards, including 4%–5% per year reduction in CO2 emissions through 2025–2030.
  2. Fuel-neutral standards. Make commercial pickup and van CO2 emission and efficiency standards for 2020 and beyond fuel neutral to equitably and cost-effectively promote low-carbon technology and be in accord with general international principles on technology-neutral performance standards.
  3. Public data availability. Make data on commercial pickup and van sales, CO2 emissions, fuel consumption, and vehicle attribute publicly available, to inform on trends that could present risks of eroding regulatory environmental benefits.