VehiclesLorry - Electric and HybridSelecting an Electric Lorry or Hybrid Lorry

Selecting an Electric Lorry or Hybrid Lorry

Ultra low emission cars and vans are proving a steadily more tempting option for fleet operators thanks to their tax benefits, efficiency gains and appeal to eco-conscious consumers. But where do electric lorries stand?

Electric or hybrid lorries and HGVs are very much in their infancy compared to other, smaller modes of transport. This is largely due to issues designing batteries strong enough to power a multi-tonne heavy goods vehicle over a worthwhile distance.

That said, you do have options here. And, depending on what you need your lorries to do, going low emission could be a great move for your business.

Because electric lorry technology is so new at the moment, we’ll share a bit more about where the market’s at below, before discussing what you need to know when selecting ultra-low emission lorries for your fleet.

Ultra-Low Emission Lorries: Is it Crunch Time For HGV Operators and Manufacturers?

There’s no argument that in the very near future, HGVs are going to need to emit drastically less CO2.

As countries pursue steadily more ambitious emissions targets, global policymakers implement more green air zones and regulators clamp down on diesel use, pressure is mounting on the freight and haulage industry to find cleaner ways of powering their fleets.

For example, lorries will need at least hybrid engines to meet 2025 EU climate targets. Compared to diesel, this would see levels of NOx and soot decline by 92% and 88% respectively, with a 15% reduction in CO2 emissions from the exhaust pipe.

There are three ways HGV manufacturers are looking to achieve this reduction in emissions:

  • Hybrid engines, which run an electric motor alongside an internal combustion engine to increase efficiency and reduce fuel consumption
  • Fully electric engines, which run off a rechargeable battery
  • Hydrogen propulsion, which uses rechargeable hydrogen-powered fuel cells to power an electric motor

Until fairly recently, it looked like hydrogen-powered HGVs were the way forward because of issues designing viable batteries. Now, however, with a number of electric lorries on the market and plenty more in production, purely electric vehicles could be a more viable option than first thought.

What Sort of Electric and Hybrid Lorries Can I Purchase Now?

There is a range of ultra-low emission HGVs ready for purchase right now. It’s not as extensive as the market for electric cars or vans, but it is set to grow rapidly.

What Range Do Electric Lorries Offer At the Moment?

Right now, most electric lorries will offer a comfortable real-world range of 90-150 miles – about the same as a smaller electric van. Volvo’s electric semi truck, for example, does 150 miles and is available for purchase currently.

Obviously, this range makes them significantly more suitable for short-haul and last-mile delivery services than any long-haul needs. And, with current charging times of around two hours (using a rapid charging point) or eleven hours (using a home or workplace charger), it’s not viable to stop along your route for a quick recharge.

That said, there is a lot of movement in the space expected towards the end of 2021:

  • The Tesla Semi: first announced in 2017, Tesla’s most ambitious project to date has been on hold until they can make enough of the lithium-ion batteries themselves – current estimates cite the end of 2021 as a first delivery date. Tesla claims these trucks can last 500 miles without a charge, and are also working on high-speed charging infrastructure to accompany them.
  • Nikola Motors has announced three HGV models, Nikola One, Two and Three. Each will be available with either electric motor or hydrogen fuel cell capability, and have an anticipated range of 500-700 miles. Production is planned to start in 2021.
  • Daimler has announced that both its 18-wheeler Freightliner eCascadia and its smaller electric model, the Freightliner eM2 106, will start production in late 2021. The vehicles have ranges of 250 miles and 230 miles respectively.

So, if you’re desperate to cut your emissions but need a vehicle with a longer range, you have two options:

  • Wait a little longer to replace your fleet and go full electric
  • Get the ball rolling now but opt for a hybrid model

Hybrid models are available from a few major retailers, including Scania, Mercedes and Renault. These allow you to achieve a significant reduction in emissions without the range limitations that fully electric vehicles currently impose.

What Purchase Options Are There For Electric and Hybrid Lorries?

Fleet operators can either buy electric/hybrid HGVs outright, or lease them from the manufacturer.

Taking leasing one step further, there are some manufacturers who offer a more involved ‘Trucks as a Service’ model for leasing. For example, as well as leasing the lorries themselves, electric truck pioneers Volta Truck will take care of electrical supply and infrastructure, training and maintenance for a recurring fee.

How Much Do Electric and Hybrid Lorries Cost?

When selecting ultra-low emission lorries for your fleet, you need to consider:

  • The upfront cost of the vehicle (or recurring payment, for leasing options)
  • The maintenance cost for each lorry
  • Electricity for regular charging
  • The amount of tax you’ll need to pay

Currently battery prices are on a downward trend. According to some estimates, this could make electric trucks nearly 50% cheaper to own than diesel-based models in the near future.

When calculating the cost of electric and hybrid lorries, you also need to bear in mind the tax incentives provided by the UK Government. You can read about these in our in-depth review of financial incentives, but at a glance, these benefits include:

  • Exemption from the Congestion Charge – one to watch as clean air zones become increasingly common across the country.
  • A deduction of 20% of the vehicle purchase price (capped at £16,000) available on select ultra-low emissions lorries on the Government-approved list.
  • A voucher-based Workplace Charging Scheme, which offers businesses discounts on purchasing and setup of electric vehicle charging infrastructure.
  • A massive 130% capital allowance deduction on the purchase of new vans and HGVs. This could result in savings of 25p in every £1.

Written by

Mark Hodgson
Mark Hodgson
Mark Hodgson is one of our expert writers. Mark is our lead researcher and editor who writes our main guides and expert topic coverage. He’s passionate about helping entrepreneurs, startups and small businesses with practical advice delivered clearly. Mark’s worked for a number of business magazines and titles and has started two small businesses himself, so has first-hand experience in setting up, managing and growing a small business and shares his expertise with our readers.

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