Global heavy duty vehicle manufacturers falling short on EV transition, research finds

Only a fraction of the required number of zero-emission HDVs have been deployed globally.

This is according to the ‘Heavy Lifting Required: Truck Makers’ Electric Transition’ report from the think-tank Carbon Tracker, which evaluated eight major HDV manufacturers on the quality of their emissions targets and transition to electrification.

These include European giants Volvo Group, Daimler Truck, Traton Group and Iveco, US-based Paccar, and Asian manufacturers Hino, Tata Motors and BYD, accounting for 50% of global HDV production/sales.

The findings highlight that none of the assessed companies are ‘standout’ performers, with most scoring below three out of five on both the ‘quality of emissions targets’ and ‘transition to electrification’ metrics.

According to the report, the performances of Tata and Hino were deemed the worst due to their lack of credible net-zero goals, limited vehicle offerings and minimal investment in zero-emission powertrains.

While Volvo and Daimler fared relatively better, none of the evaluated companies had short-term emissions targets. Though, Volvo Group has a target to reach 35% EV volumes by 2030 at Group level.

The report also highlighted the inadequate effort by manufacturers to bring electric HDVs to market. Despite the necessity for a diverse range of electric HDV models to legitimise the market and bolster customer confidence, manufacturers are producing only a handful of models in limited quantities, utilising less than 1% of their production capacity for EVs.

Report author Ben Scott said: “The transition to electric trucks offers manufacturers a ‘re-fleeting’ opportunity and a huge potential upside in revenues.

“However, for long haul logistics more work is needed to help deploy the necessary high-power EV charging infrastructure.

“To unlock the full financial potential from the re-fleeting of the existing ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) HDV fleet, manufacturers need to do more to facilitate the rollout of EV charging stations through investments, joint ventures and partnerships.”

The environmental and compliance risks

The report emphasises that the transition towards zero-emission HDVs is crucial to align with the International Energy Agency (IEA)’s Net Zero Emissions (NZE) scenario. However, only a fraction of the required number of zero-emission HDVs have been deployed globally, with less than 100,000 new units produced in 2023, far below the target of 13 million by 2035.

The consequences of HDV manufacturers’ sluggish transition to electrification extend beyond environmental concerns. HDVs, despite constituting only 3% of vehicles on the road, contribute 30% of emissions from road transport, a figure expected to rise with the spread of electrification to smaller vehicles, as per the report.

The report highlights that this contrast in transition speed between HDVs and passenger vehicles reflects structural disparities in the two markets. While the passenger car market sees innovation from new entrants like Tesla and BYD, the highly consolidated HDV market lacks similar impetus for change, with a handful of manufacturers dominating the landscape.

Furthermore, the failure of HDV manufacturers to swiftly transition to EVs exposes them to considerable commercial risks.

Stringent regulations set to commence in the UK, EU and US from 2030 onwards pose a substantial challenge to compliance, potentially resulting in penalties for non-compliance.

The report emphasises that urgent action is required from both governments and industry stakeholders to accelerate the transition towards zero-emission HDVs.

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