Evaluating Europe’s Readiness for Electric Truck Charging

Evaluating Europe’s Readiness for Electric Truck Charging


The pace of road transport electrification is gaining momentum, driven by the increasing efforts to reduce carbon emissions. However, the transition to electric trucking faces significant infrastructure gaps and grid capacity limitations. The solution to the problem goes beyond partnerships between carriers and shippers, or manufacturers and consumers. Today, all stakeholders seem to agree that time is running out and that collaboration is crucial in enabling large-scale adoption of electric trucks. If the need and the understanding is there, what else is blocking the timely deployment of charging infrastructure across Europe?

The Pace of Road Transport Electrification

According to data presented in the Global EV Outlook 2023, published by the International Energy Agency (IEA), electric car markets are seeing “exponential growth” in major global markets. Electric car sales exceeded 10 million in 2022, and have been continuing strongly through 2023, with over 2.3 million electric cars sold in the first quarter. That is around 25% more than in the same period in 2022, the IEA study points out.

However, the situation varies across different vehicle segments. In 2022, worldwide sales of electric light commercial vehicles (LCVs) increased by more than 90% to over 310,000 vehicles. At the same time, only around 66,000 electric buses and 60,000 medium- and heavy-duty trucks were sold worldwide. That is about 4.5% of all bus sales and 1.2% of truck sales, respectively, according to the IEA’s research.

Latest data by the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) indicates that in 2022, 96.6% of all newly-registered trucks in the EU ran on diesel, 2.8% on alternative fuels, and only 0.6% of trucks sold were “electrically-chargeable vehicles”. Given the EU’s plans to decarbonize road transport, in line with its objective to reach climate neutrality by 2050, the presented numbers will have to change dramatically at an extremely fast pace.

Electric trucks in the EU Girteka news

Source: ACEA

Roadblocks to Large-Scale Truck Electrification

In October 2023, the Environment Committee of the European Parliament adopted its proposal to strengthen the regulation on CO2 emissions standards for new heavy-duty vehicles (HDVs), which include buses, trucks and trailers. The more stringent standards would see carbon emissions reduction targets set at 45% from 2030, 70% from 2035, and 90% from 2040. In addition, all newly registered urban buses would be zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) from 2030.

First announced in 2019, the HDV CO2 emissions standards are setting the pace of the transition to zero-emission trucks (ZETs). And the availability of such vehicles is increasing rapidly. Many major manufacturers have already started series production of their new ZETs, prioritizing battery-electric vehicle (BEV) technology. Dozens of different battery-electric truck (BET) models are available today in various configurations.

But supply is only one side of the story, the other is demand. Today, technology and cost issues are some of the main factors that affect market uptake of electric trucks. In a study published in January 2023, researchers interviewed 74 different truck fleet managers and/or owners based in the United States (U.S.), examining the main barriers to electric truck adoption. The authors identified “business model, product availability, and charging time” as being the top barriers in the transition to electric trucking.

Consumer anxiety over the limited range of battery electric HDVs as well as payload restrictions (to accommodate the batteries) are just some of their key operational constraints. Truck manufacturers are racing to solve these technological challenges while keeping an eye on affordability. Meanwhile, the main obstacle to a quicker production ramp-up of ZETs remains. It is the lack of sufficient charging and refuelling infrastructure.

“If we look at all the goods being transported in Europe, depending on the year, around 40-45% travel less than 300 kilometers per day. This is a range that we can easily handle with our charging today,” highlighted Stefan Widlund, Electromobility Director at Volvo Trucks, discussing the Volvo FM Electric heavy-duty truck in an interview with Girteka.

“If you then charge, you will have a significantly longer range – we have examples of our trucks running up to 640 kilometers per day with some top-up charging during the day. The charging only takes 90 minutes to go from 0% to 80%. However, in many cases, you only need to charge from 30% to 80%. This can be done during the scheduled 45-minute rest breaks. Hence, the issue of range can be managed with daily top-up charging while in operation, but to do that, we need more public charging stations in Europe,” concluded Mr. Widlund.

A Step in the Right Direction

According to the Global EV Outlook 2023, Europe is ranked second to China in terms of e-mobility. In fact, China is far ahead of Europe (or any other region in the world) in terms of both EV sales and the charging station market. In 2022, the country had already installed more than 1.7 million EV charger points, whereas Europe reached less than half of that number.

“The lack of publicly accessible charging and refuelling infrastructure dedicated to trucks is viewed as a primary roadblock to a faster transition and fleets would welcome additional support from other stakeholders to plan the build-out of infrastructure,” according to research by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), which spoke to its European Clean Truck Alliance (ECTA) members, including Girteka.

