Lack of infrastructure holding back cleaner trucks

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Truck makers have to cut CO2 emissions by 15% for new vehicles by 2025 and 30% by 2030 but say a “shocking” lack of infrastructure is stifling the switch to alternative fuels.

This is the first time a binding CO2-reduction target for trucks has been agreed at EU level and trade body the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) has labelled it “highly demanding”.

According to EU figures, CO2 emissions from heavy-duty vehicles including lorries, buses and coaches, represent around 6% of total CO2 emissions in the EU and 27% of total road transport CO2 emissions. The remaining 73% for road transport comes from vans and cars.

Erik Jonnaert, ACEA secretary general, said: “The shocking fact is that there is not one single public charging point for long-haul trucks available today. What is more, a standard for the high-power plugs doesn’t exist yet.”

ACEA estimates show there will need to be 20,000 DC 150-500kW charging points installed over the next six years in Europe.

Furthermore, it says there needs to be at least 6,000 high power 500kW+ chargers, 500 CH2 (compressed hydrogen) and LH2 (liquefied hydrogen) stations, 500 CNG (compressed natural gas) stations and at least 1,000 LNG (liquefied natural gas) stations.

Figures are not available for the UK, and the Freight Transport Association (FTA) was unable to offer estimates.

Becki Kite, FTA environment policy manager, explained: “No-one has settled on a technology choice yet. Will it be heavy battery and overnight charging? Will it be lighter battery and opportunity charging? Or will it be gas, which many believe will be a bridging technology? Alternative fuel vehicles are expensive and many are waiting to see what the Government will back as a fuel option.”

Currently, it takes up to two hours for high output 150kW chargers to charge a truck to 100%.

The first 150kW are only now being installed around the North Circular in London while there are currently only 40 gas filling stations in the UK and one with both LNG and CNG.

The new CO2 reduction targets are binding, and truck manufacturers which do not comply will have to pay a financial penalty in the form of an excess emissions premium.

The provisional agreement reached by the EU still requires endorsement by member states. It also needs to be confirmed through a vote by the European Parliament.

Once these steps are completed, the formal adoption by the European Council can take place – this is likely to happen by the end of May. The baseline for CO2 emissions is expected to be set from July 2019 to June 2020. The UK already has signalled it will follow EU vehicle emissions targets after Brexit.

The need for national governments to implement an EU-wide infrastructure action plan is all the more urgent in light of the mandatory sales quotas for zero-emission trucks that the EU has agreed to introduce from 2025 onwards, said the ACEA.

Jonnaert said: “We cannot expect transport operators to suddenly start buying electric or other alternatively-powered trucks if there is no business case for them and it is not possible to easily charge the vehicles along all major EU motorways.”

Commercial Fleet asked the European Commission how fleets could switch to alternative fuel trucks by 2025 with no public infrastructure to support them.

A spokesperson said: “The legislation gives a clear signal that investment is necessary to drive the decarbonisation of this sector and be consistent with the EU long-term climate objectives, including the deployment of alternative fuel infrastructure.”

She added that the increase in LNG truck deployment across Europe would be compatible with the existing 1,000 fuelling stations.

MAN Truck and Bus has its eTGM 26 tonne electric truck and CitE 15-tonne electric truck already operating with customers in Austria and Germany.

However, MAN said there is a “huge amount of investment and development” needed in infrastructure.

“We’re supporting our European customers with their own electric infrastructure plan for depot-to-depot charging,” said a spokesperson. “This will come to the UK.

“It’s really going to come down to whether you’re doing low speed, relatively low mileage into urban locations with recharges between depots or if you’re doing motorway miles where you will be very reliant on public infrastructure.”

Volvo has also delivered its first FL Electric trucks to customers in Europe. The GVW 16 tonne FL Electric has a range of up to 186 miles and can be recharged in less than two hours on a 150kW DC fast charge or overnight on a 10-hour 22kW AC charge.

Lars Mårtensson, Volvo Trucks director of environment and innovation, said the business is in close dialogue with energy companies, cities and other stakeholders in order to support the development of the “significant investment and infrastructure needed”.

He added: “Infrastructure is important, but there is also a need to support transport companies who want to invest in new technology and reduce CO2 emissions. Good incentives can speed up the introduction.”

Meanwhile, Henrik Henrikson, chief executive and president of Scania, called for an integrated approach to tackle the problem that focuses on alternative fuels, but also on driver training and efficient logistics to reduce emissions.

He said: “Although Scania strongly believes in electro-mobility to reach lower CO2 emissions, the technology is not yet mature, there is an uncertain customer demand, and there is no public charging infrastructure.”

Mercedes-Benz Trucks has been running 20 electric eActros for the past six months with customers in Germany as part of its ‘innovation fleet’. The two-year trial focuses on short-radius distribution operations.

Mercedes wants to start selling the emission-free trucks by 2021, but recognises a number of challenges still need to be resolved.

“Alternative technologies are still very costly and not yet economically feasible,” said a spokesperson.

“At the same time, customers will only opt for alternatively powered vehicles, if the necessary infrastructure is set up swiftly.”


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