Audio description: Laetitia Dablanc and Tom Norbech

Electric freight transport grows despite extreme competition

​The topics ranged from electric aircraft to city planning at Chalmers Initiative Seminar on electromobility, 13 September. We had a few words with speakers Laetitia Dablanc and Tom Nørbech about the development of electric freight transport in France and Norway.
​Norway is well known for its large share of electric passenger cars. Over the last few years, the country has also taken the lead in electric ferries. In 2022 the country will have between 70 and 80 hybrid or battery electric ferries, according to Tom Nørbech, senior advisor at the Norwegian Public Roads Administration.
 
However, the development for freight vehicles does not look as positive. The market share for this type of vehicles is only two percent, while the corresponding figure for electric passenger cars is 25 percent. How can this be?
 

Slow but steady increase

“One reason is that until now only the smallest freight vehicles have come into mass production, so the comparison is not totally fair”, explains Tom Nørbech.
The high sale of electric vehicles in Norway can to a large part be explained by tax exemptions that apply to conventional private vehicles. Such a tax exemption would have little effect on commercial vehicles where taxes are already low, according to Tom Nørbech. Still, the number of freight vehicles is growing in Norway, but at a slower pace than passenger cars.
 
“The smallest freight vehicles have increased from 4.5 percent of sales in their vehicle segment in 2013 to 10.5 percent in 2017”, he says.
 

An extremely competitive market

“Freight operators have been reluctant to switch to electric”, comments Laetitia Dablanc. She is professor at University Paris-East, French Institute of Science and Technology for Transport, Development and Networks, and visiting professor at the University of Gothenburg.
 
“Freight businesses are afraid of the changes involved if they switch to electric, training staff and implementing charging stations for example”, she says, and points out that the urban freight industry is extremely competitive, with low margins, and mostly short-term concerns.
 

Better batteries push the development forward

Audio description: Laetitia DablancAt the seminar, Laetitia Dablanc presented the results of a recent study of the challenges for electromobility in urban freight, using France as a case study. The study was made by PhD candidate P. Camilleri and will be published later this year.
 
“Our scenarios show that, when taking the main current operating constraints faced by urban freight companies in France into account, the realistic market share for electromobility for this market is about 13 percent by 2032”, she says. “It is both very little, compared to politicians’ declared objectives in many cities, and not so bad, when thinking about the complexity of the freight delivery business today.”
 
According to Laetitia Dablanc, we can expect a slow but steady uptake of electric freight vehicles in Europe in general. A continuous progress in battery range in combination with an increased variety of e-vans and government incentives such as subsidies, tax or traffic advantages is pushing the development forward in most European countries. Large companies such as UPS or DHL also increasingly require from their urban contractors to enhance the share of environmentally-friendly operations.

Text and photo: Emilia Lundgren and Ann-Christine Nordin
 
FURTHER READING

The study results from P. Camilleri will be made public after 26 October 2018, and will then be available from laetitia.dablanc@ifsttar.fr

Previous publication: Camilleri, P., Dablanc, L. (2017) An assessment of present and future competitiveness of electric commercial vans, Journal of Earth Sciences and Geotechnical Engineering. Vol 7(1), p. 337-364.

Published: Tue 18 Sep 2018. Modified: Fri 21 Sep 2018