Zero emission trucks needed to meet climate targets

Even with a very ambitious comprehensive reform package including 40% fuel efficiency improvements for all medium and heavy duty trucks, and including trailer standards, the transport sector will not deliver its fair share of the 30% emission reductions required from each of the transport, buildings, and agricultural sectors.

In order to close this gap, 5-10% of new truck sales need to be zero emission by 2025 and 20-30% by 2030.

The weight and distance travelled by trucks pose a challenge to their electrification. However, the last few years have seen huge advancements in the technology – in battery density, in charging speed, in possible distance travelled, charge-on-the-move technology, and in cost. We are now on the verge of a major breakthrough in battery electric trucks with battery electric truck (BET) models starting in series production as early as next year, and alternative electrification models in testing.


Zero emission trucks can and will be cost-effective

The conditions for battery electric trucks have drastically changed since 2010. Compared to 2018, prices have come down by around a factor of 4, and densities have more than doubled.  In simple terms, batteries are cheap enough and dense (or light) enough to be considered as a serious powersource for trucks.

A 2017 study by McKinsey confirms this, showing that electric trucks can already be cost-effective today, depending on the use, and will be more widely cost effective in the very near future. This is because:

  • Less maintenance is needed compared to a combustion engine (which also means the vehicle has a longer lifetime)
  • Battery prices are falling rapidly and will continue to do so (battery prices are projected to drop below 100$/kWh by 2025)
  • In the current Eurovignette proposal, zero emission trucks receive a 50% discount compared to a Euro 6 truck

The technology is already available

Indeed, a number of manufacturers – including Daimler and MAN – are already testing fully electric trucks mainly for urban applications that go up to 37 tonnes, and are ready to move from testing to series production and sales.

But in the long haul segment technology is also developing fast.

Last year, Tesla presented their fully electric battery powered Class 8, claimed to have a range of 800 km. Scania and Siemens have been developing another approach in Sweden, with a charge-on-the-move technology called e-highways, a system in which trucks are run on catenary lines through a pantograph, much like an electric train or trolley bus. Later this year this catenary concept will also be tested on public roads in two different locations in Germany. Alstom is also involved in a prototype electric road system (ERS) project (using ground-based power collection rather than overhead wires).

Cities prepare to ban diesel cars

At the same time proposals by cities to ban diesel vehicles from city centres is fast building momentum for a wider auto industry move from diesel to zero emission vehicles. More than 12 cities have proposed passenger car bans by 2025, and many more have already implemented Low Emission Zones regulating truck admittance to city centres.  

Transport operators equally want to see change and lead by example. In the Netherlands, a Green Zero Emission City Logistics Deal has been signed by 54 parties – including logistics services providers, public authorities, knowledge institutions, and manufacturers – with the aim of achieving emission-free city logistics by 2025. One condition however is that there is supply from the manufacturers.  

The ambition of cities and the transport sector is evident. Now truck manufacturers need to increase theirs – EU regulation can help here. A European zero emission vehicle (ZEV) mandate for trucks will create a market for electromobility, and help cities and businesses to overcome the issue of supply by ensuring manufacturers deliver on their promises.

California is leading the ZEV market

California is leading the rapidly growing market for zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs), which this year surpassed two million cars, trucks and buses worldwide.

Last year, California’s governor, Edmund Brown Jr., approved a bill that mandates at least 15% of newly purchased heavy duty vehicles (with a gross vehicle weight over 19,000 pounds) by the state for the state fleet shall be zero emission, with this target increasing to 30% by 2030.

Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program

California has invested $129.4 million into a program to demonstrate ZE medium and heavy duty vehicle technologies for trucks, buses and freight. This investment in trucks amounts to the biggest allocation to one category, totaling 30% of the funds.

Sustainable Freight Action Plan

  • Improve freight system efficiency by 25% by 2030
  • Deploy over 100,000 freight vehicles by 2030
  • ZEV mandates for HDV state fleets: 15% of vehicles by 2025 and 30% by 2030

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What The World Is Doing

What the US can teach Europe