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SEI brief

Three keys to accelerate the decarbonization of heavy-duty vehicles in the EU

The heavy-duty vehicle sector could reduce emissions within the European Union (EU) far more than currently envisioned in the EU’s “Fit for 55” package and 2030 climate target plan. According to a new SEI analysis, heavy-duty vehicle emissions could decrease by 24% by 2030, compared to 2019, if three key measures are combined: energy efficiency improvements, electrification, and increased biofuel deployment simultaneously and accelerate action in these three areas together in the next 10 years.

Maria Xylia, Jindan Gong, Olle Olsson, Francis X. Johnson / Published on 10 November 2021
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Citation

Xylia, M., Gong, J., Olsson, O. and Johnson, F. X. (2021). Three keys to accelerate the decarbonization of heavy-duty vehicles in the EU. SEI brief.

Conclusions:

  • The EU 2030 climate target plan is missing out on the potential reductions that heavy-duty vehicles could help achieve. With the latest technological developments and infrastructure deployed at the right place and time, heavy-duty vehicles could contribute far more to reducing European emissions to meet the Paris Agreement climate limits. Previous SEI research has shown, for example, how adequate deployment of fast charging infrastructure can make electric truck deployment more feasible (Nykvist & Olsson, 2021).
  • No emissions reduction measure on its own is sufficient. All options – energy efficiency improvement, electrification, and biofuels – need to be combined under most scenarios to consistently follow the pathways that lead to net zero fastest.
  • If one option underperforms, higher requirements are placed on the others to reach the net-zero targets. For example, if the estimated emissions reduction from energy efficiency improvements is not realized in practice, and biofuel availability is limited, then electrification needs to be deployed even faster than assumed. Policymakers should be aware of the need to balance between options while striving for net zero.
  • Changes take time because vehicle stock renewal cycles are long. Electrification, for example, will require some years for delivering significant effects, even with very optimistic development trends for new registrations. Electric vehicles by 2030 are assumed to represent 50% of all new registrations for heavy-duty trucks and 75% for buses, of which all city buses and half of all coaches would be electric. Under these assumptions, we estimate electric vehicles will represent approximately 10% of the total truck stock and approximately 20% of the total bus stock by 2030.
  • Biofuel deployment is a priority when discussing short-term actions with high impact. One such action would be to introduce higher biofuel blending rates. Another would be extending deployment of “drop-in” biofuels used without modifications to internal combustion engines. How much biofuels end up being used will depend on their availability and sustainability, as well as supporting policy mechanisms.

This brief is based on the report Accelerating to zero: Speeding up the decarbonization of heavy-duty vehicles in the EU (Xylia et al. 2021). The study was commissioned by Scania.

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Download the brief / PDF / 458 KB

SEI authors

Maria Xylia
Maria Xylia

Senior Research Fellow

SEI Headquarters

Jindan Gong
Jindan Gong

Research Associate

SEI Headquarters

Francis X. Johnson
Francis X. Johnson

Senior Research Fellow

SEI Asia

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