- What are the real benefits of switching to electric vehicles in cities?
We believe that electromobility is a solution to air and noise pollution in cities, and helps reduce overall CO2 emissions. Electric trucks are silent, cleaner, and more efficient than combustion engine vehicles. Regardless of any restrictions implemented in urban areas, electric trucks also reduce traffic congestion in cities, since they can be used during off-peak hours for silent deliveries.
- Truck manufacturers promise to cut significantly CO2 emissions through electric trucks. Can we believe them?
Yes, the manufacturers are right: electric trucks do not produce any CO2 emissions in operation. This is true. However, the production of energy to recharge electric vehicle batteries can emit CO2, depending on the production mode - fossil fuels (coal, gas, or petroleum), renewable energy (hydroelectric, solar, or wind power), or nuclear power. In Europe, where electricity is largely decarbonized, switching from a combustion engine to an electric vehicle can bring about a three- or four-fold reduction in CO2 emissions, depending on the country’s energy mix.
- If all transporters in cities switched to electric power, what would the ecological balance look like?
That kind of estimate could only be theoretical, because each truck’s fuel consumption depends on its load, itinerary, number of stops, the driver’s technique, the weather, etc. Similarly, CO2 emissions from the electricity contained in the batteries varies greatly depending on the country and its energy mix. Nevertheless, some comparisons are possible. For example, since a garbage truck makes many stops and has a heavy load, it consumes a great deal of fuel and emits large quantities of CO2 - on average, 159 kg for each daily round of 72 km. In comparison, an equivalent electric vehicle, for the same task in Europe, only emits an average of 36.9 kg of CO2, which is 75% less.
- The environmental impact is not limited to greenhouse gases. Do electric trucks emit particulate matter?
If we just look at the motor, an electric truck’s propulsion system do not produce pollutant emissions. However, if we take the truck in its entirety, regardless of its energy source (gas, diesel, electric, biofuel), it does emit fine particles resulting from the friction of tires on the road or the brake pad abrasion. These emissions are not specific to trucks: all vehicles, even two-wheelers such as bicycles, produce particles in operation and during braking. Despite that, today electric trucks are the best solution to cut down the pollutant emissions and especially particles.
There is a lot of talk about the impact of battery production on the environment. What is Renault Trucks' position on this subject?
The production of batteries is not neutral. In fact, it requires a lot of electricity. It all depends on the country in which they are manufactured and its progress in energy transition. But the impact of batteries is not limited to their production.
At Renault Trucks, we have paid close attention to the lifespan of our batteries, which is on average 8 years. They can then be used to store renewable energy, and in a third stage they are 99% recycled to make new batteries. This is known as a virtuous circle.
- What about the battery components?
Being responsible means limiting your carbon footprint. It also means ensuring that the products purchased are manufactured in a sustainable and ethical way, which is what Renault Trucks and the Volvo Group do with its code of conduct for all suppliers, including the suppliers of minerals (such as lithium, cobalt, nickel and copper) and regularly auditing the supply chain.
- How do you explain the high cost of an electric truck?
While the purchase price still seems high, the calculation comes out in favour of electric vehicles when you consider the total cost of ownership over their lifetime. Lithium-ion batteries, just like those in our telephones, account for a significant part of this cost. These batteries are now mass-produced, their weight and size are decreasing, recycling is becoming more widespread and the cost is falling, which means overall production cost of trucks is falling too.
Electric engines are simpler than thermal engines, which makes them less expensive to maintain. This means operators can save 30% on the maintenance of a traditional truck. The cost of energy is another advantage of electric trucks, as electricity is much cheaper than traditional fuel. Finally, bear in mind that the governments of some countries offer subsidies.
- Isn't the autonomy of electric trucks a prohibitive constraint?
The most important thing is not to offer maximum autonomy, but rather to offer a range that is adapted to the needs of the haulier, as Renault Trucks does. For each type of route and application, there’s an electric truck with the exactly right number of batteries.
The current maximum range of an electric truck is sufficient for most uses. You just have to change your habits. With an electric vehicle, you prepare your delivery rounds in a different way, plan the distances and charge the vehicle overnight in the depot. And it's always possible to partially recharge the battery while out driving. Remember also that braking can save 20 to 30% of energy. The range of a Renault Trucks electric truck can reach 400 km depending on the vehicle and its use.
- How do you actually charge a truck?
Charging an electric truck is easier than you'd think. Using an industrial socket at the depot, the battery takes 10 hours to fully charge. In other words, it's done overnight and has no impact on the working day.
Partial charging is also an option on the road for even more operational flexibility. For example, by taking advantage of the driver's break times. This is thanks to the charge station networks that are developing rapidly throughout Europe. Another option for hauliers is to invest in a 150KW fast-charging station, which fully charges truck batteries in 1 to 2 hours. The future standard is set to be 1 MW, for charging in just a few minutes.
- How can I personally contribute to a virtuous cycle in logistics, particularly in city centres?
More and more people are becoming aware of ecological issues and are adopting better practices in terms of consumption, waste reduction, and transport. Furthermore, while they expect city administrators to become more ecologically responsible, they don’t always understand the impact of the delivery of our consumer goods in cities. By supporting electromobility, they are completing the virtuous cycle of their daily efforts and contributing to the European Union’s objective to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050 as compared to 1990 levels.