To achieve the sustainability goals of the Paris agreement, the transportation sector has to find alternative, zero-emission fuels which are able to replace fossil fuels. The transportation sector is one of the only sectors which have shown an increase in CO2 emissions since 1990.  In a national climate agreement, the transportation sector is committed to reducing total CO2 emissions by 25% in 2030, a decrease of 7,3 megaton. The transportation sector is currently responsible for approximately 12% of total CO2 emissions in the Netherlands.

An often proposed solution is the electrification of road transportation. Multiple studies show that electric trucking will become a profitable solution within the next decade, suggesting that commercial fleets could go electric rapidly. Electric trucks are an attractive alternative to internal combustion engine power trucks because of multiple reasons. First of all, electric trucks have zero emissions. Government policies for emissions are becoming more demanding, especially with the introduction of ‘environmental zones’ within city centers. Municipality are not only restricting the emissions of CO2, but also the emissions of other gasses such as NOx.  A second benefit is that electric trucks are significantly quitter. To reduce to nuisance of trucks in city centers, municipality have regulations which allows transportation companies to deliver in city centers during specific time slot. Electric trucks however allow transportation companies to deliver in city centers outside such time slots, enabling a more efficient and flexible operation. A third benefits of electric trucking is an improved corporate reputation, both for the carrier and for the shipper.

According to recent research by ING, electric trucks will become profitable by the year 2028. Even though the initial investments costs might be higher for electric trucks, costs for maintenance and fuel are expected  to be significantly lower for electric trucks than for internal combustion engines power trucks. ING forecasts that by the year 2030, only two years after the tipping point to becoming profitable, already 25% of the trucks will be electric.

However, the above figures are only for the Netherlands. The international adaption of electric trucks will differ depending on the region, weight class and application. Electric trucks will first become a feasible solution for light-duty trucks, because the energy use for this type of vehicle is relatively low. Light-duty electric trucks are currently already being used, and their use is expected to grow exponentially in the next years. Medium duty trucks are expected to become electric powered within the next five years, and are expected to grow even faster than light-duty trucks. The figures for heavy duty trucks are less promising; adoption of electric powered vehicles is only to expected to take place on the long term. Forecasted adoption rates till 2030 outside Europe are close to zero, only making it a long term solution. The low uptake in the heavy duty segment is mainly because of high battery costs.

One of the companies which is already embracing the adoption of electric trucking is Dutch supermarket Jumbo. Jumbo, in close collaboration with DAF Trucks and VDL Group, are running an experiment with electric trucks for supplying supermarkets. The truck currently has a maximum range of 100 kilometer, limiting the working area to supermarkets nearby Jumbo’s distribution center in Veghel (NL).  

Though there are still many uncertainties for electric trucks, there is no doubt that the transportation sector will face many new developments in the coming decade. Just like any other sector, the transportation sector will have to contribute to a more sustainable future. Do you believe that electric trucks will become a feasible solution in the coming decade, or are you convinced of an alternative solution?

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