Industry stakeholders have been calling on EU legislators to address the dire need for a robust charging infrastructure, along with sufficient grid capacity, that would accommodate the growth of the electric vehicle fleet. Proposed back in 2021 by the European Commission (EC), the EU Alternative Fuel Infrastructure Regulation (AFIR) was finally adopted by the European Council in July 2023.

For the first time, the regulation, which is part of the EU’s “Fit for 55” package, sets a legally binding national and EU-wide targets for the deployment of alternative fuels infrastructure for road vehicles, vessels, and stationary aircraft. The AFIR will require that public chargers for electric trucks be provided at regular intervals along Europe’s primary and secondary motorways, and in major cities.

The regulation sets distance-based targets along the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T): recharging stations for HDVs (above 3.5 tonnes) with a minimum output of 350kW must be deployed every 60 km along the TEN-T core network (main roads), and every 100 km on the larger TEN-T network from 2025 onwards, with complete network coverage by2030.

In addition, at least two recharging points must be deployed in each safe and secure parking area by the end of 2027 and four by the end of 2030; recharging stations must also be set up in urban nodes. Targets for the minimum capacity of, and maximum distance between, hydrogen refuelling stations for both cars and trucks are also included in the regulation.

Will the AFIR Be Enough?

A recent study by the European Federation for Transport and Environment (T&E), analysing infrastructure targets agreed under the AFIR, claims that the regulation will provide sufficient public charging infrastructure across the EU that will be “more than enough” for the -45% target initially proposed under the HDV CO2 emissions standards starting 2030.

“Based on AFIR and the infrastructure plans in the central truck transit country Germany, we project that an annual charging energy of 13.79 TWh will be available in 2030,” states the T&E briefing, while adding that the calculations are based on “conservative assumptions such as utilisation of high-power chargers of only 4 hours per day.”

The projected gross energy demand from HDVs within the EU-27 in 2030 that needs to be provided by public charging, based on T&E’s recommendations and the available public charging energy, is 14.25 TWh. This would be the charging energy needed if EU legislators were to increase the HDV CO2 emissions target for 2030 to -65%. In such case, the infrastructure would be capable of supplying 97% of the required public charging demand.

The T&E study also looked into the demands of truck manufacturers. Their recommendations would lead to a total installed charging power of 30.25 GW in 2030. That is a fleet of electric trucks almost 4.2 times the projected size in 2030 that the infrastructure would be able to power.

“MEPs and EU-governments can ramp up CO2 reduction targets for trucks in 2030 as high as -65% with confidence that there will be enough charging available. In fact, clean truck targets adequate to the expected availability of charging infrastructure are key for efficient utilisation and subsequently the business case for CPOs [Charging Point Operators],” the briefing concludes.

Aside of expanding public charging infrastructure across Europe and securing enough power for the growing fleet of BEVs, there is also the issue of even distribution of charging infrastructures. According to ACEA’s findings, published in 2022, there is a large disparity in the distribution of public EV charging points across the EU. For instance, in 2021, half of the EU’s charging infrastructure was located in just two countries, Germany and the Netherlands.

Other countries have begun to catch up with their deployments, improving the situation slightly in 2022, but the issue persists. ACEA’s data also indicates a clear divide between Western and Eastern Europe, with countries in Western Europe being far ahead of its Eastern counterparts in terms of charging infrastructure.

The Grid Problem

While charging and refuelling infrastructure is being developed, improvements to the electrical grid are also necessary (as well as additional renewable electricity supply). The main challenge lies in significant power requirements on the grid, especially from fast charging.

A study published by the Union of the Electricity Industry (Eurelectric), points out that more than one third of the EU’s grids are over 40 years old – a number that is likely to exceed 50% by 2030. The authors call for urgent investments in distribution grids to make sure the infrastructure does not become “obsolete”.

“We have the technologies to deploy EVs on a large scale as well as ambitious targets for their rollout across Europe. Nevertheless, the car industry, regulators and DSOs [Distribution System Operators] are in a stalemate as concerns around infrastructure limit sales of EVs but relatively low EV numbers on the road limit plans for the required grid reinforcements, a real chicken and egg situation,” the authors of the study state.

Girteka Volvo Electric Truck

Source: Girteka

The Pressure Increases

In its latest publication regarding the charging infrastructure issue, T&E presented the results of a survey it commissioned among DSOs in five EU member states. It concluded that some public charging hubs will require grid connections of 30 MW and more to accommodate the extra load coming from a growing electric truck fleet.

“The key to a successful and timely uptake of HDV charging infrastructure is to know when and where the demand will occur,” the paper emphasized. All stakeholders are thus being called upon to take action urgently to ensure that connections needing grid reinforcements and/or extensions happen in a timely manner.

Another key industry observer, ACEA, together with six other European organisations, published a joint letter in October 2023, calling on the Commission for a more coordinated response to „the radical and rapid change in the power infrastructure needs”.

