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Only electric trucks have the right climate footprint

Even in the current, not climate-friendly power grid, battery-powered trucks are far ahead of alternative drive forms. According to a study, they save over 60 percent of greenhouse gases. by Jan Dönges

The main way in which the transport sector can reduce its CO 2 emissions is to rely on trucks with electric motors and batteries. Alternative drives perform significantly worse in comparison, even if you include the emissions during production. This is the result of a study by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) . The independent organization advises governments on environmental issues in the transport sector.

The experts compared current drive concepts with each other and also calculated the emissions generated during the manufacture of the vehicle. Over the entire service life of a battery-electric 40-ton semi-trailer truck that will be put into operation in 2021, e-trucks will cause at least 63 percent fewer emissions than diesel trucks. This value is based on the current power grid of the European Union. If only renewable electricity is used, emissions even drop to 84 percent.

The team of experts around Felipe Rodriguez sees the balance sheet of natural gas or biogas vehicles, such as those used in public city bus transport, as particularly unfavorable. According to the study, the life cycle analyzes result in a reduction of 4 to 18 percent. However, if one specifically considers the short-term effects on the climate, their greenhouse gas emissions would increase even compared to diesel. This is due to the role of methane. It outgasses when using natural gas and has a strong, if not long-lasting, effect on the climate.

When it comes to trucks with their high mileage, “the problem isn’t the factory, it’s the road,” says ICCT fuel expert Nikita Pavlenko, who worked on the current study, in the press release. With an electric motor and battery, a truck is more energy-efficient on the road than with any other technology examined, which means it can also offset higher emissions during its manufacture.

Although trucks and buses make up only two percent of vehicles, they cause a quarter of emissions in the transport sector. From this it follows that the CO 2 reduction goals, as decided within the framework of the Paris Climate Agreement, can only be achieved if the greenhouse gas balance of this fleet also improves significantly.

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