A few years ago, the thought of producing a zero-emission truck would have seemed far-fetched. Yet owing to developments in battery technology, this has changed. By the end of 2020 electric trucks were already on the market. The trucking giants, Volvo and Daimler, committed to electrifying their entire fleets, while on the other side of the Atlantic, California adopted a sales mandate for zero-emission trucks. Can Europe’s policymakers keep up?
A year of trucking milestones
Seven major truck makers (Scania, MAN, Volvo, DAF, Daimler, IVECO and Ford) announced a joint pledge that by 2040 all their new commercial vehicles will be ‘fossil free’ - a unique time in history where truckmakers seemed to jump ahead of what regulations require. This came after a long push from T&E, including joint letters with Unilever, Ikea, Nestlé, Unilever, REWE Group and AB InBev to EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and EU climate chief Frans Timmermans.
Committing to fossil-free trucking is not sufficient in itself, however. This leaves the door open to using biofuels or e-fuels, and gives no guarantee that the tank cannot be filled with fossil fuels instead. A genuine commitment to steadily increase the production of zero-emission trucks is required, be it battery electric or hydrogen fuel cells. Moving away from fossil fuels is a major step forward, now it is all about choosing the right technology for the different truck applications.
European Clean Trucking Alliance
This summer 18 leading businesses and organisations (including T&E) launched the European Clean Trucking Alliance (ECTA) to call for the decarbonisation of road freight to meet EU 2030 emission targets. Some members of the alliance are already showing the way by using zero-emission rigs. Contargo, the biggest trimodal container network in Europe, is already deploying electric trucks while AbInBev is using them to transport bottles of Stella and Corona.
Truckmakers, logistics service providers and environmental organisations came together to ask EU governments to agree a common position on the long-delayed reform of European truck tolling; a revision designed to help cut CO2 emissions from new trucks. The letter was signed by truckmakers Scania and the Volvo Group, Clecat, T&E, and Dutch environmental organisation, Natuur & Milieu.
At the end of 2020, EU member states at last reached an agreement on a Eurovignette proposal which would allow hauliers driving emissions-free trucks to get at least 50% off road tolls. Now the clock is ticking to finalise the negotiations with the European Parliament and ensure polluting trucks pay for their pollution.
The European Commission is developing new standards for safe and secure truck parking areas in Europe. Its ambition is to upgrade 300,000 truck parking places and create 100,000 new ones in Europe based on the new standards which provide good resting conditions.
An alliance of truckmakers, suppliers and NGOs (including T&E) came together to ask the Commission to require charging stations at truck parking. The alliance requested the installation of charging stations for refrigerated trucks in all upgraded, or new, parking areas, and to plan ahead for the future deployment of electric charging and hydrogen refuelling stations for zero-emission trucks.
Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy
Finally, the Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy (SSMS) confirmed the review of the CO2 standards for trucks in 2022, including an extension of the scope to buses. T&E welcomed the strategy as it put forward measures to reduce transport emissions by at least 90% by 2050 compared to 1990. But the European Commission’s milestone of 80,000 zero-emission trucks by 2030 is far far behind where the market is heading, as we saw from the announcements of Volvo, Daimler et al. Clean trucking is heading in the right direction, but policymakers need to speed up.