In the letter, the authors present their recommendations, petitioning EU lawmakers for (among other things) urgent investments in grid development and modernisation, including smart grids, as well as government incentives for regulators to modernise grid connection and grid planning exercises.

“In the spirit of the High-Level Forum on Standardisation, a real, common block of grid connection rules and grid certification processes should be established in the EU, building on a further harmonisation of existing electricity network codes and leveraging the strength of standards,” the letter reads.

More investment or more management?

A 2022 study by the ICCT found that grid upgrades could impede the uptake of BETs by adding significant cost and time constraints. This makes “advanced planning and grid management strategies key,” the organization maintains.

Based on two case studies, the ICCT’s analysis showed that in 2040, BET energy needs would represent 6% and 3% of electricity production in Germany and the U.S. in 2021, respectively. The study claims that the need to make such increases in grid capacity would not be necessary. It suggests that it would be possible to leverage the existing infrastructure through demand management and minor distribution network upgrades.

“The grid impacts of electric trucks can be managed through a revision of public electric utility business models, coordinated planning between relevant stakeholders, and the implementation of smart charging solutions,” the ICCT paper notes.

In addition, non-stationary charging technologies such as in-road wireless charging or battery swapping would be some of the ways to reduce charging downtime as well as battery size and thus help reduce upfront costs of electric trucks.

Private Efforts

Today, wired stationary charging is the dominant technology for EVs in Europe. Various charging strategies, such as overnight charging at the depot, are employed by hauliers. Let us not forget that trucks are used for a wide range of missions throughout the EU. On certain lanes, electric trucks would be doing round trips constantly and their route structure would be known beforehand.

Companies could therefore collaborate and establish the required private or semi-private infrastructure so that their trucks could be charged between stops, as well as at companies’ premises during loading and unloading procedures, ensuring that the goods continue moving.

“All parties involved in the deployment of charging infrastructure (governments, charge point operators (CPOs), transmission and distribution system operators (TSOs/DSOs)) should start planning as soon as possible to ensure both todays and future charging needs of the battery electric truck are met,” the T&E paper highlights.

For instance, bp pulse’s state-of-the-art simulation software helps fleet operators and fleet managers to simulate their vehicles as EVs, operating on typical routes and schedules. This provides the operators with insights into how their vehicle would perform if it were electric. The simulation takes into consideration battery efficiency, topography, weather conditions as well as other parameters.

“We can estimate how the vehicle will perform if it were an EV and how much energy it would require. Having that information allows you to better understand where the vehicle might run out of charge and whether your routes are feasible to be operated using an electric truck,” Harry Baxter, EV Fleet Sales Director for bp pulse in Europe, shared with Girteka in an interview.

The added benefit – operators can use that information to map in public charging infrastructure, like bp pulse’s. “As a result, you can extend or pull together routes, so that the electric truck is not just traveling from depot to depot in order to charge. Instead, it can go from depot to public charger to depot. This allows you to extend your routes,” Baxter added.

A number of private CPOs are ready to deploy truck charging infrastructure on a large scale in the near future. In 2022, Traton Group, Volvo Group, and Daimler Trucks established an independent joint venture (JV) called Milence. With €500 million in collective investments, the initiative aims to build and operate more than 1,700 fast (300 to 350 kW) and ultra-fast (1 MW) charging points for HDVs and coaches across Europe by 2027.

AFIR will manage to support only a small share of the total number of battery electric vehicles in the total heavy truck fleet by 2030. In addition to the AFIR, private investments will be needed to make large scale electrification of goods transports happen. Milence plans to install and operate at least 1,700 high-performance charging points on, and close to, highways as well as at logistics hubs across Europe,” Mr. Widlund told Girteka.

“Volvo Trucks has previously stated that they believe the permitting procedure for building charging and fuel infrastructure should be quicker, the construction of parking areas for trucks should be incentivized, and the local urban access restrictions for trucks should be harmonized at EU level,” summarized the Electromobility Director at Volvo Trucks.

The Role of Policy

In late November 2023, the EC published the EU Action Plan for Grids – a strategic framework to ensure that Europe’s electricity grids can meet future energy needs, particularly in integrating renewables and supporting new demands such as electromobility​.

The document outlines a 14-point action plan for strengthening Europe’s electricity grids, making them more interconnected, digitalized, and cyber-secure. It is a hefty task, as it includes improving long-term network planning, enhancing regulatory frameworks, and ensuring efficient use of existing grids​.

According to the Commission, electricity consumption is expected to increase by around 60% by 2030. Networks will also need to integrate a large share of variable renewable power. Europe’s electricity transmission and distribution networks will have to align with new hydrogen infrastructure, energy storage, and e-mobility charging infrastructure.

