Transport scale-up, Volta Trucks, builds electric trucks for sustainable cities. Its zero emission powertrains eliminate harmful pollution that causes climate change. Duncan Forrester, Chief Communications Officer at Volta Trucks, talks about the company’s reaction to the UK Transport Decarbonisation Plan and how big companies are using technology to change their fleet to electric.
The highly anticipated UK Transport Decarbonisation Plan, a blueprint to reduce the sector’s CO2 emissions to net zero, was published by the Department for Transport in late July. Among the plan’s initiatives, the government announced a ban on the sale of new diesel trucks under 26 tonnes by 2035, and 2040 for those above. The target was met by mixed reactions from environmental and industry stakeholders, with some praising its intent and others doubting its deliverability.
Volta Trucks believes that the UK Government should aspire to set more aggressive targets in the race to decarbonise transport. This is particularly important as the UK looks to demonstrate global leadership in the run-up to the COP26 United Nations Climate Change Conference, which it’ll host in Glasgow this November.
Chief Executive Officer of Volta Trucks, Essa Al-Saleh, said; “The publication of the UK Government’s Transport Decarbonisation Plan is welcome because it gives British fleet operators and buyers a level of certainty that didn’t previously exist. That said, the ban on internal combustion engine trucks by 2040 is nearly 20 years away, and today’s climate emergency cannot wait.”
Climate and emissions pressure
Following the publication of the Transport Decarbonisation Plan, two further renowned organisations published their own conclusions, re-confirming the need to reduce carbon emissions urgently. The Royal Meteorological Society published its State of the UK Climate report, stating that climate change is with us now, and that the impacts from extreme weather events are already being felt by those in UK cities. And more recently, the IPCC issued its ‘code red for humanity’, setting out the stark reality of the state of the planet and confirming that human influence is 90% responsible for climate change consequences.
Surface transport, which covers goods and people moved by road, sea or rail, is the largest carbon emitting sector of the British economy, according to the UK government’s own climate advisory body, the Climate Change Committee, accounting for 23% of the UK’s total emissions in 2019. Within this mix, although trucks represent under 2% of road vehicles, they are responsible for a disproportionate 22% of CO2 emissions and as the sales of passenger EVs continue to rise, the relative share of truck emissions will naturally increase. As the transition to electrified passenger cars popularises therefore, the challenge to electrify trucks will intensify.
The customers are coming
This is a challenge which shows promising resolve thanks to market forces working for the greener good. Corporate sustainability agendas are changing priorities in business operations and supply chains, creating positive pressure on the phase-out of combustion trucks before the 2040 UK government deadline.
Leading UK delivery and logistics companies, including DPD, are pushing ahead with zero emissions fleets in cities such as Oxford. DPD have recently announced that its entire Oxford-based fleet operates on batteries. While currently focused on the 3.5 tonne vehicle segment, it’s clear that such logistics companies are pushing ahead with the electrification of their fleets. In turn, these businesses are experiencing an increase in the demand for sustainable and zero emission vehicles from their clients.
The charging infrastructure needed for delivering the shift away from the internal combustion engine is coming. In the UK, we’ve seen progressive moves from companies such as Pivot Power, part of EDF Renewables, bringing large battery storage projects, connected directly to the transmission system, and providing the electricity capacity for large-scale electric vehicle charging infrastructure throughout the UK.
Graeme Cooper, Head of Future Markets – Transport Decarbonisation at the National Grid, said: “After car and vans, HGVs are the highest emitter, so it is essential that there is a clear plan to reduce emissions with clear targets and milestones both nationally and locally, including a target date for ending the sale of diesel HGVs. While there is uncertainty as to which mix of technologies is best for clean HGVs, there are some necessary actions that can be taken now, such as investing in energy infrastructure ahead of need and aligning investment with other transport sectors such as the EV rapid charging network.”
Focusing shifting from cars to trucks
It’s undeniable that a more progressive policy timeline in relation to electric passenger cars has delivered an accelerated take-up of sustainable passenger vehicles. 2030 sees the deadline for the end-of-sale of new combustion and diesel cars, 10 years ahead of the proposed heavy trucks target. This has sent a powerful market signal, driving the EV passenger sector forward. Sales figures clearly demonstrate this, with pure-electric sales in the UK up by 185.9% in 2020 versus 2019.
According to The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), so far in 2021, 6.9% of new car sales in the UK have been BEVs, which represents 6,260 vehicles, up from 2.7% in 2020. This currently represents a growth rate of 54.4% versus 2020, but with data from September registrations due, we could be very well looking at a much bigger market share come end of year.
The industry is ready
Volta Trucks has rapidly transitioned from start-up to scale-up and is preparing to deliver on the demand which looks to rapidly accelerate the shift away from diesel trucks. Volta Trucks is clear: the truck OEM sector is strategically poised to meet more rigorous policy targets, with electric trucks now rolling off the production lines, and on to European roads.
As well as meeting climate change targets, Volta Trucks commits to also bring clean air to global cities. At the centre of this purpose is the commitment to their human-centric philosophy: ‘Electric trucks for sustainable cities, with people at the heart of everything we do.’
With external forces acting at pace to deliver on decarbonisation, we can also see the Environmental Social Governance (ESG) and shareholder communities pushing hard for zero emission trucks.
Graeme Cooper, also commented that shareholder, environmental, social and governance pressure may force the end of the sector, ahead of the UK government’s 2040 deadline; “Driven by ESG/shareholder sentiment, we could see the market move significantly faster than the enforced backstop date.”
External forces from the environmental, social and governance community, shareholder pressure and customers are all heavy-weight forces that are likely to drive change ahead of the deadline outlined in the UK government.
Dynamic and disruptive OEM entrants, including Volta Trucks are offering solutions now. In addition, major fleet buyers including the likes of DPD are influencing the market and leading by example through transitioning to electric now.
Electric trucks are a tool, not only to deliver goods, but to deliver change, and decarbonisation. As such, Volta Trucks calls on global policy makers to be more ambitious in setting targets to phase out diesel, in favour of sustainable and people-centric solutions.