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Aeolus Perspectives 24th Edition: Route to CO2-neutral road transport, technology is not enough


Green road transportation truck

In Europe, alternatively-powered trucks are becoming more and more popular. But the road to zero-emission road transport transition is still long. And to get the goal, technology alone is not enough. We also need the infrastructure and the cost parity. In this game, the constructors, the partners, and the policymakers have to been all joined to play on the same side.

2020 was not a very good year for the European truck market too, since Covid-19 has strongly impacted demand with really negative effects on sales.

Despiting to keep on being the very first choice of European truckers, Diesel market penetration is decreasing. According to data recently disclosed by Acea (European automobile manufacturers association), overall in 2020, the registrations of new diesel trucks in the EU fell by more than 25% to about 225,000 units with market share passing from 97.5% in 2019 to 96.4% in 2020. Diesel has still, of course, the biggest slice of cake. But alternatively-powered vehicles (APV) are coming. 

In 2020, these last ones – 99% of which run on natural gas – accounted for the large majority of alternatively-powered trucks (APT) registered. Demand increased by 5.5% to 6,841 units, with the market share expanding from 2.1% in 2019 to 2.9% in 2020. Also, registrations of new electrically-chargeable vehicles (ECV) in the EU had good performances in the year. In the period, ECVs up to even about 32% with 984 units (745 trucks in 2019) resulting in a market share of 0.4%. 

The hereabove data are impressive and proving an increasing shy interest in green road freight transport solutions. However, it is worth stressing that over 90% of the all-electric trucks registered across the region during 2020 were sold in Germany and the Netherlands. And the APT market result was mostly driven by strong sales of natural gas trucks in Germany - the biggest EU market for these vehicles by now. So, the green option applied to road freight transport sounds to be valid and competitive. But not everywhere and not to everyone. There are still knots to be solved because the green propulsion can take hold in the European heavy vehicle market. 

“The European’ truck and bus industry is fully committed to the Paris agreement and to make road transport CO2-neutral, - Martin Daum, CEO of Daimler Truck AF and Chair of Acea Commercial Vehicle Road, recently said. – But, to achieve that, we need more than the right vehicle technology. We also need the infrastructure and the cost parity. Our customers need to easily charge CO2-neutral trucks and buses and they must be able to earn money with them. Otherwise, they don’t buy them. 

These three key factors - vehicle technology, infrastructure, and cost parity - are strictly linked such as in a multiplication problem: if just one factor is zero, the result is also zero, and no matter how strong the other factors are”. 

The wider technology offer 

For several years, the truck and bus industry is massively investing in the development of concrete, efficient, reliable, and increasingly affordable solutions to make road transport greener and greener. Now, the policymakers are urgently called upon to do their part to take a pragmatic and feasible approach regarding Euro-7 as well as to set specific regulations to promote the adoption. 

Here the vehicles: now we need the infrastructure 

Building the infrastructure for battery and fuel cell vehicles is first and foremost the task of energy companies. But they can do it on their own alone. Once again, governments are expected to their providing substantial support for realizing wide and efficient recharging and refueling network. 

A value-for-money result 

Despite all the advantages they can deliver, the CO2-neutral trucks and buses are still significantly more expensive than conventional vehicles. Due to this, they are not competitive in the market. According to Acea, manufacturers are not to be able to change this for years to come despite all efforts. So, once again, policymakers are called to do their part, supporting the demand on the market, introducing a CO2-based toll, for example. 

“Going forward, let’s all be aware that we need all these three factors to make CO2-neutral transport a success, and that these factors are interdependent, - Martin Daum declared. - But this interdependence must not lead to a ‘chicken or the egg problem’, where OEMs, energy companies, and governments wait for the others to first do their job. We must tackle all three factors at once, and we must do so now. Because each factor need time and we have not time to lose to make the transitions to CO2 neutral road transport”. 

TAGS: Sustainability, Aeolus perspectives, Technology, Transportation, Logistics