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21.06.2024 10:00

Zero-emission trucks: Declining costs imply fast market diffusion

Anne-Catherine Jung Pressestelle
Fraunhofer-Institut für System- und Innovationsforschung (ISI)

    A new Fraunhofer ISI study analysed future cost developments for price-setting components of zero-emission trucks from more than 200 sources. The study findings show that zero-emission trucks will benefit from rapidly falling costs of batteries and fuel cells, which will enable their fast market diffusion and help to achieve national and international climate policy targets. With battery-electric trucks as currently most promising and cost-effective zero-emission technology for most use cases, industry and policy must prepare with respect to their manufacturing, comprehensive charging infrastructure, electricity grid expansion, and regulation.

    Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from road transport requires a fast transition to zero-emission trucks. However, there is still much uncertainty about the speed of this transition and an active debate about different measures and technological pathways, particularly about the upcoming electric truck battle: batteries versus hydrogen fuel cells. Infrastructure rollouts, grid expansions, CO2 reduction regulation, or potential subsidies will require significant time and budgets – which truck manufacturers or the industry also need to adapt their product portfolio. However, technological uncertainty should not delay action and investment decisions in new technologies. To accelerate the transition while limiting public spending, questions of prioritising financial support for promising technologies arise, especially when transitioning from R&D funding to commercialisation, which is associated with significantly higher expenditures.

    Analysis of future cost developments for price-setting components of zero-emission trucks

    To shed some light on these questions, researchers at Fraunhofer ISI conducted a study – recently published in Nature Energy – that derives future cost developments for price-setting components of zero-emission trucks, centered on batteries and fuel cells. Different cost expectations related to the literature sources, from near-market to scientific, were analysed and discussed with respect to stability, temporal progress, and level of ambition. Finally, the cost developments were compared to technology breakthrough costs and incorporated into a total cost of ownership (TCO) framework to assess the cost-effectiveness of battery-electric trucks and fuel cell trucks versus diesel trucks for 2020, 2030, and 2040.

    Costs of battery and fuel cell systems will decline faster than expected

    The findings show that battery and fuel cell system costs for zero-emission trucks are primed to decline much faster than expected in previous studies, projecting battery costs to cut 200 EUR/kWh soon and approach 100 EUR/kWh towards the late 2040s. Likewise, fuel cell costs will likely reach 150 EUR/kW in the late 2030s, albeit with greater uncertainty due to lower commercial maturity and doubts about realizing floor costs. The analysis stresses the challenge of achieving ambitious learning rates and cost reductions for both technologies, and discusses necessary actions to realize these in practice.

    Battery-electric trucks are very likely the most promising pathway for achieving cost parity with diesel trucks. They may also require less financial incentives than fuel cell trucks, which will likely struggle from high hydrogen prices and scarcity. Thus, prospects for battery-electric trucks as leading future truck technology seem more favourable at higher confidence, with faster availability and higher profitability. Additionally, other studies indicate that their technical competitiveness with diesel trucks - in terms of required ranges or payload - has been reached or is close for most logistics use cases. Fuel cell trucks may prove as a complementary technology for hard-to-electrify and specialised transport applications, particularly if backed by the ample availability of hydrogen for other sectors. Thus, public support for R&D and trials of fuel cell trucks remains advisable.

    Production facility and charging infrastructure investments are needed to boost the market diffusion of battery-electric trucks

    Steffen Link, main author of the study, derives the following policy recommendations from these results: »Our findings underline that zero-emission truck costs are expected to decline substantially and due in course, implying a need for establishing large-scale production facilities to boost their market diffusion. Our analysis and latest advances show that battery-electric trucks can be expected to reach cost parity and technical competitiveness with diesel trucks in due course, requiring only short-term policy incentives. Prioritised support for battery-electric trucks as most likely primary technology is a no-regret policy that will leverage limited public budgets, guide the market, and reduce uncertainties, which is essential for a fast transition. Electricity grids and charging infrastructure must be prepared soon to avoid delays in the deployment of battery-electric trucks, which requires immediate investments.«

    Wissenschaftliche Ansprechpartner:

    Steffen Link
    Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter
    Telefon +49 721 6809-571


    Nature-Policy Brief »Declining costs imply fast market uptake of zero-emission trucks«:

    Nature Energy-Artikel »Rapidly declining costs of truck batteries and fuel cells enable large-scale road freight electrification«:


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    Energie, Politik, Umwelt / Ökologie, Verkehr / Transport
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