Europe’s largest truckmakers have pledged to stop selling vehicles that produce emissions by 2040, a decade earlier than originally planned.
An alliance of Daimler, Scania, Man, Volvo, Daf, Iveco and Ford have signed a pledge to phase out traditional combustion engines and focus on hydrogen, battery technology and clean fuels.
The industry will spend about €50bn-€100bn on new technologies, Scania chief executive Henrik Henriksson told the Financial Times, ahead of the pledge announcement.
The truckmakers, under the umbrella of EU carmaker association ACEA, are working with the German funded Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research to consider the best technologies and approaches.
The pledge signed by the chief executives of the truck and van businesses also calls for widespread investment in energy grids and a higher tax on carbon across Europe to help drive the change.
“If we can make this happen, we need to work all together,” said Mr Henriksson, who chairs ACEA’s commercial vehicle board.
The pledge comes as European regulators and governments seek to phase out emissions from road transport.
The EU plans to reduce CO2 emissions by 50 per cent by the end of the decade.
The UK has said it will end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars including hybrids by 2035, and will consult on trying to end the use of diesel lorries.
Professor Johan Rockström, director of the Potsdam Institute, said that freight delivery is one of the most difficult areas to decarbonise.
“It’s the backbone of any society in the world today, but we have to recognise that they are very dependent on the internal combustion engines to transport all the goods of every industry,” he said.
The institute previously helped the seafood industry decarbonise, by working with its largest players to make changes that smaller companies also followed.
While technologies such as battery electric systems work for inner-city delivery vans, long distance haulage vehicles still require diesel because of the need to charge.
Hydrogen, which requires its own refuelling infrastructure network, is expected by the industry to be a more likely solution for the largest long distance trucks, while biofuels are expected to help cut emissions in the shorter term.
Mr Henriksson added: “There is no silver bullet; it won’t be that one technology will rule everything, there will be parallel technologies over time.
“They will come in different paces, but if we sit and wait for the perfect technology to emerge we will burn the planet.”
Any of the changes will require significant investment in either battery charging bays or hydrogen stations, as well as grid upgrades so the network can handle the sudden rush of demand for a fast-charger on a large lorry.
“The basic grid needs to be concentrated so that we can charge at depots and at highways,” said Mr Henriksson. “That is not a big investment, but that needs to happen.”
The group is also calling for a higher carbon tax in the EU, to disincentivise investments into fossil fuel technology.
Mr Henriksson said: “If politicians continue to subsidise fossil fuels, it will be very difficult for us, we need to change behaviour of our customers, and of our customers’ customers.”
He added: “There are pretty hardcore commitments in this, we are sticking out our neck and saying quite a few things we haven’t in the past.”