Are EU countries ready for road transport electrification? Experts offer sobering conclusions

Despite EU plans to decarbonise transport and reduce CO2 emissions, most EU countries are not properly prepared for the mass implementation of electric HGVs, according to a report by Eurowag. The main problem is infrastructure, which involves more than just the small number of charging points. The readiness index for electrifying heavy goods transport in European countries, developed by Eurowag, is led by Scandinavian countries and affluent Western European nations.

Norway is identified as the best-prepared country, followed by the Netherlands and Switzerland, with Sweden, Germany, Denmark, Austria, Belgium, Italy, and Portugal also in the top ten. The index considers several parameters, including the following:

  • The number of vehicle charging points, especially those above 350 kW.
  • The proportion of electric cars in the total fleet.
  • The percentage of electric trucks, similar to the car metric.
  • Legislation on electrification.

Progress in each area was classified as good, moderate, or limited. However, Central and Eastern European countries lag significantly in preparation for road transport electrification.

Hungary, in 16th place, leads this region, with Lithuania and Slovakia in the top twenty. Poland ranks 22nd, just below the Czech Republic, scoring 28 points, whereas Norway boasts 68 points. Poland's ratings were low regarding regulations to facilitate electrification, and did not even classify in the electric truck fleet proportion, the largest in Europe.

Its progress in charging points and electric truck numbers was deemed average. Despite high scores for leading countries, electrification of heavy goods transport across Europe, especially in the east, is in its early stages.

Infrastructure challenges

A major barrier to EU heavy transport electrification is insufficient electric vehicle charging points. In 2022, nearly half a million public electric car chargers existed in Europe, with nearly half in the Netherlands, Germany, and France.

Yet, for truck transport, the majority of these are ineffective. "The number of stations and their power and quality are vital," notes Tomasz Goralewicz, Sales Excellence Manager at Eurowag Polska. To charge a 400 kWh truck battery within a 45-minute break requires a 750 kW charger, without which significant delays would occur.

More than quantity

The issue isn't just the number of European charging points; their power and distribution are also concerns.

Of the half-million points, only 3,600 offer over 350 kW, necessary for quick truck charging, predominantly located in Benelux, leaving Central and Eastern Europe underserved. In 2021, under a thousand electric trucks were registered in Europe, just 0.24% of the total. McKinsey projects this will rise to 4% by 2025 and 37% by 2030, necessitating thousands of new high-power charging points.

McKinley's data, cited by Eurowag, suggests each charging station costs between EUR46,300 and EUR81,025. Despite these costs, manufacturers like Daimler Truck, Traton, and Volvo are investing EUR500 million to develop 1,700 charging points.

Station size and reliability

Besides quantity and power, station size and reliability are crucial. Many are inappropriately sized for trucks, reducing the effective number of stations.

Moreover, a comprehensive database of truck-specific charging points is lacking, and reliability concerns could necessitate advance booking to avoid costly delays. A Shell and Deloitte survey highlighted that 80% of transport sector managers see charging access as a primary barrier to road freight decarbonization, underscoring Eurowag's findings. Tomasz Goralewicz argues that without significant investment, carriers won't risk electric vehicle adoption, vital for the EU's emission reduction goals.

Road transport emits 53% of global trade CO2, with trucks responsible for 70% in Europe.

Eastern EU electrification lags, posing challenges, particularly for Polish carriers, who lead in European road transport and conduct substantial cross-trade between Western nations, similar to Romanian, Lithuanian, and Czech carriers.