It is surprising to many people that the first electric vehicle prototypes were developed in the 1800s. That’s when researchers in multiple countries around the world started experimenting with electricity as a power source for small-scale electric cars.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy: “Here in the U.S., the first successful electric car made its debut around 1890 thanks to William Morrison, a chemist who lived in Des Moines, Iowa. His six-passenger vehicle capable of a top speed of 14 miles per hour was little more than an electrified wagon, but it helped spark interest in electric vehicles.”
However, despite their brief popularity, it wasn’t long before electric cars were abandoned for gasoline-powered vehicles. As the DOE explains, the introduction of Ford’s affordable Model T “dealt a blow to the electric car.” Its availability—coupled with the discovery of massive amounts of crude oil in Texas and an expanding network of highways in the U.S. that required vehicles with longer ranges—put the research and development of electric cars on the back burner for more than a century.
But, of course, the roles of gas- and electric-powered vehicles have reversed in the last few decades. Today, hybrid and electric cars are quickly becoming the norm, and the gasoline engine’s days appear to be numbered. Significant advances in electric power systems for vehicles, the rapid development of the infrastructure to support those vehicles, and the pressing need to reduce the impact of gas-powered engines on the environment are transforming transportation in the U.S. and worldwide.
These changes have affected smaller, lighter vehicles first, as manufacturers have worked to overcome various technical challenges. But now that the technology is maturing, this sea change is impacting the trucking industry. The latest advances are making it possible to haul semi trailers with electric-powered trucks. And as a state that places a high priority on environmental protection, Colorado has taken steps to get gas-powered semis off the roads with legislation affecting their sale in the state.
Making the Move to Electric or Hydrogen Fuel Cells
In April 2023, the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission approved a plan to transition heavy-duty and medium-duty trucks sold in the state to electric or hydrogen fuel cells starting in 2027. The objective is to have 40% of semi trailers using zero-emission fuel sources by 2035.
The plan doesn’t require companies to purchase these types of vehicles. Instead, it focuses on truck manufacturers, requiring them to sell zero-emission vehicles. Authorities want companies that operate semis and other trucks to move away from vehicles powered by diesel and natural gas and toward those that emit less nitrogen dioxide and other particulates—essential elements in ozone pollution.
The new rule has support from authorities and environmental advocacy groups who believe it will have a positive impact on air quality in Colorado. However, the measure does not have unanimous approval. Some stakeholders question whether enough charging infrastructure can be in place to get truckers hauling semi trailers the electric “fuel” they need to stay on the road and meet their business obligations.
These concerns cover two aspects of fuel availability. The first is whether there will be enough charging stations to accommodate the truckers who need them at any time. The second is whether Colorado’s electricity grid can meet the demand. Opponents point out that with current technology, it could take up to eight hours to charge a truck fully and enable it to travel 350 miles.
Other opponents wanted clean-burning natural gas vehicles to be allowed under the new rule. That includes officials in Weld County, Colorado’s leading natural gas producer.
An Urgent Need for Cleaner Air in Colorado
If you live in Colorado or have visited on a high-ozone day, you may have seen the “brown cloud” hovering over Denver and the Front Range. Vehicle emissions and the greenhouse gases they contain are major contributors to that unhealthy and unsightly smog.
Clean air is essential to Colorado for many reasons. First and foremost, it affects the health and well-being of residents and visitors whose tourism dollars are vital to the state’s economy. Nobody wants to experience breathing difficulties or have the beauty of our state impacted by low visibility. But that is what we face without actions to lower vehicle emissions significantly in the near future.
But there is another reason Colorado is moving aggressively to improve air quality. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently labeled the state’s air quality as having “severe nonattainment” of federal ozone requirements. That change in categorization triggers penalties that will hurt businesses and consumers financially. They include higher prices at the pump and a more stringent permitting process.
So, while switching to clean fuels for companies selling trucks in Colorado will be challenging, there are many reasons why it’s crucial that truckers hauling semi trailers start doing so with zero emissions.
Your Trusted Info Source in the Fast-Evolving Transportation and Semi Trailer Industry
One of the ways we serve our long list of clients in Colorado, Nevada, Arizona, Utah and Texas is keeping abreast of technological advances and legislation affecting the transportation industry generally and semi trailers specifically. We stay on top of changes so we can be a trusted information source to the companies that use our dry van, reefer, lift gate, and other semi trailers from leading providers like Great Dane, Utility and Wabash.
Whether you require semi trailers for over-the-road hauling, local cartage, or cost-effective storage, we have the equipment and information you need to support your transportation and logistics operations.
If you have questions about our company and services, contact Boxwheel Trailer Leasing today. We’re happy to tell you about our large inventory of semi trailers for rent or lease and share what we know about the transportation changes ahead for companies in Colorado and all the states we serve in the Western U.S. The next decade is going to see some significant changes in our industry, but we are here for you!