T&E: ‘No way trucks on e-diesel can compete with electric trucks’

Within a few weeks, the European Commission will review the truck’s CO2 standards, and lobbying groups of the industry and the environmental NGOs are bringing the heavy cannons to bear for the last influencers’ battle. So does Transport & Environment, publishing a study proving e-fuels can’t compete with battery electric trucks even in the most extreme scenarios.

Like a second-hand diesel truck running on ‘climate-neutral’ e-diesel made from hydrogen and captured CO2 compared to battery electric trucks (BETs) with higher battery and electricity prices, e-diesel would not be cost-competitive, T&E says.

In the heavy goods transport sector, which is responsible for five percent of global CO2 emissions, the total cost of ownership (TCO), including vehicle purchase, energy, and maintenance costs, is key to the decision to when to switch from fossil diesel to alternative energy sources for trucks.

Climate-neutral e-fuels

It might look tempting at first sight to have existing diesel trucks running on climate-neutral e-fuels, but T&E warns that they make no economic or environmental sense. The cost of e-diesel is expected to be 52% more than fossil diesel in 2035, and the higher upfront purchase costs of BETs are quickly offset by their lower energy and maintenance costs, T&E calculated.

The NGO calculated different scenarios for 2035, with a new or second-hand truck running on e-diesel or regular diesel like today, compared to a new BET in a worst-case scenario (higher prices for batteries and ‘green’ electricity).

Second-hand truck on diesel?

It turns out that only second-hand trucks on regular diesel could compete with electric trucks. But, likely, the EU’s new CO2 emission standards won’t keep these classic diesel trucks out of range.

Even new (regular) diesel trucks will be more expensive in TCO. T&E aims to take the edge off the industry’s arguments to leave a loophole for the combustion engine in the future beyond 2035. The NGO believes these e-fuels, which will be available in limited quantities, should be reserved for aviation and shipping where electric or hydrogen is no alternative.

A recent study by PwC endorses the claim that electric trucks are the future. BETs are expected to outperform classic diesel trucks with an internal combustion engine (ICE) from 2025 onward in the total cost of ownership. The study shows that fuel cell trucks (FCT) are to reach that point in 2030, while the cost advantage for the battery-electric truck will be 26 to 34%.

Another study by the Dutch technical research institute TNO about the possible uptake of zero-emission trucks to replace diesel in the coming years confirms that. It shows the battery-electric truck (BET) is the most cost effective (only) option from 2030. This study warns that fuel cell trucks will play a marginal role due to higher costs.

Infrastructure has to follow

It’s clear there is a growing consensus in the transport sector that zero-emission trucks on batteries or fuel cells will be a viable solution in the future if the necessary charging and refueling infrastructure can follow the transition.

The European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) is organizing an online event on November 22 to examine in more detail just what is needed to get zero-emission trucks on the road. ACEA invited heavy-weight players like European Commission’s Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans to the debate.

“All European manufacturers have either already started or are about to start series production of their new #ZeroEmissionTrucks; battery electric first and hydrogen-powered soon after that. To bring these vehicles to the market in large numbers, enabling conditions must now urgently be put in place in transport and logistics,” ACEA states.





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