News article

Truck operators need ‘cast-iron confidence’ to make the electric switch

The Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) sector needs “cast-iron confidence” to make the switch to electric, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) – the organisation representing the UK motor industry.

The comments from Mikes Hawes, SMMT’s Chief Executive, follow on from the recent publication of HGV registration data for the UK, which revealed that 46,227 new trucks of all types, sizes and technologies were put on the road last year, representing the best annual total since 2019.

However, zero emission HGVs represented just 0.5% of this total market share, with only 234 registrations (up from 64 units in 2022). Clearly, the Electric Freightway can’t come soon enough.

What is Electric Freightway?

The GRIDSERVE Electric Freightway is a government-supported project that will provide that confidence and clear signal to invest that both the SMMT and road freight industry is so desperately looking for.

With construction starting in 2024, it will lay the foundations for one of the most advanced charging networks designed specifically for electric HGVs and involve a broad range of truck makers, hauliers, data partners, landowners and other affiliated companies to ensure its fitness for purpose. Last month, GRIDSERVE hosted some of its consortium members to help support the design and feasibility of this custom charging network.

Initially, Electric Freightway charging infrastructure will focus on key depots, truck stops and major motorway service areas, but the ambition is to connect every part of the UK. With some HGVs facing the same 2035 end of sale date as cars and vans, this means there could be less than one full cycle of truck fleet renewal remaining. The time to deliver is now.

The product is here and it’s awesome

The advancement in battery technology means there is already a growing number of hugely capable electric HGVs on offer from Volvo Trucks, DAF Trucks and Renault Trucks, to name a few. While this is giving operators more choice and flexibility in how they choose to decarbonise their operations, they remain more expensive to buy than an equivalent diesel-powered HGV. For now at least.

Electric Freightway will hope to prove through real-world data, collected from more than 140 electric trucks and over a minimum of five years, that the upfront costs of an electric HGV can be redeemed (and more) when comparing that vehicle’s Total Cost of Ownership to a diesel-powered equivalent.

Further, the nationwide rollout of eHGV charging infrastructure will help to extend the number of possible use cases, accelerating uptake and bringing better economies of scale. This is even before we have considered the broader, greener benefits of decarbonisation.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said: “Increasing availability of electric and hydrogen models – and record demand for them – is encouraging market growth but operators need cast-iron confidence to switch. More than ever, government must compel truck infrastructure rollout and provide a signal that the time to invest is now.”

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