New heavy-duty trucks produced in the European Union should gradually reduce carbon dioxide emissions from 2030 onwards, cutting them by 90 percent in 2040 compared to 2019. All new urban buses should also be completely emission-free from 2030.
This is the proposal put forward by the European Commission as part of the so-called Green Deal for Europe. The rules must be approved by the Member States and the European Parliament to enter into force.
“Unlike cars with internal combustion engines, diesel trucks will continue to be allowed to be sold after 2040,” says Euractiv.com. “The targets are fleet-based, which means manufacturers must meet them as an average. As a result, while the majority of vehicles in 2040 will have to be powered by electricity or hydrogen, a minority may retain internal combustion engines.”
According to the Commission, freight and bus transport accounts for six per cent of all EU greenhouse gas emissions and more than a quarter of emissions attributable to road transport. Brussels therefore wants to make heavier vehicles, alongside cars, cleaner as part of its green strategy.
Ease the proposal, it sounds from the Czech Republic
However, representatives of domestic carmakers immediately spoke up, considering the Commission’s new plan to reduce emissions from newly produced heavy trucks unrealistic. Other targets, such as the requirement to produce only zero-emission urban buses as early as 2030 or to reduce CO2 emissions by 45 percent by that year, are also too ambitious. This was stated by the Association of the Automotive Industry.
It said the real decarbonisation of road transport requires much more than tightening CO2 targets for manufacturers. “Today, technology alone is not a brake on the transition to climate neutrality. At the moment, this is both the lack of resources, especially batteries, but also the virtual absence of the necessary recharging and charging infrastructure. At the same time, the conditions that would motivate transport operators to change their fleets are completely lacking, be it the tax environment or the availability of infrastructure,” the association said.
The manufacturers are therefore calling on the Czech government to push for a modification of the proposal. They propose to set a requirement to reduce CO2 emissions for heavy vehicles by 40 percent by 2035 compared to 2019 and by 50 percent by 2040. They also want to remove the early ban on internal combustion engines for the urban bus category and postpone it until at least 2035. The proposal would also not apply to special vehicles, i.e. firefighters or soldiers, for example. At the same time, they would like to add a mechanism that would take into account the potential of renewable/CO2-neutral fuels in the spirit of technological neutrality.
“Perhaps never in history has the automotive industry been in such a complicated situation as it is now. In addition to production shortfalls due to persistent global chip shortages or the impact of high energy and material prices, vehicle manufacturers are literally overwhelmed by the excessive amount of incoming European legislation. Particularly in the context of the recent proposal of new Euro 7/VII emission standards, we consider the requirement for the speed of CO2 emission reduction to be extremely tough,” said David Kříž, member of the Board of Directors of the Association and CEO of Iveco CR.
Only electric buses in cities?
“All transport sectors must actively contribute to achieving our climate and emission-free targets. Our climate standard provides for it, our cities want it and our manufacturers are preparing for it,” said EU Executive Vice President Frans Timmermans.
“For city buses, the Commission wants to move much faster and force manufacturers to sell only electric buses by 2030. But this will only apply to cities,” Euractiv.com reports. “In rural areas, buses will be treated like trucks for longer-distance transport,” said Frans Timmermans, the Commission’s climate chief.
All newly manufactured trucks over 3.5 tonnes and long-distance buses should reduce CO2 emissions by 45 percent from 2030 compared to 2019, the Commission says, rising to 65 percent five years later and 90 percent in 2040.
Frans Timmermans stressed that the measures will reduce demand for imported fossil fuels and promote energy savings in the transport sector. “The shift to cleaner vehicles will also help ensure Europe’s leadership in manufacturing,” he said. “The EU is a market leader in the production of trucks and buses and setting this legal framework now will help it secure this position for the future,” he added.
“Heavy goods vehicles account for around 2% of traffic on Europe’s roads and are responsible for around 28% of road transport emissions,” Euractiv said.
“Demand for zero-emission trucks and buses will continue to increase. The sooner we get there, the better for our planet, industry, citizens and the quality of life in the villages, towns and cities where everyone lives,” Timmermans added.
Eco-activists insist on 100 percent
The green NGO Transport & Environment is highly critical of the proposal, criticising the Commission for not approving a 100% reduction in emissions. It said that “the EU’s new plan will make it impossible to achieve the zero net climate target”.
Fedor Unterlohner, Transport & Environment’s freight manager, said that not setting a deadline for the switch to 100% clean trucks was a “concession to truck manufacturers”.
“Without stricter targets from 2030, there will still be a surplus of polluting diesel trucks on our roads in the coming decades,” he added.
“Long-distance freight and bus services do not yet have an adequate replacement for the internal combustion engine. The proposal does not foresee the use of carbon-neutral fuels, the balance of which is zero in terms of CO₂ emissions when produced and used,” commented Martin Felix, spokesman for the Association of Motor Carriers ČESMAD BOHEMIA.
Lack of infrastructure
“We are ready to meet the requirements. But to reach -45% already by 2030 is very ambitious. It would require equally ambitious action by policy makers to ensure that other players in the transport and logistics value chain reach the same target at the same time,” Martin Lundstedt, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the ACEA Commercial Vehicle Manufacturers Association and CEO of the Volvo Group, is quoted by Autoweek magazine.
