Decarbonisation: Mapping the route to sustainable trucking

As the focus on decarbonisation increases, the transition towards sustainable trucking is becoming inevitable. PwC analyses the trends in adoption globally.

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The future of commercial vehicles is already taking shape, as OEMs around the world develop their new portfolios of electrified trucks. It’s a major step in the industry’s now-unstoppable transition to zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs). And it’s being urged by an array of regulatory, economic and geopolitical factors, including tighter environmental regulations, government incentives and rising energy costs. 

But although the direction of change is clear, many questions remain. How quickly will electric truck fleets progress? How much of the current fossil fuel–powered vehicle market will switch over by the mid-2030s? And which of the available electrified trucking technologies-from “pure” battery electric trucks (BETs) to hydrogen-powered fuel cell trucks (FCTs), and more‚—will come to dominate?

To plan out their strategies, all industry participants-not least, OEMs and the haulage operators using their products-need answers to these questions. Our new report, Truck Study 2022: Routes to decarbonizing commercial vehicles, provides them. Drawing on our deep global industry and technical insight, we’ve projected the pace and shape of electrified truck adoption up to 2035, and we’ve developed recommendations for industry players looking to compete, and win, in this transformed marketplace.

Diffusion 2025, breakthrough 2030—and electrified truck dominance 2035

So, what did we find? The top line is that electric-powered trucks will largely replace conventional hydrocarbon-fueled trucks in much of the world within the next 15 years. In the three major markets that we analysed—North America, the European Union and Greater China—we expect an accelerating ramp-up of electrification up to 2035, occurring in three main phases.

30%

The cost advantage BETs are projected to have over internal combustion technology by 2030

First, we’ll see market diffusion of electric trucks by 2025, with about a 5% share. Then breakthrough from 2030, with electric trucks’ share rising to around 30%. And, finally, market dominance from 2035, when ZEVs will account for 70% to 80% of trucks produced. The main causes of this growth? Alongside regulatory pressure, the relative total cost of ownership (TCO) of electric trucks will continue to decline: we project that in 2030, BETs will have a cost advantage of around 30% over internal combustion engine technology.

Europe and Greater China leading the way for the electric truck industry

A further finding is that although the rise of electric truck vehicles will be global, its pace will vary by region. Europe and Greater China will initially lead the way, with ZEVs accounting for one-third of their truck markets in 2030, compared to a quarter in North America. But electric truck adoption in North America will pick up from that point to narrow the gap dramatically, almost catching up by 2035.

In terms of technologies, BET and FCT are seen as the most competitive options for the foreseeable future, thanks to decreasing vehicle and energy costs and strong public acceptance. The outlook for alternatives like overhead catenary hybrid trucks (CAT) and synthetic fuel–powered ICE (Internal Combustion Engine)  trucks (SYT) is currently clouded by uncertainties about the required investment. 

However, a prerequisite for a successful transition to BET and FCTs will be the rapid rollout of new networks of charging and refueling infrastructure. In Europe alone, a high-demand scenario will need 1,800 charging parks and an additional 600 “pure” BET overnight parks, requiring investment of up to €36bn.

The next step: Cross-industry action

The overall messages from our study? The electric truck revolution is now underway: no participant in the trucking ecosystem can afford to underestimate its pace and scale. And truck electrification will need to be a cross-industry effort, requiring action by multiple players throughout the value chain.

Clearly, OEMs will be at the heart of this transformation. In light of our projections for ZEV adoption, we think they must take four steps as a matter of urgency: first, build up an attractive zero-emission portfolio; second, support rising availability of infrastructure; third, prepare the value chain; and fourth, offer attractive financing. The bottom line: if you want to avoid playing catch-up, now’s the time to prepare for the dawn of electrified trucking.

Read the complete Strategy& report "The dawn of electrified trucking"

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Dr. Jörn Neuhausen

Director, Strategy& Germany

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