Working Paper

A total cost of ownership comparison of truck decarbonization pathways in Europe

Note: After interest in this paper, the Addendum was added on 12 December 2023.

Heavy-duty vehicles (HDV) are among the largest sources of CO2 emissions in Europe, primarily due to the sector’s reliance on diesel vehicles. While numerous alternative technologies and fuel options exist to mitigate these emissions, their market development will mainly depend on their economic performance. This study compares the total cost of ownership (TCO) for various European truck classes and technologies compared to diesel. The TCO encompasses the costs of truck acquisition, European-average fuel prices, maintenance, and European-average road tolls, taxes, and levies.

The analysis covers the most common truck types in the region, ranging from long-haul to urban delivery vehicles. It investigates seven truck decarbonization pathways for combustion or and electric powertrain technologies with different fuel options (see figure below).

Figure 1. Heavy-duty vehicle classes and decarbonization pathways based on powertrain technologies and fuel options.

Key findings from the study indicate that:

  • Battery electric trucks are projected to be the least-cost decarbonization pathway for most truck classes before 2030. Their lower operational expenses relative to diesel counterweigh their higher upfront cost.
  • Fuel-cell trucks powered by green hydrogen are expected to become cost-competitive with diesel trucks by 2035.
  • Trucks equipped with a conventional combustion engine powered by alternative low greenhouse gas fuels such as hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO), e-diesel, and bio-compressed natural gas (bio-CNG) will face challenges in matching the economic performance of diesel trucks. By 2030, their TCO is projected to be 15% to 45% higher than their zero-emission counterparts.
  • Trucks employing hydrogen internal combustion engines may not match the economic performance of their zero-emission or diesel counterparts. Nevertheless, in the long term, they are expected to record a better TCO than conventional trucks powered by e-diesel and bio-CNG.


A summary of the study can be accessed here.