Emissions from trucks are growing fast. But clean, battery electric vehicles are ready today.

The challenge for trucks

To reach climate neutrality by 2050, trucks need to be entirely decarbonised. Zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) such as battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell trucks are the only available technology which can cut emissions from new sales quickly, fully decarbonise the heavy-duty sector in the long-term, and eliminate harmful air pollution.

Shifting more goods to rail and waterborne transport, as well as optimising logistics processes, can also help reduce freight emissions. However, with road freight activity expected to grow by 40% between 2019 and 2050, modal shift and efficiency alone will never allow us to reach the EU’s climate targets.

25%Trucks' share of road transport emissions

2%Trucks' share of vehicles on the road

4,000fatal collisions a year in the EU and the UK that involve trucks

The challenge

Trucks are responsible for 25% of climate emissions from road transport in Europe, while accounting for less than 2% of the vehicles on the road. If no action is taken, these emissions will continue to grow. A full decarbonisation of the EU truck fleet is crucial to reach climate neutrality by 2050, and this will only be possible by switching to zero-emission trucks.

Zero-emission as the solution

There is increasing consensus among European truck manufacturers and industry stakeholders that battery electric trucks (BEVs) will become the dominant technology. As trucks are heavily used capital goods, the advantage of battery electric vehicles in terms of lower fuel and maintenance costs grows with increasing mileage, making them particularly competitive for long-haul transport.

BEVs are the preferable zero-emission technology from an energy efficiency and holistic energy transition perspective. They will likely be the dominant choice as they require half as much green electricity as renewable hydrogen used in fuel cell vehicles running on green hydrogen (FCEVs).

With trucks being heavily-used capital goods which are running for more than a million kilometres over their lifetime, operating costs for electricity or fuel as well as maintenance have a significant impact on the total cost of ownership (TCO) as they scale with increasing mileage.

This makes BEVs extremely competitive especially for long-haul operations provided that they can meet all operational needs such as sufficient driving range, no additional time losses due to recharging or refuelling, and similar payload capabilities. Our analysis shows that it is possible to fully transition all new freight trucks to battery electric cost-effectively and in time to meet Europe's climate targets.

European truck manufacturers are now focussing on bringing battery electric trucks to the mass market for all vehicle segments, including for long-haul starting from 2024. Around 30 zero-emission truck models have already been announced to go into mass production for the European market by 2025. In addition, the first series production of FCEVs is planned for the end of the decade by several manufacturers in Europe. To speed up the switch, the deployment of an effective and comprehensive charging infrastructure network for electric trucks is key.


Trucks are involved in around 4,000 fatal collisions each year in the EU and the UK, and approximately 900 of these deaths are cyclists and pedestrians. For each fatality, five more suffer severe injuries with life-changing consequences. T&E is advocating for better truck designs that will make our roads safer for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers.

Unlike cars, trucks have not been subject to any minimum standard for direct vision, which is what the driver can see with their own eyes, without the aid of mirrors or cameras. The evidence for direct vision is overwhelming. On average, drivers react 0.7 seconds faster seeing something with their own eyes as compared to viewing it through intermediate aids such as mirrors or cameras. Improved direct vision could save 550 lives a year in the EU.

In 2019, new EU legislation (passed as part of the reform of the General Safety Regulation) mandated that new trucks have enhanced direct vision by reducing blind spots to the greatest extent possible. Working with the EU and around 30 other countries, the UN’s Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) is bringing forward specific proposals on how to implement the above commitment across the different truck categories. Read our blog to find out more.