Race to zero: How manufacturers are positioned for zero-emission commercial trucks and buses in China

Zero-emission vehicles
Engineering & manufacturing

In the past decade, China has rapidly become the world’s largest electric vehicle market, accounting for half of the world’s electric vehicle sales and more than 90% of the stock of electric buses and trucks combined. This accelerated growth is the result of targeted policy efforts at the national and local level that have used concrete initiatives and tools such as pilot programs, incentives, vehicle regulations, and high-level strategies.

This paper identifies where Chinese manufacturers stand in the race to transition from internal combustion engine heavy-duty vehicles (ICE-HDVs) to electric vehicle technologies. It summarizes the current market for zero-emission trucks and buses and profiles several manufacturers producing these vehicles across different truck and bus segments. By describing this market landscape, the paper seeks to highlight the challenges that future policies must address to accelerate this transition.

The study examines in detail new heavy-duty new energy vehicles (HD-NEVs) registered between 2017 and 2019. The analysis focuses on the most popular HDV segments in the Chinese market, including straight and box trucks, dump trucks, buses and coaches, utility vehicles,1 and tractor trailers. The dataset for this study was provided by China Automatic Technology and Research Center Co., Ltd, also known as CATARC.

Advances in HD-NEVs follow on the country’s success in promoting NEVs in the light duty vehicle segment, driven in part by a NEV mandate policy that requires increased electric vehicle production and sales. Now China is evaluating the introduction of a similar policy for trucks and buses. The recently released Energy-saving and New Energy Vehicle Technology Roadmap 2.0, prepared by Society of Automotive Engineering (SAE) China, proposes targets regarding HD-NEV share of 12% by 2025, 17% by 2030, and 20% by 2035.

In this regulatory context, this paper provides an overview of the HD-NEV market across different vehicle segments, and of the readiness of HDV manufacturers, quantified by model availability, to satisfy the increased demand that the HD-NEV mandate regulation will bring about.