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Three large transport companies will work together on the development of a European charging network for “battery-electric heavy-duty long-distance trucks and coaches”.
In a joint announcement earlier this week, Volvo, Daimler Truck and the Traton Group announced that they had signed a non-binding agreement to install and operate the network. The aim is to found a joint venture in which all three companies have an equal share and whose operation is to begin in 2022.
Together, the companies want to invest 500 million euros (around 593 million US dollars) in the joint venture based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
Within five years of the establishment of the JV, at least 1,700 “green charging points” should be installed and functional. According to the companies, the technology should be “close to motorways as well as to logistics and destination points”.
“The number of charging points is to be increased significantly over time through the search for further partners and through public funding,” they added.
Changes are imminent, but challenges lie ahead
In April, the International Energy Agency announced that the number of electric cars, buses, vans and heavy trucks on the roads around the world 145 million people are to be reached by 2030.
According to the Paris-based organization, the global electric vehicle fleet could grow even further if governments step up efforts to meet international energy and climate goals, reaching 230 million by the end of the decade. Both projections exclude two- and three-wheel electric vehicles.
As the number of electric vehicles on our roads increases, extensive charging networks must be set up for all types of vehicles to meet increased demand and to address lingering concerns about “range anxiety” – the notion that electric vehicles cannot make long journeys without losing power and get stranded.
The electrification of heavy trucks and coaches in long-distance transport poses particular challenges. As the IEA’s Global EV Outlook for 2021 states, “Long-haul transportation requires advanced technologies for high-power charging and / or large batteries”.
In a conversation with CNBC’s Squawk Box Europe on Wednesday, Lars Stenqvist, Volvo’s Chief Technology Officer, tried to explain why a charging network is needed for heavy-duty vehicles.
“At the moment we manufacture and sell electric heavy-duty trucks mainly for garbage, for urban use,” he said. “And these vehicles usually come home to their ‘base camp’ every night to recharge.”
Stenqvist said the next step in the journey will be regional and long-haul applications.
“Then you are dependent on … [getting] the pan-European charging network is in place and at the moment it is a bit [a] Chicken and egg discussion because there are no vehicles and … no infrastructure. But if there is no infrastructure, there will be no vehicles. “
Regarding how the project worked on site, Stenqvist stated that it would be a “public, open network” – so any brand can charge their vehicles on this network.
Later in the discussion, Stenqvist emphasized the importance of differentiating between vehicles. “We are talking about really powerful chargers and that is one of the reasons why we do not and cannot use the car charging network … not from a performance point of view and of course also not from a … layout perspective.”