Trucks, the tools of our COVID-19 transport heroes, risk being left behind in the recovery plans

Now that national and European initiatives to support the automobile industry are slowly taking shape, it really strikes me that many policy makers seem to forget about heavy-duty vehicles. While truck drivers made sure food and medicine were delivered to us during the COVID-19 crisis, their vehicles are now too often overlooked in the recovery plans, which mainly focus on passenger cars. And the same goes for the rollout of charging points and re-fuelling stations across the EU. The specific infrastructure requirements of alternatively-powered trucks are simply being neglected.

Message from ACEA’s Director General – June 2020

As you know, ACEA has been actively calling for the introduction of EU-wide purchase incentives, with the objective of boosting demand in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. Demand-stimulus schemes would help to relaunch sales and resume production at manufacturing sites in Europe. We believe that the European Commission should temporarily fund fleet renewal schemes across the EU, and that should be partially done through the new EU Recovery Fund.

At the same time, the Commission also has an important role to play in coordinating the national programmes. It must safeguard harmonised market conditions across the EU, as well as ensuring that incentives are provided for all vehicle types and categories. So far, we have seen various national renewal schemes come to fruition, including major monetary commitments by Germany, France, and Spain.

We are disappointed, however, to note that several of the national plans to stimulate fleet renewal seem to focus exclusively on passenger cars. Indeed, except for the Spanish one, the schemes announced fall remarkably short when it comes to much-needed measures for the commercial vehicle market, which has also plummeted to an all-time low. ACEA therefore urges governments and the EU to include dedicated fleet renewal schemes for heavy-duty vehicles in their recovery plans as soon as possible.

What worries me equally is that we see a similar trend of neglecting trucks when it comes to plans for the deployment of charging points and re-fuelling stations.

ACEA welcomes the focus on infrastructure for alternatively-powered vehicles in the coronavirus recovery plan announced by the Commission last month, and we support the goal of funding one million more public charging stations points. However, those who have been paying attention know that this objective was already part of the earlier-announced European Green Deal.

Moreover, this one-million goal clearly falls well below what will be required. According to the Commission’s own calculations, roughly 2.8 million publicly-available charging points will be needed by 2030 – or some 15 times more than what is currently in place across the EU.

That is why automobile manufacturers believe it is important to urgently revise the EU’s outdated Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Directive (AFID). The infrastructure targets set in this directive, which was adopted in 2014, are not in line with the technical development of electric vehicles or charging technologies anymore. On top of that, AFID has been suffering from poor implementation by member states.

Reaching any CO2 target beyond 2020 will greatly depend on the availability of infrastructure for alternatively-powered vehicles. That is why ACEA urges the European Commission to accelerate its plans for an ambitious AFID review as part of its recovery plan for Europe. To help policy makers, ACEA recently put forward 10 key recommendations for the review of the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Directive.

Most important of all, automobile manufacturers are convinced that the number of required charging points and re-fuelling stations should be drastically revised upward. The new AFID should also introduce mandatory infrastructure targets for national governments as well as enforcement measures to ensure proper implementation of the national plans.

But also in this case, we should not forget heavy-duty vehicles, because trucks and buses have very different needs to passenger cars when it comes to infrastructure. Think for example of their higher power and energy demand, as well as specific parking (for overnight charging), space and access requirements. The urgent need for truck-specific infrastructure is also something that I discussed with Peter Carlsson – CEO of Northvolt, the Swedish company that produces batteries for electric vehicles – earlier this month.

Now, the big problem is that the current Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Directive simply does not specify any targets for the deployment of charging points nor re-fuelling stations suitable for trucks, except for LNG that is. The review of the directive should thus also introduce binding targets for all member states for heavy-duty vehicle infrastructure, covering electricity, gas and hydrogen.

This will be much needed, because last year the EU adopted its first-ever CO2 standards for trucks, setting extremely challenging milestones on the road towards carbon neutrality: -15% CO2 by 2025 and -30% by 2030. To deliver these steep reductions, Europe’s truck manufacturers are bringing a growing number of zero-emission trucks to the market.

However, most trucks sold in Europe today still run on diesel, as it is the most convenient and cost-efficient energy carrier available to transport operators. ACEA numbers show that 97.9% of all trucks sold in 2019 ran on diesel, 0.1% ran on petrol, 1.7% ran on natural gas, 0.2% were electrically-chargeable and 0.1% were hybrid electric.

If we fast-forward to 2030, a fleet of approximately 200,000 battery-electric trucks should be in operation throughout the European Union to meet the CO2 target set for that year. With some 700 battery-electric trucks sold last year, this means that sales of electric trucks will have to grow 28-fold over the next 10 years. The rollout of a dense network of infrastructure for alternatively-powered trucks is a key prerequisite for this.

As ACEA we calculated how many charging points and re-fuelling stations will be required for zero- and low-emission trucks to meet the CO2 targets. In terms of charging points for electric trucks, this means going from close to zero today to some 90,000 public points over the next decade in order to enable the transition to carbon-neutral road transport.

Already by 2025, approximately 24,000 charging points with DC <100 kW capacity, 11,000 stations with DC 350 kW and 2,000 charging points with DC >500 kW will be required for electric trucks. By 2030, these figures will have to increase to roughly 250,000 DC <100 kW charging points, 20,000 publicly-accessibly DC 350 kW points and 20,000 public fast-charging points (DC >500 kW).

Similarly, it is essential that enough truck- and bus-specific hydrogen (LH2/CH2) and gas (CNG/LNG) stations are available across the EU at the latest by 2025. We are talking about at least 50 hydrogen filling stations and 750 LNG-stations here, and those numbers will need to increase significantly by 2030.

If Europe is to achieve these minimum levels of infrastructure deployment, binding truck-specific targets for EU member states must be set now as part of the revised Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Directive.

The truck industry is currently grappling with the impact of the COVID-19 crisis, even though policy makers and media seem to have more of an eye for passenger cars these days. Nevertheless, Europe’s truck makers are keeping the long-term climate objectives in sight. Neither the truck industry nor policy makers can afford to drop the ball on this right now.

Eric-Mark Huitema
Director General of ACEA

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