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Electric trucks - the future of freight?

Electric trucks - the future of freight?

While it might appear from recent news stories that the debate about what will power the trucks/HGV’s of the future is ongoing, in reality it's actually pretty much already decided. Short of any surprises in the next couple of years, it's going to be electricity.

Summary: While it might appear from recent news stories that the debate about what will power the trucks/HGV’s of the future is ongoing, in reality it's actually pretty much already decided. Short of any surprises in the next couple of years, it's going to be electricity. There is still an ongoing discussion about battery charging vs overhead power, but the notion that we will be using hydrogen or biofuels at any scale is fading, and fading fast. But the process has really only just started, and we have some tough decisions ahead of us.

Why this is important: Decarbonising transport, especially heavy transport, is partly about GHG emissions, but it's also about reducing air pollution - while at the same sustaining the freight transport sector. At present pretty much everything we consume spends at least some time in a (currently) diesel truck/HGV. Our freight infrastructure is essential to our economy. We need to be realistic. This is not going to be an easy or low cost transition. Issues include what charging infrastructure do we need, the capacity of our electricity grid, who pays for any overhead power lines, and of course financial support for early adopters.

The big theme: According to Our World in Data, Transport accounts for 24% of energy related emissions and 16% of total emissions, of which nearly half (45%) is from passenger transport. The Transition in Transport is one of the most advanced, especially for passenger cars, but as the industry moves up the innovation S curve, there will be numerous new challenges.



The Detail


Summary of a study published in electrek

  • On April 28, the California Air Resources Board unanimously approved new rules that mean that from 2036 manufacturers must stop selling non compliant trucks, and that fleet operators must progressively move to zero emission (ZEV) fleets . Fleet operators can phase their transition, with the largest trucks (sleeper cabs etc) only having to be zero emission beyond 2042. However, some operators, such as state and local entities, have earlier targets (purchasing 50% ZEV by 2024 and 100% by 2027).

  • Part of that plan involves the use of more alternative fuels, but mostly it comes down to transitioning away from diesel engines to vehicles powered by electric motors. Many people are displeased with the new rules. The California Trucking Association suggests that not only are the rules likely to fail, they will also “ cause chaos and dysfunction”.

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