Due to the low operating costs, battery and overhead line trucks will pay off in the future even without state aid, despite the higher acquisition costs for the forwarding companies. Electric trucks could therefore dominate new registrations in 2030. The switch to battery and trolley vehicles could significantly contribute to achieving the 2030 climate targets of the federal government for the transport sector. This results from a Heidelberg Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IFEU) analysis, funded by the Federal Ministry for the Environment.
"In 10 years, battery-electric trucks will be significantly cheaper and more climate-friendly than new diesel-powered vehicles with moderate CO2 prices for almost all applications," explains Julius Jöhrens, head of analysis. Moreover, powering battery trucks via overhead lines could further improve the cost balance and unlock additional systemic benefits. For example, if it were all about costs, in 2030, freight forwarders would only buy electric trucks for transport within Germany.
According to the study, a comparison of the greenhouse gas emissions of different drives for the year 2030 also shows that battery-electric trucks can save around half of the CO2 emissions compared to diesel trucks - including electricity generation and truck manufacture. About a third of the remaining CO2 emissions can be traced back to vehicle manufacture. In addition, the use of overhead lines can "significantly reduce" the battery sizes required by trucks and thus tend to improve the climate balance further.
According to the study's authors, overhead line technology is of particular interest for long-distance routes. The use of hydrogen in fuel cell trucks is also being discussed there. However, fuel cell trucks are only economically competitive at meager hydrogen prices compared with battery and overhead line trucks. These would only be forecast in optimistic scenarios for hydrogen imports from windy and sunny regions outside Europe. However, the CO2 emissions would only be lower than overhead line trucks if the hydrogen for the trucks is exclusively generated from renewable sources. Because of the high demand for hydrogen from other sectors, this requirement will be challenging to meet in practice.
According to the authors, the study results clearly show that hydrogen produced with the German electricity mix will not keep up with diesel technology in 2030 in terms of costs or CO2 balance. Therefore, in the medium term, the use of fuel cell trucks represents a bet on the future availability of cheap and completely renewable imported hydrogen.
According to the study's authors, the results mean that in 2030 freight forwarders will almost always opt for a battery-electric vehicle from a cost perspective. However, due to their clear cost disadvantage, fuel cell trucks should only be used where the use of battery trucks fails for practical reasons - how often this happens is partly in the hands of the state through infrastructure expansion.
"Technology and costs are developing in the direction of electric trucks. It is now the task of the state to promote the expansion of stationary charging infrastructure on the main routes and examine where an overhead line network can sensibly supplement this. Then heavy goods traffic can make a significant contribution to the climate goals in the transport sector," says Jöhrens.
"Even electric trucks can at most halve the CO2 emissions of a truck in 2030 in a life cycle analysis. But, in addition, the conversion of the truck fleet will take time," notes the study leader. "To achieve the climate targets that have been set, we must continue to avoid unnecessary truck transports and shift significantly more transports to the railways in the long term."