The pressure is on to go electric, but heavy long haul trucks need more than 2 public charging locations across Europe

The pressure is on to go electric, but heavy long haul trucks need more than 2 public charging locations across Europe

ECG — 2022-08-10

News from ECG

The pressure is on. Automakers are under pressure to cut their carbon emissions, and the buck is being passed to every part of the supply chain. And so it should. Every part of the supply chain has an agenda to cut their carbon emissions. Together the automotive sector is working to significantly reduce carbon emissions to meet the carbon neutral targets as soon as possible and in time for the EU’s target of 2035-2040 for trucks. So for those in the transportation industry the aim is simple: switch to alternative fuel vehicles that significantly cut carbon emissions. Except, in practice, it’s just not that simple.

Heavy trucks, which include car carriers, have a serious problem. There is almost nowhere for them to charge their heavy electric trucks today across the European public charging network. So what is the solution? Or rather, how soon will there be a solution and in the meantime what do companies who have invested in electric trucks and car carriers do?

Martin Lundstedt, Chairperson of ACEA’s commercial vehicle board and CEO of Volvo Group categorically states: “Battery electric trucks will play a major role in decarbonising road freight solutions. If enough charging stations are rapidly installed across the EU, their market uptake will increase exponentially over the coming years.”

But what about the current state of the charging infrastructure for heavy trucks? “Given that charging stations that are suited for the specific needs of trucks are almost completely missing, the challenge ahead is huge,” says Lundstedt.

On 8 July 2022, a joint venture between competitors Daimler Truck, Traton i.e. Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles and Volvo Group, was approved. Commercial Vehicle Charging Europe (CVCE) is a project that aims to kick start the deployment of charging infrastructure for heavy trucks. And the pressure to get this done is huge.

“The biggest challenge is time,” says Roel Vissers, Director Strategic Partnerships & Public Affairs, CVCE. “Technology is ready to electrify trucks on relatively short notice, but this will not happen without the required public charging infrastructure. We need to build a network within months.”

ISI Fraunhofer developed a detailed study for ACEA on the priority locations for the installation of charging infrastructure for electric trucks. Their research highlighted that today there are 31,121 truck stop locations across Europe. Of these, the first step should be focusing on the top 10% most used stops with mandates that these should have charging infrastructure by 2027. But for seamless freight travel across Europe, by 2030 all the truck stops should by then be capable of charging electric trucks.

But its not that simple. A heavy truck is by definition heavy, often over 10 tonnes. Providers of charging solutions for light vehicles state that the electric charging stations for passenger cars and light commercial vehicles cannot be used by heavy trucks. Why? A major fast charging solution provider told us it’s about the actual truck weight.

In general, at most [passenger vehicle] charging locations it's almost impossible for trucks to charge, as these concern charging at a parking spot for cars. At our stations the high power and energy demand is not the issue, but the weight of the truck and especially the turning radius are limiting factors for charging at a station,” says Fastned in a statement sent to ECG Business Intelligence.

“Thanks to the drive-through lay-out and high roofs, most of our stations are already open for trucks up to 7.5 tonnes. Except for the arc stations, with a height limitation of 2.75m. At the moment we are assessing our current stations to determine what we can offer there,” explains Fastned’s spokesperson.

Service providers have built their charging infrastructure for passenger vehicles, and the odd truck that turns up might manage to charge but they cannot allow for many trucks to come due to their lack of planning for heavy commercial vehicles. Discussions are ongoing on how to adapt the light vehicle service stations with their combined charging system (CCS) to help serve the trucking industry—which is under significant pressure to decarbonise.

Dr Patrick Plötz, Scientific Project Lead at HoLa and the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI says: “Some CCS chargers designed for cars are already useable for battery electric trucks (BET), but which ones is not easy to get to know. Charge point operators are now starting the roll out of public CCS chargers for BET and with the alternative fuels infrastructure regulation (AFIR) we will see a starting network of chargers covering all of Europe by 2025.”

