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

Electrification Zero-emission vehicles

The electrification of trucks and buses is gaining momentum, driven in part by ambitious regulations around the world mandating truck and bus manufacturers to reduce the emissions of their new vehicle fleet or setting clear sales requirements for zero-emission technologies. Additionally, governments have begun to make long-term commitments for a 100% phase out of internal combustion engine medium- and heavy-duty trucks. This paper analyzes manufacturers’ market readiness to develop and deploy zero-emission commercial trucks and buses to meet this upcoming target.

In 2020, zero emission heavy-duty vehicles (HDVs) presented a mere 1% of new registrations in Europe. The vast majority of these, 95%, were battery electric, with a very limited presence of fuel-cell electric technologies. Still, the European share in the global zero emission HDV market in 2020 was just short of 3%. The market uptake is expected to significantly increase over the next decade, driven by several manufacturer announcements and EU-wide binding regulations regarding pollutants and CO2 emissions.

Close to 90% of cumulative zero emission HDV sales between 2010 and 2020 were buses. However, zero-emission truck sales are on the rise, making up 40% of total new zero-emission HDV registrations in 2020, increasing from only 20% in 2017. Although countries such as Germany, France, and the Netherlands are hosting more than 75% of all the zero emission trucks in Europe, other countries will likely grow their share as many new electric truck deliveries are planned by the end of 2021.

More than 97% of new zero emission HDV registrations are battery-electric, with the fuel cell technology market still very nascent. Although this trend is mainly driven by buses, trucks are following with a majority of the zero emission models offered being battery electric. Nonetheless, several manufacturers have announced plans to invest in hydrogen fuel cells by the middle of this decade.

With the continuous increase in HDV model availability and diversity, steady improvement in battery and fuel cell technology, and the expected reduction in price of battery and fuel cell units, major manufacturers have announced plans to phase out combustion engines from the heavy-duty sector by 2040. In addition, most of the manufacturers in Europe have also announced short-term targets for zero emission market uptake by 2025 and 2030.