Emission-free heavy goods traffic needs dense network of charging and hydrogen filling stations as well as incentives instead of bans

    Berlin, February 13, 2023

    Combustion engine ban not effective - Expansion of charging and hydrogen filling stations for commercial vehicles essential - Incentive systems accelerate ramp-up of alternative drives

    The German automotive industry stands by the Paris climate protection goals and is resolutely driving the transformation forward with innovations and investments. The European fleet regulation is a central instrument on the way to climate neutrality in the transport sector.

    "The draft law presented today by the European Commission on fleet regulation for heavy commercial vehicles is extremely ambitious in view of the charging and hydrogen infrastructure – which has unfortunately been insufficient up to now. The EU is significantly tightening the CO2 limits without adopting the necessary accompanying measures. Those measures should have ensured that alternative drives can actually be ramped up. In plain language: Without speed and determination concerning the necessary framework conditions, in particular the corresponding infrastructural investments, the goal will hardly be achievable," explains VDA President Hildegard Müller.

    Background: With the new fleet targets, more than 98% of heavy goods traffic will be regulated with regard to CO2 emissions from 2030 onwards. So far it was 73%. This correctly closes the previous loophole. With the 90% reduction in the fleet limit planned for 2040 compared to 2019, the EU Commission now wants to set very ambitious goals. As an intermediate stage, it should already be 45% in 2030 and a sporty 65% is set for 2035. The potential for avoiding CO2 emissions through emission-free heavy goods traffic is enormous - heavy trucks and buses currently emit around a third of the CO2 emissions in road traffic. In Europe (EU, EFTA & UK), 8.1mn trucks (over 3.5 t) and buses were on the road in 2021. By 2030 it is expected to be almost 10mn.

    Charging and hydrogen filling stations crucial for success

    "Crucial now is that the goals set and the framework conditions required for them must be strategically considered. This means: In order for ambitious goals to actually be achieved, a sufficiently dense network of charging and hydrogen filling stations for heavy commercial vehicles throughout Europe is a necessary prerequisite - in addition to a sufficient range of vehicles, which we are committed to. This is currently all but available. It is therefore all the more problematic that the EU Commission's Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Regulation (AFIR) is far too sluggish. Thus it is to be welcomed that the EU Parliament has already spoken out in favor of a higher level of action. Because as long as it is not clear when there is a sufficient, publicly accessible charging and refueling network for the heavy vehicle classes in long-distance transport, the desired CO2 reduction targets and the dates for phasing out combustion engines for heavy commercial vehicles are purely symbolic," explains VDA President Hildegard Müller.

    The fact is: Manufacturers are strenuously working to meet the demand for battery-electric or hydrogen-powered trucks and buses. Between 2022 and 2026, companies in the German automotive industry will invest a total of around €220bn worldwide in research and development, primarily in electromobility, including battery technology, and in digitization. In addition, around €100bn will be invested in the conversion of plants by 2030.

    "We stand resolutely behind the ambitious goals of the EU. By our criticism of the proposal and our emphasis on the necessary framework conditions we express our determination to actually achieve the goals. Basically, the following applies: goals should not only be politically desired, but must also be flanked by a comprehensive infrastructure policy and a committed raw materials, energy and trade policy on the part of the EU to maintain the competitiveness of the location. The actual implementation and realization must be considered and strategically underpinned from the beginning. This is still not recognizable today," Müller appeals.

    Freight forwarders and transport companies need incentives

    "A sole tightening of the CO2 limits will not enable people to switch, but will only rule out the use of trucks and buses with conventional drives," warns Müller. "In the commercial vehicle industry there is already a high level of cost awareness. This means that CO2 emission-free trucks and buses will only be integrated in vehicle fleets in great quantities when battery-electric or hydrogen-powered vehicles are more profitable on the road than those with conventional engines.

    A comprehensive fleet renewal towards CO2 emission-free vehicles may come about if sufficient incentives are created for freight forwarders and transport companies: Incentive systems such as subsidies, toll exemptions and tax breaks for zero-emission trucks and buses. This is the only way to encourage and enable freight forwarders and transport companies to sufficiently invest in CO2 emission-free vehicles," emphasizes Müller.

    Clear schedule and constant evaluation

    "The amendment to the law introduced by the EU Commission will replace the previously applicable CO2 limits for 2030. The target tightening should be final this time in order to give the manufacturers planning security. Renewed changes always tie up new resources that are urgently needed for the ramp-up of electromobility anyway. As far as the targets for 2035 and 2040 are concerned, if they have already been set, they should be reviewed again in due course with regard to the status of the framework conditions.

    The EU should therefore establish a regular monitoring process to check whether the ramp-up of electromobility can succeed. If necessary, specific measures can then be taken. Above all, criteria such as the ramp-up of the charging and hydrogen refueling infrastructure or the availability of raw materials must be taken into account.

    Basically, the amendment of the fleet limits for 2030 - also with a view to Euro VII - should be designed jointly in such a way that the ramp-up of alternative drive types is not hindered. The same applies here: A pragmatic, progressive and technology-neutral approach will ensure that the climate protection goals are met," demands Müller.