While overall greenhouse gas emissions in the EU are decreasing, CO2 emissions from heavy-duty vehicles have been increasing every year since 2014, only decreasing in 2020 during the pandemic. The improvement in truck energy efficiency, made possible by the emergence of new fuels and technologies, is not enough to offset the increase in emissions due to the growing demand for freight transport.
· Trucks are responsible for about 5% of global CO2 emissions, or 1.8 billion tons (1).
· In total, 99% of the EU's heavy-duty vehicle fleet (trucks, buses, and coaches) are currently equipped with a combustion engine (2).
On February 14, the European Commission increased the decarbonization rates imposed on truck manufacturers: CO2 emissions will have to be reduced by 45% in 2030 compared to 2019, 65% in 2045 and then 90% in 2040. These new standards not only imply an intensification of the development of new zero-emission technologies but also the deployment of adequate infrastructure for recharging and refueling.
Innovations mainly focus on the development of electric and hydrogen trucks (via fuel cells or hydrogen combustion engines).
· Many manufacturers (Tesla, Renault, Volvo, Iveco...) are entering the electric truck market, which have the advantages of operating without direct CO2 emissions and significantly reducing noise and odor pollution. However, their environmental footprint over the complete lifecycle is still debated.
· Hydrogen particularly attracts truck manufacturers due to its ability to offer solutions with greater autonomy and shorter charging times than electric versions. With its fuel cell truck, Hylico made a sensation at the last edition of the Hyvolution show in early February. The French start-up plans to operate the heavy-duty vehicle using a negative carbon fuel derived from biomass thermolysis. Another example, last December, the 40-ton truck "GOH!", running on green hydrogen, hit the Swiss roads.
(1) Source IEA, 2021.
(2) Source CITEPA, 2023.