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Zero-emission trucks: EU policy must help build demand

Image: CNH Industrial

Only radical policy changes will encourage European fleet operators to invest in non-diesel trucks, according to Europe’s leading truck manufacturers.

Gerrit Marx, Chairman of the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA), said that binding sales quotas for manufacturers would do nothing to encourage transport companies to purchase alternatively powered trucks.

“If we are to convince hauliers to make the switch to low- and zero-emission vehicles on a large-scale, Europe urgently needs to introduce a strong package of consistent and predictable policy measures,” he said.

“Creating real market demand for low- and zero-emission vehicles should now be the priority.”

Reforms needed urgently

ACEA called for the rapid roll-out of dedicated charging and refueling infrastructure for trucks which it claims is “completely absent” at present.

The organization also said policy reforms should include “meaningful incentives to make these vehicles a commercially viable and competitive choice for transport operators, thereby fostering fleet renewal.”

And it argued that the revision of the Eurovignette Directive should allow “for the differentiation of road use charges by CO2 emissions.”

Emission reduction targets

The European Union (EU) adopted its first-ever CO2 standards for heavy-duty vehicles earlier this year. They state that manufacturers must cut carbon dioxide emissions from new trucks on average by 15% from 2025 and by 30% from 2030, compared with 2019 levels.

ACEA said the new CO2 targets would “oblige all manufacturers to focus on, and massively ramp up investments in, alternative powertrains.”

As well as chairing ACEA, Marx is also the president of CNH Industrial, which earlier this week launched a new range of electric and hydrogen trucks aimed at the European market. The trucks will be built by its subsidiary IVECO and powered by Arizona-based Nikola Motor Company.

The partners claim the new designs have the potential to reduce driver turnover rates.

An uphill haul in a diesel market

However, the latest fleet figures from ACEA illustrate the difficulty manufacturers such as IVECO will face when taking their new emissions-free models to market.

ACEA’s ‘Vehicles in Use – Europe 2019’ report found that at present 98.3% of all heavy- and medium- duty trucks above 3.5 tons on Europe’s roads run on diesel.

Electrically chargeable vehicles account for a negligible share of all trucks in circulation (0.01%, or one out of every 10,000 vehicles), while around 0.4% of all trucks in the EU run on natural gas.

“When we look at the total fleet of transport operators today, it is clear that the market will need to be completely turned around in an extremely short timeframe,” said Marx.

“In order to create a business environment where carbon-neutral solutions are the preferred option, all stakeholders will have to work together to transform the entire value chain of transport.”

According to ACEA’s new report, there are currently 6.6 million trucks on the EU’s roads. With more than 1.1 million trucks, Poland has the largest truck fleet in the EU, followed closely by Germany and Italy.

The report also found that the EU truck fleet is aging rapidly. Trucks are now on average 12.4 years old in the EU, compared to 11.7 years in 2013.

More FreightWaves and American Shipper articles by Mike