The Ten-Year Network Development Plan (TYNDP) shows a need for substantial expansion in cross-border transmission infrastructure​. The EC states that this type of infrastructure should double in the next seven years. Beyond cross-border needs, the bulk of the investment will be within EU borders, both at transmission and distribution levels.

As Europe strives to become greener and increasingly energy independent, electricity grids will need to be adapted to integrate large amounts of renewable energy, including wind and solar generation. This includes managing variable renewable power and integrating decentralized generation like EV charging stations​.

Afterall, as an analysis from McKinsey indicates, aside of residential and workplace charging, the EU will need another 3.4 million operational public charging points by 2030 to enable a complete switch from internal combustion engines (ICEs) to EVs.

This figure includes 0.4 million for light commercial vehicles and 0.1 million for trucks and buses. Given the time left till 2030, around 2.9 million charging points are yet to be installed across the EU to enable the complete switch, as data shows.

EV charging Girteka news

Source: McKinsey & Company

The EC estimates that EUR 584 billion in investments are necessary for the electricity grids just this decade. Investments in electrification of heavy-duty road transport sector is provided for as part of the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) programme. The funds for the development of alternative fuel infrastructure in 2022-2023 already amount to EUR 375 million.

Support at a Local Level

A recent study by the Polish Economic Institute, analysing the support system for the electric HDV sector,  highlights the example of Germany, which has already started to work on public charging roll-out plans that are based on the projected demand.

The Federal Ministry of Digital Affairs and Transport in Germany (BMDV) will provide financial support for the purchase of vehicles with climate-friendly drivetrains, the expansion of refuelling and charging infra­structure, and feasibility studies focused on its development.

By 2024, the BMDV will provide a total of approximately EUR 1.6 billion to support the purchase of climate-friendly commercial vehicles and approximately EUR 5 billion to develop refuelling and charging infrastructure for passenger cars and trucks.

As part of the programme, beneficiaries can apply for a subsidy amounting to up to 80% of the additional investment expenditure for the purchase of a low- or zero-emission vehicle and the construction of charging or refuelling infrastructure for it.

For instance, bp has already established an extensive charging network in Germany under the Aral pulse brand, consisting of 300kW chargers that trucks with their trailers attached can pull into. “Very soon we will be introducing 400kW chargers to really speed up the time that it takes to charge the truck and trailer and get the driver back on the road, as time is of the essence,” Baxter points out.

The company will also be introducing “Autohoefe” – large scale, truck dedicated sites with up to 20MW of available power. It is a significant amount of capacity that will enable truck charging throughout the day and night. Overall, bp pulse aims to install more than 100,000 charging points globally by 2030 and is more than a quarter of the way to reaching this with 27,000 charging points today.

“We are investing at scale and introducing solutions that are convenient for both fleet managers and drivers, while focusing on customer experience for both groups. The aim is to make our charging solutions fit for all fleet scenarios,” Baxter summarizes.

No Time to Waste

As the world strives for greener and more sustainable transportation, providing the necessary infrastructure for the electrification of HDVs remains a significant part of the journey. Hence, all stakeholders need to do their part to help the logistics industry transition to electromobility and reduce its emissions. That is not exclusive to strategic partnerships between transport operators and shippers. It must also include governments on an EU-level, as well as the local level.

Just as imperative is the electricity grid – its upgrades and smart charging solutions are crucial to ensure efficient electrification of heavy-duty transport. For the charging infrastructure to work efficiently, grids will require significant investment and coordinated action across both public and private sectors. Initiatives like the AFIR or Milence are, therefore, promising steps in the right direction.

At the same time, businesses should not wait for the necessary action to be taken for them. Electric trucks are much more versatile than consumers fear them to be. They could be used on various missions, including for transporting parts and/or goods between factories, as well as participating in transportation processes that move freight from ports or airports to companies’ warehouses.

“The technological shift from internal combustion engine to a new era of electric propulsion has already begun, and it requires a collaborative approach of leading companies for the industry to be able to initiate a swift change. We believe that together with our partners, such as bp pulse and Volvo Trucks, we will be able to develop the right solutions and change the seemingly irreplaceable diesel technology in order to secure sustainable road transportation for the future,” concludes Andrius Žukauskas, Head of E-Mobility Sales, Sustainability Division at Girteka Europe West.

Companies could collaborate and establish the required infrastructure to ensure that drivers could charge their trucks between stops. And, since electric trucks are (for now) best suited for regional and local deliveries, it is much easier to develop infrastructure for routine operations between two predefined destinations, with full infrastructure in both premises. This would reduce the time needed for recharging.

Hence, those, who want to see electrification of road transport happen sooner rather than later and reach their sustainability targets, in line with the EU’s new Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), should take the initiative now.