E-trucks: It’s time for the UK to make the switch

May 10, 2023

T&E appointed Element Energy to examine the techno-economic feasibility of an accelerated switch to battery electric trucks.

The switch to electric cars in the UK is now underway and sales of new electric cars are steadily increasing. In contrast, the shift to electric trucks is only just starting. By 2050 the use of diesel trucks must end if the UK is to achieve its net-zero climate goal. The UK Government has set 2035 as the date for phasing out sales of all new “non-zero emission” trucks up to 26 tonnes and 2040 for those above.

We commissioned Element Energy to look at the move to battery electric trucks, looking at both the technological and economic feasibility of this transition. The research is in two phases – a first phase looking at logistics operations that would not need public charging infrastructure and a second phase looking at those use cases which would need public charging.

The research shows that 65-75% of the UK’s rigid heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) and 30-35% of our artics will be able to operate sustainably and productively with battery electric trucks without significant reliance on future charging infrastructure anywhere other than their home depot. Together, these back-to-base use cases capture over half of UK HGVs and currently account for around 25-35% of all road freight greenhouse gas emissions.

The phase 1 research also shows that battery electric trucks will be cheaper to run than diesels in city, urban and regional applications by the early 2030s at the latest but that with a set of simple and straightforward policy interventions, all the truck use cases studied could become cost effective for battery electric trucks in the 2020s.

Far fewer trucks will require public charge points away from their depots than has been suggested previously, the phase 2 research finds. Trucks usually take shorter journeys in the UK compared to other European countries because of Britain’s island geography and dense pattern of development. Well over half of British HGVs will only ever need to be charged at their home depot, according to the study. 93% of the 400,000 truck chargers needed by 2050 will be for depots.

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