A research paper by Stockholm Environmental Institute reveals that electric trucks can replace diesel trucks with improvement in charging infrastructure

India’s transport sector accounts for about 7.5% of its carbon emissions, around 90% of which comes from road transport like private and commercial vehicles, buses and heavy trucks. By 2040, India aims to add an extra 5 million trucks and 300 million vehicles of all types to its roads, doubling its transport energy use and significantly increasing carbon emissions and air pollution.

India recognizes the need to transition its transport sector towards renewables, and has therefore made strong commitments towards an electric mobility future. As per aspirations defined by the NITI Aayog, by 2030, India hopes to achieve electrification of 70% of all commercial cars, 30% of private cars, 40% buses and 80% two and three wheelers.

However, replacing diesel freight trucks with heavy battery electric trucks rarely feature in discussions of electric mobility, as it is widely believed that they have a small role to play. This is because electric trucks cannot as of now compete with diesel trucks when it comes to long distance driving, and high costs of heavy batteries make them an expensive investment.

But this could change sooner than expected! A recent study by the Stockholm Environmental Institute evaluated costs, energy consumption and battery pack mass for electric trucks. It concluded that if electric trucks can be fast charged in the same way as personal electric vehicles, their required range is dramatically reduced and widespread electrification becomes much more a reality. With short range and more frequent charging, savings from electrification become more than the cost of electrification, thereby improving the competitiveness of battery electric trucks compared to diesel.

Further, the study highlights that heavy electric trucks were once considered less competitive than light electric trucks due to the costs of battery and lifetime of the battery pack. However, as battery technology rapidly develops, it improves the economic feasibility of heavy battery electric trucks. India is making significant investments in charging infrastructure for electric vehicles. This means that fast charging options will become widely available across the country. In light of these new findings, India can consider phasing out its diesel freight trucks with heavy battery electric trucks.