T&E is focused on making conventional diesel trucks more fuel efficient to reduce CO2 emissions quickly while at the same time accelerating the transition to zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs). With the technology quickly improving, cities demanding improved air quality and the recent announcements from European truck makers, zero-emission trucks will enter the EU market fast in the coming years. Industry stakeholders support our call to speed up the transition to zero-emission technology.
Only ZEVs, which include battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell trucks, can provide for a credible long-term pathway towards the full decarbonisation of the trucking sector. Some truck manufacturers continue to beat the drum for gas-powered trucks – despite liquified natural gas being just another fossil fuel. Gas-powered trucks offer only negligible GHG savings and no air quality benefits, whereas sustainable biomethane cannot be sufficiently scaled due to its limited feedstock potential and high cost.
We urgently need to increase the supply of ZEVs and roll out the necessary infrastructure to scale up the market and enable a solid business case. The urban- and regional delivery freight segment will transition first.For two-thirds of road freight activity under 400 km, battery electric trucks are the most-competitive technology and are soon going to reach cost parity with conventional diesel trucks from a total cost of ownership (TCO) perspective.
Which zero-emission technology out of battery electric and hydrogen will prevail in the long-haul segment is less certain. Battery electric long-haul trucks are likely to be more cost-effective and more energy efficient, whereas hydrogen fuel cell trucks may offer increased flexibility in terms of refuelling and may be better suited to certain niche applications.
Financing the transition to zero-emission trucks
Next to regulatory incentives, the EU must implement the right financing incentives to send clear investment signals to companies to invest in zero-emission vans, trucks and buses and adequate charging infrastructure. Unfortunately, current EU funding policy is difficult to understand, not easily accessible to small businesses and lacks a clear direction to be truly effective.
In July 2020, European leaders agreed on a historic EU financial deal to boost the European economy after the COVID-19 crisis. The new Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF), as well as the negotiations on the new EU budget and the new European Investment Bank (EIB) lending policy offer a unique financial opportunity to enable the decarbonisation of the road freight sector and the deployment of zero-emission trucks (ZET) in particular.
Priority should be given to the deployment of zero-emission trucks, and in particular battery electric trucks which will be the first to arrive on the market. All fossil fuel vehicles, including gas vehicles, should no longer be funded. Daimler, the biggest truck manufacturer in Europe, has announced that it is ceasing to invest in gas trucks and will now focus exclusively on zero-emission trucks. The European authorities should make the same commitment both in the EU budget and in the EIB lending policy.
Regarding the existing EU financing instruments, their design should be adapted to better fit the needs of the market. 99% of road transport companies are SMEs with low margins, for which the increased upfront capital cost of zero-emission trucks and infrastructure is a barrier. However, the existing instruments are, de facto, not accessible to them, because of the lengthy administrative procedure or too high thresholds. The European Commission should revise the financial support for vehicles and introduce a voucher scheme for the purchase of a zero-emission truck, available on a first-come first-served basis, as California did with its HIVP programme. More details on our recommendations on financing this transition can be found here.