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Fuel-cell hydrogen long-haul trucks in Europe: A total cost of ownership analysis

This study evaluates the total cost of ownership (TCO) of fuel cell electric trucks (FCETs) in France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, and Poland, home to more than 75% of HDV registrations in the EU in 2020. The study focuses on long-haul tractor-trailers, the highest-emitting HDV segment in the EU. The TCO includes the costs of truck acquisition, renewable electrolysis hydrogen, diesel fuel, and maintenance, as well as road tolls and other country-specific taxes and levies.

A key finding is that FCETs will not achieve TCO parity with their diesel counterparts before 2030 in any of the seven countries. Nonetheless, the TCO gap between the two technologies is significantly narrowed by 2030. The study also finds that fuel cell long-haul trucks can reach TCO parity with their diesel counterparts by 2030 in Europe if the at-the-pump green hydrogen fuel price is around 4 €/kg, a figure that is 50% lower than the expected hydrogen fuel price by 2030. In this case, hydrogen fuel subsidies will be needed to justify the business case for FCETs in Europe during this decade. (See Figure 1.)

Figure 1. Hydrogen fuel subsidy needed to achieve TCO parity between FCETs and diesel trucks by 2030 considering onsite hydrogen production through renewable electrolysis

The price of hydrogen fuel will be the primary driver of the technology’s economic viability as the retail price gap between FCETs and diesel trucks is expected to narrow significantly by 2030 (See Figure 2).

Figure 2. Total cost of ownership breakdown for different purchase years in the seven considered European countries.

Regulatory support can help reducing the TCO gap between FCETs and diesel tractor-trailers. Policy support in the form of purchase premiums, road tolls exemptions and hydrogen fuel subsidies can significantly reduce the TCO gap between both truck technologies. European policy makers should expedite the implementation of the Eurovignette directive into national law and fully exempt zero-emission trucks from road tolls, as they are a significant contributor to the TCO of long-haul trucks in general, similar to what is currently implemented in Germany. Incentivizing the purchase of zero-emission trucks based on the retail price differential between fuel cell and diesel trucks can help reduce the TCO gap between the two technologies and can significantly reduce the capital investment needed to ramp up market demand.