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The Potential of Battery Electric Trucks in Road Freight Transport

A recent research project by the Oeko-Institut has evaluated the technical and economic potential of various drive technologies in road freight transport. The findings indicate that the availability of a well-performing charging network by 2035 has the potential to increase new registrations of battery electric trucks to 100%. With the rapid and targeted rollout of a charging infrastructure for heavy-duty commercial vehicles, greenhouse gas emissions from road freight transport could significantly decrease, reaching zero by 2045.


When comparing different drive technologies, battery electric trucks offer advantages over trucks powered by overhead lines or fuel cells. The total cost calculation reveals that fuel cell vehicles are much more expensive than pure electric trucks due to uncertainty surrounding hydrogen prices. Overhead catenary trucks are limited to routes with overhead lines, creating a barrier to fleet electrification.

Additionally, the research highlights that once the truck toll imposes a surcharge of 200 euros per ton of carbon dioxide from December 2023, all zero-emission vehicles, including electric trucks, will offer clear cost benefits compared to conventional diesel-powered heavy goods vehicles.


In terms of energy consumption, the adoption of battery electric drive technology will result in a decrease in final energy consumption in road freight transport due to the increased efficiency of operation compared to combustion engines. By 2045, it is estimated that the annual electricity demand to power heavy-duty commercial vehicles will amount to 110 TWh, compared to the current demand of 173 TWh.


However, for the success of electric trucks, it is crucial to establish a comprehensive public charging infrastructure, particularly along motorways. This infrastructure should accommodate both overnight charging and rapid charging. The needs assessment suggests that around 55% of a truck’s total energy demand can be charged in the depot before departure, while 25% can be charged overnight using public night charging systems. The remaining energy can be obtained en route through high power charging solutions. The rollout of a network of approximately 2,000 Megawatt Charging System (MCS) charging points and 40,000 Night Charging Systems (NCS) charging points along Germany’s motorway network is necessary.


The potential of battery electric trucks in road freight transport is promising, offering cost benefits and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. However, the establishment of a robust charging infrastructure is critical to the widespread adoption of electric trucks and the realization of their full potential in reducing carbon emissions.

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