New focus on commercial vehicles

7-Eleven truck equipped with Toyota fuel cell system.
7-Eleven truck equipped with Toyota fuel cell system, © Toyota

Now that electrification has gained a foothold in the passenger car market, it is starting to have an impact on commercial vehicles as well. While electric trucks and buses have, for a long time, been studied and tested as part of research and demonstration projects around the globe, more and more politicians and environmental associations have begun to explore the potential that this, not so small, sector has for curbing emissions. Not unlike the market for passenger cars, the one for commercial vehicles may soon find itself on the brink of a revolution.

Not unlike the market for passenger cars, the one for commercial vehicles may soon find itself on the brink of a revolution. Some seemed caught off guard when discovering in mid-February that the heavy-duty truck industry had been unscathed by the past months, despite one debate about climate change, pollution or diesel fuel following the next. And this although a recent report stated that trucks produced around 5 percent of carbon dioxide and 27 percent of all other emissions from vehicles in Germany. True, it may not sound like much. But semitrucks use around 30 liters of diesel to go as little as 62 miles (100 kilometers).

So far, no EU-wide rules have forced automakers to lower carbon dioxide emissions from trucks and buses. This situation is about to change, however, following the European Parliament’s November 2018 vote in Strasbourg to set an emissions reduction target of 35 percent. They did so despite a letter penned by automakers, most of them German ones, such as Daimler and MAN, warning the commission that pursuing the 35 percent aim could have a severe impact on the continent’s commercial vehicle industry. They were willing to agree to a maximum of 7 percent by 2025 and 16 percent by 2030. Bernhard Mattes, the president of auto industry association VDA, said at the time that “the threat of an excessive fine, EUR 5,000 for one gram above the limit, could even drive a few manufacturers out of business.”

As per the EU Commission’s plans, new vehicles sold in 2025 or later must emit 15 percent less carbon dioxide than they do today. In 2030, the percentage is to climb to 30 percent. Overall, GHG emissions must drop by 40 percent or more by 2030, according to Margaritis Schinas, the commission’s chief spokesman. Businesses that exceed the limits will incur hefty fines of up to EUR 4,000 a gram starting in 2025 and EUR 6,800 in 2030.


read more in H2-international April 2019

Written by Sven Geitmann

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