Reducing carbon emissions from all vehicles, including heavy goods vehicles (HGV), is essential for the UK to achieve its climate change targets.
Battery electric vehicles are the most advanced zero tailpipe emission technology being developed for HGVs. Manufacturers already offer products for sale in the UK.
Electric HGV availability and uptake is expected to increase in the coming decade, starting with rigid trucks and potentially with articulated trucks as well.
The main motivations for fleets to consider switching to electric trucks are to reduce emissions, to comply with policy and regulation, and to save money.
Need for decarbonisation
All vehicles in the UK must switch to zero tailpipe emission alternatives to reach ‘net zero’ carbon emissions by 2050. Decarbonising heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) will be challenging for several reasons:
Although HGVs are a small proportion of the UK vehicle parc, they make a relatively high contribution to CO2 emissions because of their high mileages and low fuel economy.
The size and weight of HGVs mean they need large batteries to provide sufficient power to move the vehicle.
HGVs often cover high mileages so they need large batteries and access to chargepoints.
While HGVs are efficient in terms of tonnes of goods moved, the current diesel fleet must be replaced by low emission alternatives so the UK can meet its greenhouse gas emissions targets. Low emission vehicles must also meet fleets’ operational requirements and be viable in terms of capital, operating, and whole life costs.
Types of plug-in vehicles
There are two zero emission capable technologies being developed for HGVs: plug-in vehicles and hydrogen fuel cell drivetrains. There are broadly three types of plug-in vehicles: battery electric vehicles (BEV), plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) and range extended electric vehicles (REEV).
BEVs store energy in a battery and deliver power to the wheels through an electric motor. Braking energy is captured by the electric motor and stored as electrical energy in the battery, helping to increase the range of the vehicle. This website focuses solely on BEVs.
PHEVs have a combustion engine as well as a battery and electric motor. PHEVS are parallel hybrids, which means the wheels can be driven by either the combustion engine or the electric motor.
REEVs also have an internal combustion engine, battery and electric motor. REEVs are series hybrids, so the wheels are always powered by the electric motor and the battery is recharged by the combustion engine, which acts as a generator.
Battery electric HGVs are classified by Cenex as a medium maturity technology, as manufacturers already offer products for sale in the UK but they are deployed in small number or trials and demonstrations only. Ongoing improvements in battery technology and investment by manufacturers mean that the viability of BEVs is increasing, even for the heaviest vehicles.
Electric HGV uptake is expected to increase in the coming decade. Product availability is improving and the economic case is strengthening. For more information refer to the technology and policy pages.
While early BEV trucks were low volume retrofit solutions, products are now available from mainstream manufacturers, and product lines are growing. Many manufacturers now have medium duty pure BEVs, with a roadmap for developing heavier articulated vehicles. The Cenex Commercial Vehicle Finder has the latest information on the current vehicle market and expected release dates for new products.
Why consider electric trucks?
There are three main drivers for fleets to consider switching to electric trucks:
To reduce emissions. Electric trucks have zero tailpipe emissions which contributes to improving air quality and reducing the impact of transport on climate change.
To comply with policy and regulation. Policymakers are introducing rules to phase out diesel vehicles and introduce zero emission alternatives. Read more here.
To save money. Electric vehicles cost less to run than diesel equivalents and, under the right conditions, can be cheaper on a whole life cost basis.