Electric trucks take charge

October 12, 2022

A new study finds that by 2035 all new electric freight trucks in Europe will be cheaper to run, drive as far and carry as much as diesel trucks.

Both amongst regulators and industry stakeholders, there is growing consensus that zero emission trucks – battery electric (BEVs) and fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) – are the optimal way to decarbonise the road freight sector. However, the speed at which the transition from internal combustion engine vehicles (ICEVs) towards BEVs and FCEVs can take place is not yet clear to everyone.

T&E in collaboration with Agora Verkehrswende commissioned the independent research organisation Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO) to answer this question. The report by TNO assesses the techno-economic feasibility of reaching 100% zero emission vehicle sales for urban and regional delivery and long-haul trucks for all EU countries and the United Kingdom. Ultimately, it answers the questions whether and how fast Europe can go to 100% zero emission for new freight truck sales.

The TNO report compares the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of diesel, BEVs and FCEVs and assesses when zero emission alternatives become cheaper to own and run. Operational requirements – such as sufficient driving range, no additional time losses due to recharging or refuelling, and similar payload capabilities – are also important conditions for hauliers when switching to zero emission trucks, and were included in the analysis.

The TNO report shows that it is possible to fully transition all new freight trucks to zero emission cost-effectively and in time to meet Europe’s climate targets. All new urban, regional and long-haul trucks can be zero emission by 2035 across all European markets, with some national markets such as in Northern Europe expected to go even faster. All new sales in those segments will have a lower TCO compared to diesel while delivering the same capabilities in terms of range, payload and driving times.

For urban delivery trucks, the ZEV uptake potential is very high already today. More than 70% of them are currently cheaper to own and run while fulfilling the operational needs. The ZEV uptake potential of regional delivery trucks will increase rapidly to 90% by mid decade. Both urban and regional delivery trucks will reach virtually 100% by 2030.

Long-haul trucks will initially have a slower increase in uptake potential but grow quickly to 80% by 2026 and 99.5% by 2030. Market uptake in the long-haul segment almost exclusively consists of BEVs. FCEVs have a consistently higher TCO than diesel throughout the 2030s and account for only 0.1% of long-haul sales (0.02% of total freight sales), beating diesel in a few countries with extremely high distances and low hydrogen costs.

Aggregating all urban, regional delivery and long-haul trucks, ZEV uptake potential reaches 99.6% in 2030 and 99.8% by 2035. This means that virtually all new freight trucks could switch to zero emission from a cost and operational perspective already by 2035. Only a tiny fraction of long-haul truck sales with use cases for extremely high daily distances remain favourable for diesel in 2035. However, simply adding an extra stop to charge during the day would flip the balance towards BEVs also in those use cases. As BEVs have a much lower TCO than diesel trucks, this would still be more cost-efficient than sticking to the diesel truck, even when taking the small addition in rest time into account.

To find out more, download the briefing by T&E and study by TNO.

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