The road transport sector is one of the biggest emitters within EU and heavy-duty vehicles make up 27% of its emissions. In order to meet its climate targets and reduce emissions by 55% by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050, the EU needs to transform the transport sector. However, according to the plan presented by the European Commission, the majority of emissions reduction for heavy-duty vehicles is expected to happen after 2030.

The Accelerating to zero: speeding up the decarbonization of heavy-duty vehicles in the EU report analyses the current status and outlook for the decarbonization of the heavy-duty vehicle sector in the EU. It focuses particularly on developments over the coming 10 years and how much the sector’s emissions can be reduced through energy efficiency improvements, electrification and increased biofuel deployment.

“The EU should be more ambitious regarding decarbonization targets for heavy-duty vehicles long before 2030,” says Maria Xylia, author and Research Fellow at SEI. “There are different ways to get to net zero by 2050, but the pace at which we reach net zero also matters. We already have the keys in our hands: electrification, biofuels and energy efficiency improvement. Decarbonization policies should not only address new vehicles, but also the existing vehicle stock for achieving maximum impacts.”

Key conclusions:
  • The heavy-duty vehicle sector has the potential to contribute more to emissions reductions within the EU by 2030 than its 2030 climate target plan currently envisions. The EU 2030 climate target plan is presently missing out on the potential reductions that heavy-duty vehicles could help achieve.
  • The analysis concludes that heavy-duty vehicle emissions could decrease by 24% by 2030. Since every accumulated ton of carbon in the atmosphere matters, near-term action is important and the pace at which we reach the end point of net zero by 2050 matters.
  • However, the EU has to accelerate action on three key areas in order to achieve the full reductions potential: energy efficiency improvements, electrification and increased biofuel deployment
  • It takes action on all three areas: no one measure is enough on its own and if one action area underperforms, more has to be done on the others.
  • Vehicle stock renewal cycles are long, which means that changes take time. For example, electrification will require a number of years to deliver significant effects, even with very optimistic development trends for new registrations. Electric heavy-duty trucks by 2030 are projected to represent 50% of all new registrations according to the targets certain European manufacturers have set. Under these assumptions, we estimate electric vehicles will represent approximately 10% of the total truck stock by 2030. However, for these registration numbers to be realistically reached, additional policy support and more ambitious targets need to be set up by the EU.
  • Biofuel deployment is a priority when discussing short-term actions with high impact. Advanced biofuel availability and sustainability, as well as supporting policy mechanisms, will define the limits of ambition.

Read the full report: Accelerating to zero: Speeding up the decarbonization of heavy-duty vehicles in the EU. The report was commissioned by Scania.