“Reducing CO2 emissions by 45% by 2030 means that more than 400,000 zero-emission trucks would have to be on the road and at least 100,000 new zero-emission trucks would have to be registered every year. This would require more than 50,000 publicly accessible truck-friendly chargers to be in operation in just seven years, of which around 35,000 should be high-efficiency chargers (megawatt charging system). In addition, approximately 700 hydrogen filling stations would be needed,” Autoweek.cz reports.
“Given that charging stations tailored to the specific needs of trucks are almost completely lacking today, the task ahead is enormous. We fear that only vehicle manufacturers will face heavy penalties if other stakeholders fail to play their part in enabling this – especially given the low level of ambition that Member States are showing in relation to the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Regulation,” commented ACEA Director General Sigrid de Vries.
“In this market, hauliers must also be able to operate zero-emission vehicles more cost-effectively than conventional diesel trucks. If this does not happen quickly, operators will not buy our vehicles and as a result we will simply not be able to meet our CO2 targets. Vehicle technology – whether battery trucks, electric fuel cells or hydrogen power – is only one part of the solution. To succeed with this transformation of our industry, we urgently need a coherent and connected policy,” explains Lundstedt.
“Setting a 100% target for city buses will put enormous pressure on all public transport operators to adjust their investment plans accordingly and to provide the necessary charging/pumping infrastructure in the depots. There is also the risk of a disruptive ‘frontloading’ effect, where public transport operators could rush to get the last conventionally powered buses,” autoweek.cz describes.
ACEA has also criticised the lack of coordination between the CO2 proposals and the Euro VII proposal for heavy goods vehicles, which was published only a few months ago and aims to tackle exhaust emissions from internal combustion engine vehicles. “While other world regions are stimulating their way towards zero-emission mobility, Europe is trying to regulate its way – and even that is not happening in a harmonised way,” Lundstedt said.
“Discussion of the proposal in the EU institutions will be crucial. The Union should not experiment with strategic sectors such as road freight and bus transport, which play a vital role in the movement of people and goods in Europe. For example, carbon-neutral fuels, which contribute to decarbonisation as much as electric or hydrogen power, should remain in play. Suitable engines and refuelling infrastructure have been developed for these fuels and they are much more suitable for long-distance transport,” says ČESMAD Secretary General Vojtěch Hromíř. “Leaving room for only 10% for various special vehicles in 2040 and replacing the remaining 90% exclusively with other technology that is not ready for long-distance deployment is unrealistic and irresponsible. …I would not just rely on big decisions and ambitious targets, but there are still smaller but beneficial solutions. Only now are expensive LNG fillers being completed. Therefore, LNG vehicles with a 15 % CO₂ saving should still be promoted in a transitional period of a few years, so that these investments can be evaluated. Bio LNG is also an option,” Hrmíř said, adding that manufacturers are still launching vehicles with more efficient combustion engines.
Hydrogen and electricity will be the solution
That is why electromobility and hydrogen propulsion will play an increasing role in freight transport. “Trucks with electric or hydrogen propulsion will soon start to drive conventional trucks out of the market. While the share of these trucks in the most developed markets will be around five percent in 2025, it should be 30 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2035, according to a study by consultancy PwC published last October.
“I think hydrogen will be the fuel used in heavy transport, both in terms of fuel cells and in terms of internal combustion engines that will be converted to use hydrogen as an energy source,” Euractiv quoted Frans Timmermans, the chief green ideologue in Brussels, as saying.
“Hydrogen is an energy ‘carrier’, not an energy source. This means that its environmental impact depends on how it is produced. There has therefore been considerable debate in recent months about what energy sources should be used in hydrogen production.” Euractiv quotes from a European Commission document: “Industry has already announced three technologies that are driving the transition to zero-emission propulsion: battery electric propulsion, fuel cells and hydrogen combustion.”
However, the rapid development of electric and hydrogen trucks is conditional on building a sufficient infrastructure network.
PwC expects interest in electric or hydrogen trucks to grow rapidly in the most developed markets, which include North America, China and the European Union. As a result, 900,000 alternatively powered tractor units are expected to be produced in 2030, including half a million in China and 200,000 each in Europe and North America.
By 2035, there should be 2.25 million trucks. At present, only a few tens of thousands of electric trucks are produced each year, the vast majority in China, primarily for pilot operation. According to PwC, electric trucks with a range of up to 700 km or hydrogen trucks with a range of up to 900 km should be available by 2030.
This is still significantly less than the current range of several thousand of existing diesel trucks. The disadvantage of electric trucks will also be their significantly higher weight. On the other hand, alternative drives will offer hauliers roughly a quarter to a third lower operating costs.
As the number of electric trucks grows, the need for electricity will also increase significantly. While battery capacity needs for electric trucks in Europe are currently virtually zero, they could reach 63 GWh in 2030 and 173 GWh in 2035, and over 800 GWh worldwide.
Hydrogen and battery tractors are already in the pipeline from a number of major manufacturers, including Mercedes-Benz, Volvo and DAF, while Tesla began delivering its Semi tractor late last year. In Europe, for example, electric trucks from the Swedish manufacturer Scania are on the road.