Opinion

Plenty of Bumps in the Road

plenty of bumps in the road

As we move through to the brave new world of lower carbon emission trucks, there are going to be plenty of bumps in the road, which will make the transition, both difficult and expensive.

At the same time as the politicians are making declarations about how we are going to achieve carbon zero, and at what point and how the process will play out, there are also concerns about how exactly the process is likely to play out and how much it is going to cost the economy. There is also a quandary about which technology to back in each situation.

At the moment, a lot of the discussions and research into the implications of the low carbon transition are taking place in the headquarters of the big corporations who are, at this moment, planning how to make the transition and how they can afford it.

A truck making executive is quoted by The Economist, as saying that moving truck manufacturing to an all electric world would “right off seven or eight years of profit”. The problem is worse at the heavier end of the truck market, as the transition development costs become astronomical. As a result of these issues, we have seen a lot of joint ventures between the major truck manufactures of the world in order to spread those research and development costs across a wider number of entities.

There are issues around infrastructure and charging capability for electric trucks, plus realistic production of green hydrogen to meet the requirements of road transport industry, which will be using large amounts of these fuels to move the heavier loads.

Even in Europe, where they are normally forward thinking and way ahead of us down the development path, they are looking at investment targets well over $40 billion in order to create some form of refuelling or recharging network in Europe.

At the same time, the large global conglomerates are making plans to drastically cut emissions with FedEx, setting a target to have half of its parcel delivery fleet to be electric by 2025 and DHL setting a target of 60 per cent by 2030. Amazon is saying that it currently has 10,000 electric vans and hopes to reach 100,000 by 2030.

This may look good on reports and presentations, but as we have found out in the recent years industry development can be stifled by supply chain issues and shortages of particular materials, like minerals needed for the modern electric systems.

At the same time very little education is happening at the technical level to ensure that we have sufficient technical expertise to run a trucking industry which is moving towards zero emissions. New skill sets will be needed, new qualifications will also be required when working with volatile gases and 600V electrical systems.

At the moment, the situation seems to be one where government are putting out aspirational targets and large corporations are presenting us with their overall plan to reach the targets being set, but there is very little activity in the background. There is nothing about ensuring that there will be a consistent development of infrastructure to make a zero carbon road transport system work. 

Although the major truck manufacturers are now coming out with vehicles which could make those zero carbon goals, the cost of investing in the new technology is still prohibitive and the cost of any future government subsidies to encourage the take up of zero carbon trucks is going to hurt government spending aspirations.

 

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