Are EU countries prepared for the electrification of road transport?

Despite EU plans to decarbonise transport and reduce CO2 emissions, most member countries are not adequately prepared for the widespread adoption of electric heavy transport, according to a report by Eurowag. The main issue lies in the insufficient charging infrastructure, with the number of charging points representing just the tip of the iceberg.

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The readiness index for European countries concerning the electrification of heavy transport, as prepared by Eurowag, is dominated by Scandinavian and affluent Western European nations. Norway leads the pack as the best-prepared country on the continent, followed by the Netherlands and Switzerland. The top ten also includes Sweden, Germany, Denmark, Austria, Belgium, Italy, and Portugal.

This index evaluates various parameters, such as the number of vehicle charging points, including those exceeding 350 kW, the percentage of electric cars and trucks in the total fleet, and the existence of legislation promoting electrification. Progress within each parameter is categorised as Good, Moderate, or Limited.

Unfortunately, Central and Eastern European countries lag significantly behind in their preparations for the electrification of road transport. Hungary ranks highest in our region, securing the 16th spot. Lithuania and Slovakia also made it into the second tier, occupying the 19th and 20th positions, respectively. Poland stands at 22nd place on this list, just behind the Czech Republic.

Poland scored 28 points, while Norway boasts a score of 68 points for comparison. Poland’s low rating is attributed to the lack of implemented regulations facilitating electrification and the absence of classification regarding the share of electric trucks in the total truck fleet, which is the largest in Europe. Progress in terms of charging points (including those exceeding 350 kW) and the number of electric trucks is assessed as average.

Despite relatively high ratings at the top of the ranking, the electrification of heavy transport is still in its infancy across Europe, especially in the eastern part of the continent.

Infrastructure Challenges

One of the primary obstacles to the electrification of heavy transport in the EU is the inadequate number of charging points for electric vehicles. According to Eurowag experts, the current infrastructure fails to meet the needs and expectations of those looking to introduce a greater number of electric vehicles into their fleets.

As of 2022, Europe had nearly half a million publicly available electric car chargers, with half of them concentrated in three Western European countries: the Netherlands (114,000 points), Germany (84,000), and France (81,000). However, from the perspective of truck transport requirements, the majority of these points are not sufficiently effective.

Tomasz Góralewicz, Sales Excellence Manager at Eurowag Polska, highlights that the number of charging stations isn’t the only crucial factor; their power and quality are equally important. For instance, to fully charge an electric truck battery with an average capacity of 400 kWh during a 45-minute break, the charger would need a power of 750 kW or higher. Insufficient capacity charging would lead to significant delays in charging electric trucks on the road.

Beyond Quantity

The issue with charging points extends beyond their sheer number in Europe. Simply increasing their quantity won’t expedite or simplify the electrification process for heavy transport. Although Europe boasts half a million electric charging points, only 3.6 thousand of them have a power exceeding 350 kW, necessary for rapidly and effectively charging truck batteries. Their distribution across the continent is highly uneven, with the majority situated in the Benelux region, leaving Central and Eastern Europe lacking in this regard. Additionally, the lack of a database specifically for electric truck charging points exacerbates the challenge.

Furthermore, the reliability and size of charging stations are crucial factors, especially considering that many truck chargers are incompatible with the size of trucks, resulting in fewer points suitable for heavy transport vehicles.

A Shell and Deloitte study conducted in 2021 revealed that 80% of transport sector managers surveyed identified the lack of access to electric vehicle charging as the primary obstacle to decarbonising road freight.

Addressing Challenges

Tomasz Góralewicz emphasises that carriers won’t invest in electric vehicles without the assurance of adequate refuelling or charging infrastructure. He underscores that transitioning towards emission-free transport will require massive, multi-billion investments.

The decarbonization of heavy transport is imperative given the EU’s objectives to reduce CO2 emissions, with road transport accounting for 53% of CO2 emissions in global trade, and trucks responsible for 70% of carbon dioxide emissions from transport in Europe.

The shortcomings in electrification in the eastern part of the EU poses a significant challenge, especially considering that Polish carriers lead road transport in Europe and handle a substantial portion of transport between Western countries through cross-trade. Carriers from Romania, Lithuania, and the Czech Republic also play vital roles in European international transport.