The European Parliament has approved a law that will require almost all new trucks sold in 2040 to be zero-emission.

The law aims to help European manufacturers compete with foreign electric truckmakers and is estimated to reduce the annual CO2 emissions from HGVs by 62% by 2050, compared to 1990.

Transport and Environment (T&E) welcomed the move this week. Fedor Unterlohner, T&E freight manager, said: “European truck manufacturers now have a clear roadmap towards producing only zero-emission vehicles.

”EU governments already have charging targets that will enable the transition. Hauliers and the freight industry will have the supply of electric and hydrogen trucks they need to live up to their own climate responsibilities.”

Manufacturers will have to cut the average emissions of new trucks by 45% in 2030, 65% in 2035 and 90% in 2040. From 2035, the targets will also apply to vocational vehicles such as garbage and construction trucks.

Trailer manufacturers will also need to improve the emissions performance of truck trailers by 10% in 2030. By 2030, 90% of new buses will need to be zero-emission, reaching 100% by 2035.

The law also requires the European Commission to look into synthetic fuels for trucks. Under the deal agreed by governments and MEPs, the Commission will assess making a proposal to register heavy-duty vehicles running only on e-fuels within the next year.

Unterlohner warned: “The law agreed is a compromise that gives one of Europe’s biggest polluters a path to go green. Long-term investment certainty has been given to manufacturers which are facing electric competition from foreign rivals. They must not be diverted into dead-end technologies for trucks, such as biofuels and e-fuels, that cannot compete on efficiency and cost.”

Todd Anderson, VP and chief technology officer at fuel and electric systems developer Phinia, argues that alternative e-fuels are necessary for a successful transition away from diesel.

He said: “By passing the law enforcing a 90% reduction in the sales of new CO2-emitting heavy-duty (HD) vehicles from 2040, the EU has set a timer on the development and implementation of alternative fuels and increased expectations on vehicle manufacturers to improve efficiency and reduce emissions.

”To adequately support this move toward HD vehicle carbon reduction, a battery electric vehicle (BEV) approach is challenging due to HD rigorous application demands and continuous operating conditions.

”Rather, a liquified or gaseous high-density fuel offers promising solutions to move toward decarbonizing this vehicle segment. The industry needs short-term solutions to reduce emissions from internal combustion engines (ICE) coupled with long term objectives to utilize low and no-emission fuels.

“At PHINIA, we see hydrogen internal combustion engines (H2ICE) as a strong and viable option to move toward CO2 reduction rapidly. This solution leverages existing industry equipment, assets, production workforce, technicians and even service networks to begin to make a difference in decarbonization now. Having said that, the infrastructure to support a sustainable hydrogen mobility solution still needs extensive development.

“While many are working in a diligent and focused way to increase renewable hydrogen infrastructure capability, we continue to explore other carbon-reducing solutions to ensure ongoing progress towards sustainability goals.

”Using our extensive fuel system technology expertise to increase the efficiency and longevity of existing ICE engines, PHINIA supports the industry by contributing to reduced carbon emissions while ensuring operational continuity in this transition to alternative fuels.”

The Commission is also required to conduct a detailed review of the effectiveness and impact of the new rules by 2027. This review will need to assess, among others, whether to apply the rules to small lorries, the role of a methodology for registering HDVs exclusively running on CO2 neutral fuels and the role that a carbon correction factor could have in the transition towards zero-emission HDVs.

MEP Bas Eickhout (Greens/EFA, NL) said: “The transition towards zero-emission trucks and buses is not only key to meeting our climate targets, but also a crucial driver for cleaner air in our cities. We are providing clarity for one of the major manufacturing industries in Europe and a strong incentive to invest in electrification and hydrogen.”

T&E estimates the EU targets will result in at least 31% of new trucks and buses sold in 2030 being zero-emissions, and more than three-quarters (77%) in 2040.