SMMT – government needs a road map for zero emission HGVs

The UK Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has called on the government to work with the industry to enable a clear transition to zero emission HGVs before it commits to an end-of-sale date for fossil fuel powered trucks. Currently all European truck makers have agreed to sell no more fossil fuelled HGVs by 2040 but there is no current technology that will currently provide full zero emissions operations for all weights and uses of HGVs. A new SMMT study called Fuelling the Fleet shows that just 0.2% of HGVs were zero emissions in 2020 – passenger car numbers reached this level in 2007.

Where it comes to battery electric vans, this was 0.3% in 2020 – a similar figure to cars in 2019. Sales are growing quickly but this amounted to 2.6% of sales between January and July 2021, as against 8.2% of cars. A number of established van and truck manufacturers have brought a range of HGVs and vans to market, but the SMMT wants a roadmap agreed between the government and industry.

One major barrier to electric HGV uptake is charging infrastructure. Without a dedicated HGV charging network in place the only companies that can make the switch are those that can afford their own chargers. It is estimated that to meet demand, the UK will need 8,200 public HGV charging points by 2030 – effectively, two a day opening every day for the next nine years.

Where it comes to hydrogen, posited as the better solution for HGVs, just 11 fuelling pumps are in place in the UK at present. Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “The industry is committed to be fossil fuel-free, but there is not yet a clear technology path for every weight class and every use case. Before it sets a deadline for the sector, the government must support the technological development and market proposition and provide the right framework, so hauliers don’t defer their decarbonising decision to the last minute.

Plans before bans is the key.”