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Battery Electric Heavy Trucks – Can They Ever Work?

Governments must Step in to Help

By Will JamesPublished 2 months ago 3 min read
A DAF LF Electric 19 Tonne GVW Truck - Owned by PACCAR

Much is made in the news of the issues surrounding car drivers opting for battery electric cars. The higher upfront costs, the question marks around battery durability and, of course, range anxiety.

All of these concerns are totally valid and both the car industry and recharging infrastructure businesses across the US and Europe are investing heavily to address these concerns.

But what about for heavy trucks?

In Europe, no diesel (or petrol) powered trucks up to 26 tonnes gross vehicle weight (the weight including the load) will be permitted to be sold after 2030. Now this may sound a long way off, but most trucks these days have a first life of four to five years before hitting the used truck market.

Any diesel truck bought by a company in Europe today may well be their last one ever.

You would think that by now – just six years off – that there is a reasonably healthy strategic electric charging network for trucks. You would be wrong. Remember, these lorries are too large to use the overcrowded car chargers. Looking at the UK as an example, as of February 2024, there is a grand total of just one public rapid charger designed for trucks on a road network made up of nearly 32,000 miles of major roads.

It is true to say that many trucks can get back to their home depot to refuel/recharge, so the availability of a public charging network is not such an issue. So, let’s look at the cost of these machines.

Because of the weight of the trucks, the amount of battery storage required is many times greater than that of a passenger car. A typical Tesla may have 80 or 90kWh of energy storage available. For a heavy truck this increases to 600kWh and still provides only about half of the range of a typical diesel truck. It is the batteries that are the expensive part which results in the cost of a battery electric truck topping out at over three times that of a conventional diesel model.

Go back to the car analogy, a typical Tesla is broadly the same cost as a petrol BMW, despite the electric driveline.

As far as the availability of battery electric heavy trucks in Europe, the truck makers are only just starting to make some models available and, until now, not in large numbers. This is because the manufacturers have to scale up production of the electric trucks and the battery packs to power them. Considering the huge range of options available on a new truck, (Italian manufacturer Iveco claim there are 10,000 plus personalisation options that can be selected for their Eurocargo medium weight truck range alone) there is simply not enough choice in the current new electric truck market in Europe.

A transport business is never going to invest in a new truck that doesn't have all the options they need, doesn’t go as far, costs three times as much and cannot refuel when away from base.

Unless they are forced to.

There are carrots as well as sticks being employed to push battery electric trucks into use. In the UK there are government grants available to the tune of £25,000 to assist with the cost of a new battery electric truck. Whilst this sounds impressive, the transport company will still be paying £125,000 more than for a diesel truck.

The cost of the battery technology has to come down and the various governments will have to assist in the setting up of a proper recharging infrastructure for battery electric heavy trucks to be viable in any shape or form.

We don’t have long to wait!


About the Creator

Will James

Will is Head of Marketing Operations at Truck Pages Magazine - the weekly commercial vehicle classified advertising magazine and online portal in the UK.

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