E-mailadress Password Forgotten your password?

The electrification of road freight transport

When the electrification of road transport is discussed, the focus of the public debate is usually on car transport. But what about road freight transport? Around a third of the CO2 emissions on Germany's roads are caused by trucks.

The good news is: All major commercial vehicle manufacturers have announced battery-powered truck models for the next few years. And these should not only be used on short-haul routes, but also on long-haul routes in Germany and Europe. In order to be able to cover these routes, an appropriate charging infrastructure must be set up very quickly.

Who is responsible for this huge task? The Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport (BMDV) is in charge. On his behalf, the National Charging Infrastructure Control Center (located under the umbrella of the federally owned NOW GmbH) coordinates the activities for the development and expansion of the charging infrastructure in Germany.

The path to zero-emission logistics

The “Overall concept for climate-friendly commercial vehicles – With alternative drives on the way to zero-emission logistics on the road” from November 2020 is the basis for a huge task. This document lists the measures designed to achieve the government's objectives in vehicle promotion, management of infrastructure development and creation of the regulatory framework.

The federal government has also put together a “Charging Infrastructure II” master plan, which summarizes a package of measures, particularly for developing charging infrastructure for heavy commercial vehicles. The establishment of a fast-charging network on long-distance routes and support for the development of the truck charging infrastructure in logistics hubs and depots play a central role.

Charging scenarios: Where do electric commercial vehicles charge?

Trucks and cars differ in terms of how their routes can be planned. Cars have a much more mixed use: you drive them to work, but also to go shopping or take a short trip at the weekend. Additional routes are added during vacation. Truck routes, on the other hand, are much more clearly structured. Most use takes place on relatively fixed routes where there are fixed points for legally stipulated breaks.

On the basis of these easily understandable movement profiles, the charging profile of trucks can be planned better than of cars, which, for example, require many charging stations on the side of the road and in parking and rest areas in public spaces. Commercial vehicles, on the other hand, only need three places to charge: at night in the depot, during loading and unloading in logistics centers or at rest areas on the motorway. The planning is based on precisely this profile in order to enable a robust charging infrastructure for trucks.

In contrast to cars, which often travel on short distances (60 percent of private car traffic is between 0 and 10 km), and as a result, the charging stations in local areas have to bear the brunt of charging with electricity and with the increase As the number of electric vehicles grows, it is necessary to provide an appropriate charging infrastructure for commercial vehicles before the electric fleets are set up.

Combined Charging Standard (CCS) vs. Megawatt Charging System (MCS)

The publicly accessible charging points on the motorways should use those with Combined Charging Standard (CCS) and Megawatt Charging System (MCS). The basis for this is that a truck driver must take a legally prescribed break of 45 minutes after 4.5 hours of driving at the latest. This time can be well used to supply the truck with enough power to be able to drive for at least another 4.5 hours (i.e. around 500 km on the highway). The charging power of the CCS charging stations is not sufficient for heavy commercial vehicles. Because these only manage around 500 kilowatts during breaks, the charging capacity at MCS, on the other hand, is just under four megawatts.

Demand planning for the e-truck charging infrastructure must determine exactly how many public CCS and MCS charging stations there must be along the highway to provide the minimum required network for the starting point of widespread e-truck deployment. It is also determined how many charging points with what power there must be on company premises.

In parallel to these plans, truck manufacturers are ensuring that MCS-capable vehicles come onto the market from next year, because only these are actually suitable for long-distance journeys.

Expansion of the charging infrastructure on the trans-European transport corridors

For Germany alone, the development and expansion of the charging infrastructure for trucks is an extremely challenging project, but this is even greater on a Europe-wide level because long-distance transport does not end at the national borders.

The expansion of the so-called trans-European transport corridors, which run from north to south and east to west across Europe, plays a key role here. The distances between the charging points on the highly frequented lines should be around 20 to 30 kilometers. On less heavily used trunk roads, distances of 50 kilometers should be sufficient. A conservative estimate by the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research assumes that at least 4,000 MCS charging stations will have to be available at around 1,700 locations in Europe by 2030.

Load management: midday is the best loading time

Another aspect that must be taken into account when electrifying road freight transport is load management. However, people here are optimistic that the electric trucks can even relieve the strain on the networks because they are mainly recharged at lunchtime. This is the time when the most solar energy is available.

If the electrification of road freight transport progresses quickly, enormous amounts of CO₂ can be avoided in just a few years.

Back to the news overview