The Swedish government intensified efforts for decarbonizing transport in 2020 and established an “electrification commission” that includes representatives from various stakeholder groups. Focusing on collaboration and common planning with multiple stakeholders from both the public and private sectors is a common strategic approach for driving policies further in Sweden. Similar political processes have already taken place through the “Fossil-free Sweden ” initiative launched in 2015, where road maps towards fossil-fuel freedom were developed for various sectors of the economy.

One priority for the electrification commission was to accelerate the deployment of fossil-free solutions for the transportation of regional goods and the initiative was officially presented in early June 2021. The commission coordinated a process where specific and feasible “electric goods transport pledges” were developed by stakeholders from 16 regions across Sweden. We look closer into these pledges and what still needs to be done.

Stakeholders coming together is a good thing with electrification pledges

The ownership of the pledge process lies with the regional authorities. This is strategically significant because it demonstrates that each pledge is regionally anchored and supported by the authorities. The pledges are well anchored within industry, with 55% of participants coming from enterprises (Figure 1). Stakeholders include automotive manufacturers, utility and grid operators, charging and hydrogen infrastructure providers, fuel suppliers, freight companies, transport service purchasers and property owners.

Grouping the 252 stakeholders participating in Swedish heavy-duty transport electrification pledges

Figure 1: Grouping the 252 stakeholders participating in Swedish heavy-duty transport electrification pledges. Source: Regeringskansliet.

This is in line with what we already know from the electrification of other road transport sub-sectors such as passenger cars and buses: the closer the collaboration, the greater the success in solving challenges, especially when it comes to establishing charging infrastructure. Nevertheless, previous SEI research has shown that consistent infrastructure coverage is a central piece of the puzzle in the electrification of heavy-duty road transport.

Having variety in the pledges is even better

There is a variety of different measures in the pledges, from the ones related to planning and locating optimal locations for charging infrastructure to those that take a more holistic approach and connect charging services to grid-related services such as smart charging for reducing costly grid peaks. In this way, electrification can bring transport and energy systems even closer. This is called “sector coupling” and involves the increased integration of energy end use and supply sectors with one another. Figure 2 presents a thematic analysis of the top measures in the pledges.

Figure 2: Aggregating the top 10 pledges mentioned in the Swedish heavy-duty transport electrification pledges

Figure 2: Aggregating the top 10 pledges mentioned in the Swedish heavy-duty transport electrification pledges. The size of each square represents the time each measure was suggested in a pledge (largest square size is 33). Source: SEI.

Practical measures such as establishing charging infrastructure and ensuring adequate electricity grid capacity are commonly mentioned in regional pledges. Stakeholders expressed the ambition to lead, participate or coordinate implementation projects. Having the opportunity to purchase and offer electric goods transport services is also mentioned, making updated procurement processes a priority. The high priority given to sharing information shows there are still technology and knowledge gaps that need to be addressed. Electric battery and fuel cell-driven truck models are just beginning to appear in markets and there are several vehicle types that do not have electric alternatives.

Several actors have pledged to invest in infrastructure for the production and refuelling of hydrogen. This indicates that there is an understanding among actors that fossil-free heavy-duty transport cannot only be pursued through battery-driven vehicles, but through a combination of available technologies, as well as switching to more efficient transport modes such as rail, which is mentioned in certain stakeholder pledges. Longer-distance transport will need such solutions in the future.

Concrete actions for critical locations are best

There are pledges where it is clear how a general ambition can be translated into quantifiable targets and measurable actions. Most pledges are not specific regarding the exact extent of investments or the time frame for them, but the selection of pledges was made based on their feasibility to be implemented soon.

Other pledges take the extra step to include targets for a specific number of charging points for passenger cars and eventually trucks (fuel and charging suppliers), launch new electric truck models every year (automotive manufacturers), create goals for a specific share of electric vehicles in fleets (industries and freight companies) and use battery and hydrogen vehicles across busy road corridors.

In addition to Sweden’s critical corridors, logistics hubs are also expected to play a large role as locations where charging can take place in coordination with loading and unloading activities and longer pauses. The pledges show that ports can play such a key role, where goods flows connect and there are opportunities to charge cars, vans, trucks and ship vessels at the same location.

Why shouldn’t we let this rest?

There is much more to be done after launching the electrification pledges. It is positive that the stakeholders came together and agreed on targeting a difficult-to-electrify part of transport. For the pledges to succeed, working towards concretizing the plans needs to continue at a high pace. The following actions will help keep up the momentum:

  • Track progress with the pledges and develop indicators for follow-up. Progress with pilot projects discussed in the pledges needs to be centrally monitored and coordinated from the government and other state authorities.
  • Communication within Sweden, but also outside of the country. The automotive market is a global one and quite often, so are logistic flows. It is impossible to develop solutions in a vacuum, so interoperability is a priority. The EU and European industry associations prioritize planning for establishing key infrastructure across the continent.
  • Understand that actions are needed at the local level, paying attention to the particularities of various transport flows.

Depending on the goods transported and the sector in focus, requirements for transport electrification vary significantly. SEI is in the process of completing a project financed by the Triple F programme, which analyses fossil-free transport options for forestry in greater detail. Battery- and hydrogen-driven trucks are among the options investigated. Battery-driven transport for the forestry industry poses challenges that are related to transport patterns and occasionally remote operation locations, as well as heavy loads. Understanding these details and patterns of goods transport is the first step in designing electric transport systems that can easily scale up and maximize environmental benefits, while at the same time deliver services at a lower cost.