The Impact Of E-Truck Adoption

28 September 2022

Fleet operators are already investing in electric vehicles (EVs), with greater numbers of electric vans and trucks forecast to hit the roads across the EU. The technology is ready to scale, but there are significant barriers to widespread adoption, including a lack of public rapid charging infrastructure that could slow adoption and limit environmental benefits. We explore the impact widespread E-Truck adoption could have on operators, the public, and our planet – and what companies can do to prepare.

How E-Trucks can cut carbon

A rapid transition to E-trucks is critical to achieving Europe’s ambitions for net-zero, says the European Automobile Manufacturers Association. It’s because logistics businesses are massive contributors to the EU’s carbon emissions. Light-duty trucks and heavy-duty vehicles make up over 25% of carbon dioxide emissions, which makes them a significant target for reduction.

Today, Europe’s delivery drivers are used to filling their vehicles with diesel, but energy price hikes, government incentives, and a desire to futureproof fleets are all encouraging a rapid investment in EVs.

 Modern e-trucks offer a cost-effective and efficient solution for operators of regional road freight. Range anxiety, the fear that a vehicle would run out of energy during operation, is a thing of the past as battery technology has proved its ability to deliver consistent performance. New generations of DC rapid chargers, such as those provided by Heliox, can provide a partial recharge in minutes and will banish battery worries forever.

The transition to E-trucks won’t all happen at once but will come in two phases. The first, already underway, involves the shift of urban and regional deliveries. The second is the transition from heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) involved in long-haul transit. Each has its own challenge and opportunities, which we explore below.

Urban and regional deliveries (less than 300km)

  • Last mile delivery
  • Waste vehicles
  • Regional distribution

Long-haul deliveries (over 300km)

  • National Deliveries
  • International deliveries

Challenges and opportunities: Urban and regional deliveries

In the EU, 85% of road freight tonnage is carried over distances of less than 150km. That’s well within the range of today’s e-trucks. Dig deeper, and you’ll find that 50% of light goods vehicles operate within 15 miles of their base. These hyper-local delivery vehicles are ideal for transition to e-trucks.

 These vehicles are engaged in various activities, including door-to-door ‘last mile’ deliveries, waste management, and those working from regional distribution centres. The short distances between deliveries and operational centres (primarily in towns and cities) mean that switching to current e-trucks could significantly impact carbon reduction without any impact on customers or deliveries.

 Analysis performed by the European think-tank Transport and Environment claims that 39% of all total freight activity happens in so-called ‘urban nodes,’ a group of 174 cities and large towns across Europe. Introducing E-trucks in these areas could almost singlehandedly achieve emissions reduction targets.

 A lack of charging infrastructure, particularly in urban nodes, is holding back adoption, says Transport and Environment. Increasing demand for new E-trucks and EVs and a shortage of parts (including semiconductors) are slowing adoption. To cope, many operators are extending the lives of diesel-powered vehicles, refurbishing and not replacing them, to bridge the gap to e-trucks.

Challenges and opportunities: Long-haul deliveries

E-truck technology at the sub-300km level is well established and efficient, but long-haul operators don’t yet have realistic alternatives to diesel. Experts at Transport and Environment are confident that heavy goods vehicle manufacturers such as Scania, Renault, and MAN will develop trucks capable of managing up to 500km on a single charge. Still, even these won’t be capable of continent-crossing trips unless they can easily access rapid charging infrastructure.

 Hydrogen-powered EVs that use fuel cells instead of batteries have been suggested as a solution. The UK, for example, is investing over £200m to assess which option (hydrogen-powered fleet or E-trucks) is the most realistic alternative to fossil fuels. Hydrogen technology is exciting, but there are concerns about cost, infrastructure, and safety which will slow adoption. In the short- to medium-term, E-trucks are the best solution.

Charging ahead

E-Trucks are critical to Europe’s transition to net zero. Still, to truly deliver the benefits, there will need to be a massive investment in infrastructure, says the European Automobile Manufacturers Association.

When investing in electric fleets, operators must ensure that they have the charging infrastructure available. There are several charging options, depending on mileage, routes, and vehicle categories (N1-N3). Again, we can broadly split the charging requirements into two categories:

Light-Duty Vehicle Charging (Non-MW Capable EVs)

  • Operate a range of Light (N1) & Medium (N2) class vehicles.
  • Operational during one 8 hr shift per day.
  • Returned to base after shift and can be left overnight.
  • The truck battery is large enough to support daily driving activities.
  • Power required: 50-100 kW (with the opportunity to charge at rates of up to 400kW during the day)

Long Haul Vehicle (N3) Charging (MW Capable EVs)

  • Charge quickly during long-haul shifts to maintain delivery schedule.
  • Ideal for fleets with little/no depot charging or smaller battery sizes.
  • Power required: 600 kW to 1 MW to charge optimally in a short session.
  • Combination of Both, High Demanding Routes
  • Charging overnight at a rest stop/depot or during the day mid-route
  • Power required: 180 kW to charge on extended rest to 1 MW to charge mid-route.

Safeguarding your E-Truck Investment

Investing in sustainable transport solutions, including E-Trucks, isn’t optional; it’s essential. Transferring to sustainable alternatives can help you lower CO2 emissions, streamline operations and cut costs. The electrification of trucks and vans is diverse. Before investing in battery-electric vehicles, you must understand your daily operations and select suitable vehicles and the charging infrastructure to support it.

The sooner you start the shift to sustainable alternatives, the greater the benefits you can unlock for your business. As well as operational improvements, decarbonising commercial transport benefits all of us. Customers can enjoy guilt-free deliveries; members of the public can breathe cleaner air and experience quieter streets; and we can slow the rate of man-made climate change, keeping global temperature rises under 1.5°c.

Heliox is Europe’s leading provider of rapid DC chargers for businesses of all sizes. Our cutting-edge charging infrastructure is integral to the success of fleet operators. We’ve been providing rapid charging solutions for over ten years and have the industry’s highest efficiency rates, of 96.2%.

Whether you’re planning your strategy to shift to sustainable transport or are already making strides in your journey, we’re here to help.

Find out how Heliox can help get your electric truck fleet on-the-road ready.