Electric light commercial vehicles: are they the sleeping giant of e-mobility?

Transport emissions need to be drastically decreased to put Europe on a path towards long-term climate neutrality. Commercial urban freight and last-mile delivery is expected to grow because of the rise of e-commerce. In this frame, electric light commercial vehicles (eLCVs) can be a promising low-emission solution. Literature holistically analyzing the potential of eLCVs as well as related support policies is sparse.

A new paper by the European Commission, Joint Research Centre (JRC), attempts to close this research gap. To this aim, the total cost of ownership (TCO) comparisons for eLCVs and benchmark vehicles are performed and support measures that target the improvement of the eLCV TCO are analyzed. Various eLCV deployment scenarios until 2030 are explored and their impact on carbon dioxide (CO2) and other pollutant emissions, as well as pollutant concentrations, are calculated.

It is found that while in several European Union (EU) countries eLCVs are already cost-competitive, because of fiscal support, some remaining market barriers need to be overcome to pave the way to mass-market deployment of eLCVs. High penetration of eLCVs alone can lead to a reduction in total transport CO2 emissions by more than 3% by 2030. For pollutant emissions, such as nitrogen-oxide (NOx) and particulate matter (PM), the reduction would be equal or even higher. In the case of PM, this can translate to reductions in concentrations by nearly 2% in several urban areas by 2030.

Market barriers for the slow growth in eLCVs

On the financial side, it is possible that the depreciation patterns assumed in this study do not match the buyers’ perspective, due to too little experience with battery life and durability, and second-hand market prices for eLCVs. This gap could be covered by information collection and distribution, and possibly by initial financial incentives for eLCVs and other zero-emission options or higher taxes for polluting vehicles until a second-hand market establishes.

Secondly, non-financial market barriers could hamper the present uptake of eLCVs: be it that ranges of eLCVs are, in fact, or according to the perception of buyers, inadequate for the given use patterns, or the recharging infrastructure is not yet fully deployed; be it that eLCV model choice, though increasing, does not yet fully cover clients’ needs. Incentives, as well as infrastructure support, thus seem justified initially to help establish a market and reduce uncertainty.

Last but not least, as eLCVs differ from ePCs in terms of vehicle type, operational requirements, and buyers’ choice criteria, developing policy measures and appropriate regulation for eLCVs seems to be necessary. One example of such need refers to the weight limits imposed on EU category B driving licenses, which might exclude the use of larger eLCVs carrying more battery weight under standard licenses and such weight limits should be reconsidered.

Fiscal incentives and support measures stimulating EV demand in the EU MSs need to be harmonized to avoid market fragmentation and promote more EVs EU-wide on the road. A well-designed and carefully tailored fiscal and regulatory framework would be beneficial. It should be noted that there are also similarities between LCVs and PCs, as many of the available models are based on vehicle architectures that enable PC and LCV versions. For the case of eLCVs and ePCs this has obvious advantages for recharging infrastructure compatibility. More publicly accessible recharging points can also have a favorable effect on the deployment of eLCVs.

OEMs and TCO

Further R&I efforts are needed in the field of transport electrification with a potential impact on the LCV segment in order to improve eLCV performance and reduce the TCO. Further investment on the LCV segment by the European car manufacturers would have a positive effect on mass eLCV uptake since they are leading global players in LDV and industries and their respective supply chains. In conclusion, eLCVs have a very big potential in Europe and can significantly contribute to the reduction of transport emissions and dependence on fossil fuels.

Carefully designed support policies could help to ensure that the potential of eLCVs as a low-emission alternative is fully leveraged in the EU.

Source: EU JRC


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