But there are big changes coming. Megawatt Charging Systems (MCS) are in development with expected release in 2023 and expected to become a standard in 2024. By 2027 the MCS system will be mandatory for all short stops for trucks in Europe. Short stop locations are where trucks stop for at least 45 minutes.

HoLa-high performance charging for long-haul trucking is a German based project which has 2 MCS charging spots along the A2 between Berlin and Ruhr region in the first round of the project. This will be followed by installation of more MCS and CCS chargers. This project, in association with 4 truck OEMs, aims to be a blueprint for nationwide expansion. According to Charin, which is part of the project and behind the development of the MCS system, the MCS system will benefit all electric transport applications including maritime and air vessels.

Plötz, Scientific Project Lead at HoLa states, “The focus [of HoLa] is to construct actual chargers on locations along the A2 highway in Germany. But as long-haul trucking is international, we are in contact with other similar projects in Spain, Poland and Sweden. We believe a European coordination especially on identification and billing can speed up the transition towards zero emission trucking in Europe.”

Designwerk is also working on bringing out an MCS system. Together with the Swiss government it plans to release its MCS system in 2023. Meanwhile Charin’s MCS system will be released commercially in Europe from 2023.

Commercial Vehicle Charging Europe, the JV between Daimler Truck, VW’s Traton Group and Volvo Group, aims to have ‘at least’ 1,700 high performance charge points within 5 years, with a Euro 500 million investment from its 3 partners.

Anja van Niersen, CEO of CVCE says: “We expect the demand for charging infrastructure to grow very rapidly in the next few years. By 2025, there should already be hundreds of public charging locations for heavy-duty vehicles in Europe.”

“There is currently very little public charging infrastructure for electric trucks. However, as we build our first charging locations in the coming years, we will have tools available to help transport operators plan their fleet electrification and transport routes. We also intend to announce new charging locations as early as possible so that transport operators can take this into consideration as they expand their fleets of zero-emission vehicles,” says Niersen.

However in the meantime electric car carriers are limited to where they can travel. Some have taken it upon themselves to invest significantly in depot charging and incorporate depots along the routes they need to travel. But at CHF 100,000 (£86,205) to CHF 200,000 per charging system, on top of the price of purchasing or getting a custom electric car carrier built, it’s not cheap.

We only use our electric car transporter for vehicle transports within Switzerland. This is for two reasons: Firstly, the E-Truck is only approved for use on the Swiss road network. This is due to its extra length (+ 1m) and its higher permitted payload. Secondly, the public charging infrastructure for e-trucks is not yet sufficiently developed. We therefore charge the electric car transporter at our headquarters in Altishofen and at 5 of our own external branches. With its battery capacity of 900 kWh, the electric car transporter has a range of approximately 500 km,” says Rene Zurkirchen, project manager at Galliker Transport. 

Others are holding off on electric trucks altogether for the time being, moving instead to interim solutions such as HVO (hydrogenated vegetable oil)- a bio fuel. But, as the head of one LSP says, once the infrastructure is up and running then of course they too will move to electric.

CVCE’s van Niersen says, “It is our mission to support and accelerate the electrification of heavy-duty transport in Europe. This we will do best when we build the charging infrastructure as soon as possible, to solve the “chicken-and-egg” discussion and to enable transport operators to use electric trucks in their operations.”

And so 2022 marks a new beginning for the heavy goods vehicle sector with a surge in interest to develop infrastructure. Scania has teamed up with Falkenklev Logistik’s and will this year open a public charging facility in Malmö, Sweden. The site will be capable of charging 22 vehicles simultaneously and can be expanded to 40.  Scania’s spokesperson told ECG Business Intelligence the new site will open in November this year.

Meanwhile bp’s Aral has on 27 July opened its first truck charging site at Schwegenheim in Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany. The site has two 300kW chargers for electric trucks.

And CVCE say they will soon announce their first location for a public charging station for electric heavy trucks.  The industry needs them fast if long haul trucks are expected to reach their carbon neutral targets.