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Electrification of Heavy-Duty Trucks

In recent years, the electrification of the mobility sector has been followed by different pioneer countries in the field of smart mobility all over the world as a measure to comply with international climate targets and sustain renewable resources. The logistics and commercial vehicle sector are not exception in this trend. Therefore, electric powertrain concepts have been emerged for heavy-duty trucks in order to develop and adapt to varied use cases and axle concepts. (1) In this column, I want to get you more familiar with the measures have been taken by the decision-makers in the trend of electrification of heavy-duty truck. Also, the results will be discussed.

Many countries have been faced with various challenges related to the air pollution. In order to control this condition, varies measures have been taken by the government of different countries. For instance, the European Commission has proposed to add EV charging infrastructure in new and significantly renovated buildings in the context of the Clean Energy Package and is also working on the revision of the Clean Vehicles Directive to improve public procurement of low emission vehicles, as well as tighter CO2 emission standards for passenger cars and light duty vehicles. At the same time, many utilities are already embracing the new opportunities that come along with the electrification of transport: investing in the installation of EV charging infrastructure and the proper configuration of charging stations in order to minimize the impact on the local grid. (2) HDVs are known as one of the important cause of air pollution in many countries. On heavy duty, long haul transport, things are also beginning to move.

With trucks, buses and coaches representing less than 5% of road vehicles in the EU, but producing about 25% of CO2 emissions from road transport in the EU, the Commission has set out a strategy to address CO2 emissions from these Heavy-Duty Vehicles (HDVs) over the coming years. As the EU undertakes efforts to achieve its Paris Agreement commitments with a view to limiting global warming to well below 2◦C, the sectors of the economy which do not fall under the EU ETS, including road transport, must be at least well on their way to complete decarbonization by 2050. Electrifying heavy duty transport can do the trick. MAN, one of Europe’s leading manufacturers of commercial vehicles, presented its e-Truck in February 2017, and has announced that it will make test vehicles available by the end of 2017. Tesla is expected to present its battery electric truck in September 2017. Combined with high-power charging infrastructure along motorways, these models may significantly advance road transport decarbonization. (2)

The advantages of electric commercial vehicles are obvious: They do not consume any fossil fuels or emit any CO2 during operation. If they use renewable energy to generate electricity, they are completely clean. There are also other benefits: An electric drive consists of fewer parts, especially moving ones. That means rarer breakdowns and less servicing – and that makes the vehicles cheaper to run. Because e-vehicles have a less complex design, they can also be built to be more compact. A further advantage: They make less noise than vehicles with a combustion engine. And they are also more efficient – they accelerate more powerfully and a large part of the energy can be recovered by electric braking. (2)

Another question is that what range now is possible. Up to now, electric commercial vehicles such as buses or trucks can travel a distance of 200 to 300 kilometers on a single charge. Their range depends on how fast they go and whether the heating or air-conditioning, for example, is used. However, it will grow as battery capacities increase and charging technology advances. The U.S. manufacturer Proterra set a record: The e-bus Catalyst E2 Max covered a distance of almost 1,800 kilometers on one charge. (3)

Electric buses, trucks and other commercial vehicles also have disadvantages over vehicles with a combustion engine as things stand at present. The price of electric vehicles is still higher at the moment. Up to now, they also cannot travel as far on a single charge as a vehicle with a combustion engine. Consequently, e-buses are used almost exclusively in cities. Larger batteries would be needed to deliver a greater range. Recharging buses and trucks also takes longer than refueling them – and the charging infrastructure is not yet ideal. A diesel-powered truck can be refueled at any service station, whereas drivers of an e-truck first have to find the right charging station and get to it. Commercial vehicles must overcome further challenges an e-car does not encounter. They are heavier and so need larger and more powerful batteries to start with. They also have to be more resilient than a passenger car – commercial vehicles used in construction or agriculture are exposed to strong vibrations, for instance. (3)

There is no global standard for commercial electric vehicle’s charging systems. Europe and North America use a different system from China or Japan. Various options are currently being tested and discussed. It is still not certain which system will come out on top. However, each of them makes high demands on power semiconductors. (3)

In 2018, the global heavy-duty truck electrification market was valued at USD $ 8.28 Bn and is expected to grow by 14.3% during the forecast period 2019-2027 and reach USD $ 25.5 Bn by 2027.The Asia Pacific held the largest share of the heavy-duty truck electrification market in 2018, and it is expected to continue its dominance during the forecast period of 2019–2027. North America and Europe held the second and third position in the global heavy-duty truck electrification market in 2018 with market shares exceeding 14% and 10%, respectively. (4)

Today in the U.S., the Electrification Coalition (EC) as a nonpartisan, not-for-profit group that develops and implements strategies to support EV adoption across the U.S. are planning to take some measures in order to tackle the many challenges associated with freight electrification. The EC and its partners have invested resources into identifying the barriers to transitioning medium- and heavy-duty trucks to electric and proposing actionable solutions that every stakeholder — utilities, corporate fleets, truck manufacturers, policymakers, and more — should take. (5)

Electrified commercial vehicles will increasingly appear on roads in the future. According to a study by McKinsey, e-trucks such as vans or articulated lorries will account for around 15 percent of the total market in 2030. Its researchers estimate that the share of smaller commercial vehicles in cities in China and Europe will be 35 percent. (3) In sum, we should eagerly look forward to hearing some amazing news about the further accomplishments in the discussion of the electrification of the heavy-duty trucks in the following years.


(1) Sebastian Wolff, Svenja Kalt, Manuel Bstieler, and Markus Lienkamp. Influence of Powertrain Topology and Electric Machine Design on Efficiency of Battery Electric Trucks – A Simulative Case-Study, Energies 2021

(2) Electrification of Heavy Duty Vehicles, Electricity for Europe




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