The year we joined manufacturers to make zero-emission trucks a reality

Lucien Mathieu — December 15, 2021

Unprecedented industry move towards zero emissions.

For those following the truck industry, 2021 was quite a turning point. 

At the start of 2021, few imagined that electric trucks could play a dominant role in logistics. The European Commission had just presented its transport strategy which foresaw a mere 1% of zero-emission trucks on our roads in 2030. On the other hand, it forecasted 8%-9% fossil gas burning trucks, which have been shown to be a dead-end technology for the sector.

Things started to change early on. The year had barely started when a wave of unexpected commitments was made by the biggest manufacturers. Leading the way, Scania announced in January that half of its truck sales would be zero-emission in 2030. It would eventually be followed by MAN, Volvo and last and most ambitiously Daimler, who all committed to making around half of all truck sales zero-emission in only nine years. Such a rapid shift in direction was unprecedented. 

For the first time, NGOs, like T&E, and truckmakers were heading towards a similar goal: away from polluting fossil fuels, towards zero-emission vehicles. 

Unusual allies, big win

This created the perfect conditions for T&E and ACEA – the European car and truckmakers federation – to join forces and urge the Commission to update its obsolete vision on zero emission trucks. We engaged in a host of discussions with ACEA to see if we could find common ground. So, in April, we sent a joint letter with the truckmakers to the Commission asking for an ambitious target for electric truck charging infrastructure.

In this unexpected alliance, T&E and ACEA developed a common way of calculating the number of public and semi-public chargers needed in 2025 and 2030. Compromise and common ground were achieved for all points but one: the number of expected electric trucks on the road. Here T&E calculated that the charging network could service a fleet at least twice as big.

The unsuspected allies were successful: the Commission infrastructure law and our T&E-ACEA joint letter presented many similarities, including targets for an EU-wide trucks charging network as soon as 2025. This was a symbolic moment: for the first time, the EU Commission was signaling that the future of trucks is electric. The 2025 charging coverage goal is set right in time for the truck makers to deliver on their promise to bring long haul electric trucks to production by 2025, leaving the chicken and egg conundrum behind.

Gearing up for a zero emission future

Towards the end of the year at COP, 15 countries, including the UK, and companies like Scania, agreed on a target of 100% zero-emission sales in 2040. This was the first strong signal of a global end to conventional trucks. But this is still not quick enough. Given it takes more than 10 years for a truck to retire, truck sales need to be close to 100% zero-emission as early as 2035. 

There is still a lot of work to be done. There are only a handful of electric truck models available for wide distribution and annual electric truck sales barely reached 400 units in 2020. So, what’s next? In 2022, the EU will decide what speed trucks need to go zero emission by reviewing the truck CO2 rules. This will decide whether we can reduce truck emissions on time to meet the EU’s Green Deal goal of net zero by 2050. 

Finally, 2021 was also the year I rode in an electric truck for the first time. This fully electric vehicle – one of the first models of Volvo Truck’s upcoming heavy electric beasts – drove all the way from Gothenburg, Sweden. Sitting in this silent, smooth truck, there was no doubt; this is the future of trucking.


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