Phase-out of diesel HGVs planned to meet 2050 net zero deadline

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The truck industry is ready to lead on phasing out diesel say European manufacturers.

The truck industry is ready to lead on phasing out diesel say European manufacturers.

Europe’s vehicle manufacturers have joined forces with scientists to develop a roadmap to achieve carbon-neutral road freight transportation by 2050.

In a joint declaration the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) and Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) stated: “Carbon-neutrality by 2050 at the latest implies that by 2040 all new commercial vehicles sold must be fossil free. And this is a pledge that the commercial vehicle industry is making now for the first time.

The joint statement issued in December, follows publication of a report by the Committee of Climate Change recommending a 2040 phase-out of diesel HGVs if the UK is to meet its 2050 net zero deadline.

The Committee acknowledged there is currently “considerable uncertainty” over the most cost-effective and feasible decarbonisation option for heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) and that large-scale trials of different technologies are required.

To achieve the deadline, 96% of HGVs, buses and coaches will need to be zero emission vehicles by 2035 and this will need to reach almost 100% by 2040.

Which technology will replace diesel?

Three technology options were assessed for heavy-goods vehicles (HGVs), buses and coaches. 

  • Battery-electric vehicles with ultra-rapid charge points
  • Hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles with hydrogen refuelling stations
  • Pantograph-electric vehicles with overhead electric wiring.

Key Recommendations

All three technology options could play a role in decarbonising the HGV sector by 2050, although there is currently uncertainty as to which option will be optimal for the UK.

  • In a model in which all three infrastructure options are deployed, hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles are expected to make up a significant portion of the zero-emission sales mix in the 2030s, before being displaced by battery-electric models in the 2040s as battery and charging technologies improve. By 2050, battery-electric vehicles are expected to be cost-optimal across all vehicle categories.
  • It is expected to be possible to remove new diesel HGVs from sale by 2040. To achieve this, stronger purchase and other incentives are likely to be needed by 2035 to drive rapid take-up across the sector.
  • Large-scale commercial demonstrations of zero-carbon HGV technologies should commence in the early 2020s, to collect data on costs, system performance and suitability to different HGV operations.

A paradigm shift is required

In developing their roadmap, the ACEA and PIK say a paradigm shift is required to increase the number of zero emission vehicles being used for road freight by 2040: “Reliable and efficient zero-emission vehicles are already beginning to hit the market, but we will need to rapidly increase their numbers and range over the next few years. This will require a paradigm shift, moving away from fossil fuels as the main energy carrier as quickly as possible. Not only are we convinced that it is necessary, we know it is possible, and we are ready to make it happen. We believe we should focus on segments where vehicles emit the most: long-haulage transport is where the big gains are.

“Zero-emission vehicles will not only bring down CO2 emissions, they will also improve air quality levels fast – a factor of crucial significance for human health. All resources must therefore be devoted to reaching carbon neutrality as fast as possible.

“The truck industry is ready to change and ready to lead but cannot do it alone. A first step has been taken with the ACEA/PIK cooperation, as industry and science start to work together in a strategic partnership to accelerate the transition, on the basis of scientific information and mutual learning.

“We also need deeper engagement with policy and citizens in the grand transition we are now embarking on, and so invite all stakeholders and partners to join us. Let’s live up to the ambition required to start bending the emissions curve now. been published, outlining the conditions and for transforming the road freight transport system.”