The UK's zero emission HGV market is "shackled" by the absence of a charging infrastructure, the lack of a national roll-out plan and the absence of effective incentives for operators, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) warned today (18 April).

The SMMT said that unless the the UK government acts urgently to ensure the rapid roll-out of public HGV-dedicated charging and hydrogen filling points across Britain’s roads it will fail to unlock operator investment.

The warning comes as research by the SMMT reveals that Britain’s strategic road network has not a single HGV-dedicated electric charging or hydrogen filling point.

SMMT is urging the government to match its bold plan to ban the sale of new diesel trucks by 2040 with an equally bold plan to deliver the HGV charging infrastructure and provide operator incentives and investment.

It also wants the government to develop this strategy within the next 12 months, warning that the 2035 ban on the sale of new diesel trucks leaves many operators with just one full eight-year cycle of fleet renewal to make the transition.

Without this government strategy SMMT warned that the current lack of infrastructure will continue to act as a serious impediment to the "vast majority" of operators considering investing in zero emission trucks.

It points to the lack of zero emission trucks on the UKs road to date as evidence, with just one in 600 trucks on the UK's roads being zero emission, despite HGV manufacturers investing heavily in developing electric and hydrogen powered trucks.

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SMMT also wants the expansion of the HGV charging infrastructure to be matched to wider support for HGV operators.

It said: "Given the unavoidably higher costs of zero emission vehicles and the necessary depot investments, operators whose businesses are run on tight margins and pence per mile calculations need to be incentivised to make the switch."

It also warns that the UK is already behind many other countries in this regard with just eight of the 20 zero emission truck models on the market eligible for the Plug-in Truck Grant.

It points out that other countries, including France and Finland, provide up to triple the sum available to UK operators.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “With just over a decade until the UK begins to phase out new diesel trucks, we cannot afford to delay a strategy that will deliver the world’s first decarbonised HGV sector.

"Manufacturers are investing billions in electric and hydrogen vehicles that will deliver massive CO2 savings, and it is vital that operators making long-term decisions today have full confidence in these technologies, that they will be commercially viable and allow them to keep costs down for consumers.

"A successful transition requires a long-term plan to drive the rollout of a dedicated UK-wide HGV charging and fuelling network, combined with world-leading incentives to encourage uptake and attract model allocation – a plan that will keep a greener Britain on the move and globally competitive.”

The SMMT’s key recommendations are:

  • Suitable funding commitments to HGV decarbonisation
  • Competitive purchase incentives for zero emission trucks
  • A national plan for installing depot infrastructure
  • Deliver critical public and en-route infrastructure
  • A dedicated HGV infrastructure