This is one of the main conclusions of a new report presented today at a webinar organised by Transport & Environment (T&E) in collaboration with the Ministry of Transport, Mobility and the Urban Agenda (MITMA).
The report, entitled “Potential options and technology pathways for delivering zero-carbon freight in Spain”, has been carried out by the consultancy firm Cambridge Econometrics, as part of a collaborative project with representatives of a number of public and private entities involved in road freight transport to analyse possible ways to decarbonise this sector.
It further revealed that battery electric trucks with pantographs are also expected to be cheaper than ICE trucks by that date. Hydrogen fuel cell-powered trucks will be cost-competitive with respect to ICE ones by 2030 as hydrogen prices fall.
The study concluded that a rapid transition to propulsion systems based on zero-emission technologies can very substantially reduce CO2 emissions from the road freight fleet.
However, the study warns that, in order to ensure that the 2050 climate neutrality target for this sector is met, it will not be sufficient to ensure the end of the sale of internal combustion engine vans by 2035 and of internal combustion engine trucks by 2040, but will require either an advance of these dates or additional measures focused on the early reduction of the use of these polluting vehicles.
For this to happen, the deployment of high-power charging infrastructure for zero-emission trucks must be rolled out without delay and the planning process for this infrastructure needs to be started immediately to avoid bottlenecks in the second half of this decade.
“It will not be possible to achieve the total decarbonisation of freight transport without committing to zero-emission technologies in trucks and vans. Unfortunately, in Spain, there is a big gap between current policies and those that would be appropriate to provide the sector with a coherent path to achieve this goal” said Carlos Bravo, T&E’s head of heavy transport policy.
In Spain, the transport sector is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions (29.1% of the total in 2019, according official data), with road freight accounting for 9.8% of the national total, making it pertinent to implement new policies and measures to reduce the significant climate impact of this sub-sector.
The Cambridge Econometrics report highlights that conventional ICE vehicles will become increasingly uncompetitive over their lifetime compared to their electric equivalents, with the likely result that hauliers will rely on them less and less. This could precipitate a shift from existing internal combustion engine vehicles to zero-emission mobility models more rapidly than is reflected in this study.
The main uncertainty in determining a possible advancement in time of the study’s results with respect to the different scenarios is the speed with which zero-carbon technologies (batteries, electric road systems and fuel cells) and fuels (green hydrogen) decrease in cost, as well as the evolution of the expected increase in the cost of fossil fuels (diesel, petrol, natural gas), now soaring due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Proper regulation at European and national level is crucial to move faster and safer on the path to decarbonisation of road freight transport, helping to improve the total cost of ownership of zero emission technologies and, consequently, to bring forward the date when cost parity with conventionally fuelled vehicles is reached.
“Fortunately, the legal framework is in place to make significant progress in the decarbonisation of freight transport. In addition to the current revision by the European Union of the regulations on CO2 emissions from vans and the one coming soon for trucks, the discussion of the current Draft Bill on Sustainable Mobility in Spain opens up a wide range of possibilities for improvement in this area”, added Bravo.
In relation to the upcoming regulation on truck emission standards, recent studies by organisations such as T&E or the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) have concluded that the current level of regulatory ambition is too low to drive the CO2 emission reductions needed to achieve EU climate targets and, in particular, is insufficient to drive a relevant supply of zero emission vehicles throughout the 2020s. Therefore, the revision of the CO2 standards in 2022 should significantly increase the level of ambition and improve the design of the regulation.
In that respect, T&E has proposed to set an ambitious intermediate CO2 reduction target of at least 30% by 2027 and to significantly increase the 2030 target. This level of ambition would ensure a significant reduction of emissions across the market in time for 2030 and to drive the supply of zero emission vehicles in the 2020s.