White paper

Charging solutions for battery-electric trucks

Significant growth in the market for battery-electric trucks is expected in the coming years. A robust charging infrastructure ecosystem, along with sufficient grid capacity, must be deployed early enough not to impede the growth of the electric vehicle fleet. This paper provides an overview of charging solutions for battery-electric trucks, their cost, and timeline for implementation. Additionally, electricity demand and grid impacts are estimated in two case studies of Germany and the United States. The paper also catalogs lessons from policies and pilot programs across China, Europe, and North America and the remaining barriers to be lifted.

The research finds that early electric trucks have relied on charging infrastructure designed for light-duty vehicles, but more powerful standards are ready for commercialization and will unlock new applications. Currently, wired stationary charging is the dominant technology in Europe and North America. Battery swapping, overhead catenary charging, and in-road wireless charging could reduce charging downtime and reduce upfront truck costs by enabling reduced battery sizes. However, political and business challenges impact the deployment of these technologies.

The analysis also finds that grid upgrades add significant cost and time constraints to the uptake of battery-electric trucks, making advanced planning and grid management strategies key. Two case studies show that in 2040, battery-electric truck energy needs represent 6% and 3% of electricity production in Germany and the U.S. in 2021, respectively. However, a 6% and 3% increase in grid capacity will not necessarily be needed, since the existing infrastructure can be leveraged through demand management and minor distribution network upgrades. The grid impacts of electric trucks can be managed through a revision of public electric utility business models, coordinated planning between relevant stakeholders, and the implementation of smart charging solutions.

To ensure that infrastructure is built alongside truck deployment at a reasonable cost, regulations should set targets for charging infrastructure deployment and regulations on the power sector should be updated. Coordination between multiple government agencies, electricity utilities, and commercial fleets is key for a successful transition to electric vehicles. In the early stages of charging infrastructure buildout, direct support through pilot projects, financial incentives, and public-private partnerships can build confidence and scale.