Blog: Why The Electrification of Heavy-Duty Vehicles Has Yet to Take Off

April 05, 2023  |  REINT JAN HOLTERMAN

The electrification of commercial trucks and buses is a topic that is slowly gaining more attention. There is a growing trend to "clean up" diesel-based fleets by electricity-based heavy-duty vehicles (HDV) to reduce emissions levels. But there is still lots of work to do. In Europe, for example, there are currently around 3,600 e-trucks and 10,000 e-buses, which represent respectively 0.1% (!) and 4% of the global truck and bus fleets. So, why is the adoption of electric HDVs not taking off faster?

First of all, starting with the e-trucks and e-buses themselves: rapid adoption of electric HDVs suffers from higher upfront costs (capital investment by transportation companies) and have a limited range compared to their diesel-counterparts. Moreover, they generally have a lower payload capacity (carry less weight) and also require specialized technicians to maintain them. 

Also, beyond the costs and characteristics of HDVs – which I’m sure will be improved over time through new innovations in battery technology and by achieving benefits of scale – there are other reasons why the take-off takes a bit longer. 

One of the major challenges to the adoption of electric commercial vehicles is the lack of infrastructure for charging or refueling. To increase the number of electric HDVs, there needs to be a dense-enough and reliable network of charging stations so truck drivers can recharge their vehicles. At least 100,000 chargers for HDVs are needed across Europe. According to ACEA, there should be “10,000 ‐ 15,000 (higher‐power) public and destination charging points no later than 2025, and 40,000 ‐ 50,000 charging points no later than 2030. In addition, a target of minimum 40,000 lower power (100 kW) public overnight chargers at truck parking areas along the highways should be set for 2030.”

However, expanding the charging infrastructure for HDVs comes with its own set of challenges. According to ChargeUp Europe, the grid connection and permitting processes are the number one bottleneck charge point operators (CPOs) face in the rollout of charging infrastructures. Sufficient space (amounts of land) should be made available to install charging stations on, particularly for medium- and long-haul trucks that need public charging stations along the highways, but also for e-buses that need dedicated charging depots. Additionally, electricity-powered HDVs consume much more power than consumer electric cars, which means that the power supply to these (public) charging stations needs to be adequate and reliable. In some cases, the current grid capacity is insufficient to handle peak demands. 

Another challenge is standardization. Compared to the consumer EV market, the landscape for electric HDVs is still less harmonized. Further standardization of charging hardware and software as well as proper coverage with roaming and payment services is necessary to achieve benefits of scale, which in turn justify further investments in HDVs and in the charging infrastructure. 

Governments play a key role here, e.g., by softening regulations regarding the use of land for charging stations, improving grid availability and reliability, fostering the adoption of standards, and by releasing funds and tax benefits to economically justify the purchase of an e-truck or e-bus over a traditional diesel truck or bus.

Often overlooked but equally important is the reliability of the charging infrastructure. Having public high-power DC chargers and even megawatt chargers to charge electric trucks quickly during stops is one thing but having them up-and-running is quite another. The lost income of a truck stand-still due to an empty battery is simply too high. 

To let the adoption of electric HDVs really take off, the charging infrastructure needs to be highly reliable and ‘always on,’ with uptimes close to 100%. To realize this, leading charger manufacturers and CPOs are already working with Diebold Nixdorf. With our team of 11,000 service engineers and 5,000+ stock locations in over 100 countries, we take care of the mounting, commissioning, maintenance, and repair services for their EV chargers and HDV chargers.

For more information about reliable charging infrastructures for EVs and HDVs visit DieboldNixdorf/EVC.

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