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A Full Guide to Electric HGVs (eHGV)

Posted 1st March 2024

A Full Guide to Electric HGVs (eHGV)

As the world advances and environmental concerns grow for the entire planet, there is more of a open discussion about the need for  more coherent change in the way transportation works. Government legislation from many different countries has been put together to help with the change (think of the banning of the sale of brand-new diesel and petrol-powered cars in the UK from 2035), but in one area that there will be a slower uptake to begin with for legitimate reasons is in the haulage industry.

This is a guide looking at everything that you need to know about Electric Heavy Goods Vehicles (eHGVs) if you are a business owner or manager of a fleet of long-haul, heavy goods vehicles. There is scope to make an effective transition now to electric HGVs, with a positive outlook for the future of the industry. 

What is an electric HGV?

HGV (heavy goods vehicle) is the term used for any commercial vehicle that weighs more than 3.5 tonnes. Traditionally, HGVs are powered by diesel or petrol, but there is a change coming in much the same way as has been seen with cars, and that is with the provision of electric HGVs. An electric HGV will use one or more electric motors, which are powered by battery packs that are rechargeable, powering the motor.

Electric vehicles come in a wide variety of sizes, ranges, functions and carrying capacity. There has been greater uptake so far with electric cars and smaller vehicles, with some challenges for HGVs that we will get into, but for electric HGVs the ranges are the same as with a traditional HGV. You see HGVs that are trucks designed for long-haul transportation and delivery of produce and heavy goods, as well as smaller companies serving smaller contracts for more local delivery locations. The size of the electric HGV will depend on the load capacity of the electric battery and the efficiency of the electric motor used. 

What are the benefits of electric HGVs?

There are several benefits to electric HGVs, and for any business relying on Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGV) there is a need to research and look at these benefits to see why it makes sense to make the transition away from a diesel fleet of HGVs as soon as is practicably possible. The benefits of a fully fledged electric HGV fleet include: 

The environmental impact

The biggest advantage of transitioning to electric HGVs is that it will significantly reduce the environmental impact of the haulage company. Electric vehicles have zero emissions, lowering the carbon footprint of the vehicle when compared with a diesel model and improving air quality for both the driver and on the roads.

Cost-effective transport solution

Although electric models of HGVs are currently more expensive than diesel models this is likely to change over the next few years as the technology for electric vehicles improves and there are batteries available that will provide a greater power capacity for heavy loads and long distances. When you consider the lower maintenance requirements for electric vehicles too, there are other cost savings to be made over a long period of time. 

Corporate social responsibility and positive branding

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is an important part of modern business ideals. By adopting electric HGVs and providing a clear plan to transition to these models, a company can meet long-term sustainability goals whilst improving brand recognition to a wider audience of both customers and suppliers. 

What is the current state of the electric HGV landscape in the UK?

There are several manufacturers that have announced plans to introduce new models of electric HGVs to the UK market, but there are already some on the roads. Electric truck manufacturers currently in the UK include Mercedes-Benz and Renault Trucks. Tevva announced in January 2023 that mass production of electric trucks would commence in Essex that would allow for the sale of electric vehicles in the UK and Europe for the brand. Available electric HGV models in the UK currently include:

  • Renault Trucks Master Z.E.
  • Renault Trucks D Wide Z.E.
  • DAF CF Electric
  • DAF LF Electric
  • DAF XF Electric
  • Volvo FL Electric
  • Volvo FE Electric
  • Mercedes-Benz eActros
  • MAN eTGM
  • FUSO eCanter
  • Iveco S-Way Electric
  • Scania Electric R-Series
  • Tevva 7.5-tonne
  • Tevva 12-tonne

Comparison of range for electric vs diesel HGV’s

One of the biggest challenges that electric HGVs face when compared with traditional HGVs is the range, with current models of electric trucks having a far lower range when compared directly with a diesel HGV. A common range for a diesel HGV is around 1,200km on a full tank, whilst a fully charged electric HGV might be closer to a range of 220km. What this means currently is that diesel vehicles make much more sense financially for haulage companies, when you consider the established network of refuelling stations. Having said that, the future looks bright for electric vehicles and an infrastructure is being implemented that will allow for recharging of electric batteries and a much-needed wider network for long-haul travel potential.

How fast can an electric HGV travel?

When comparing electric vehicles with diesel and petrol vehicles, the question of speed will come up in discussion. For an electric HGV, the top speed will always depend on the power of the battery and the load capacity of the HGV. As they are designed to transport cargo over both short and long distances, electric HGVs are designed with the focus on cargo capacity and torque, rather than higher top speeds. Providing consistency of performance and efficiency is much more important for haulage companies. Examples of electric HGV top speeds include the Renault D. Z. E. with a top speed of 75mph and the Electric Mercedes-Benz eActros with a top speed of 50mph. For delivery trucks in the UK working on regional delivery ranges, 50mph is a standard speed to travel at, so there would not be a drop off in performance capabilities in terms of speed when choosing an electric HGV. 

Cost comparison of an eHGV vs a diesel HGV

There is currently a higher cost for electric HGVs than diesel-powered HGVS, in some cases almost double, depending on the manufacturer and model. Where there is a big difference though is post-purchase, where electric vehicles have a much lower running cost than diesel HGVs, as electricity is cheaper than diesel. Add to that the tax advantages and the lower maintenance requirements and over the long-term electric HGVs are a cost-effective choice. In the future the cost of purchasing electric HGVs will also begin to decrease, as the technology improves and the battery capacity potential increases. 

What are the tax incentives for owning an electric HGV?

One of the biggest benefits that haulage companies can take advantage of when transitioning to an electric fleet of HGVs is that road tax is not currently applicable in the UK. All-electric vehicles are exempt from Vehicle Excise Duty (VED), although from 2025 there will be new government rules for road tax concerning electric vehicles. The Heavy Goods Vehicle Road User Levy is applied to all HGVs that weigh 12 tonnes or more, independent of the fuel type of the model. This levy is designed to help with the maintenance issues of the road network, as heavy goods vehicles cause more wear and tear than cars and lighter vehicles. 

Are there any grants available for electric HGVs?

There are a few different incentives that the government has in place to promote the adoption of electric vehicles. For HGVs in particular, the following support is available: 

The Plug-in Van Grant (PIVG)

This is a grant that is available for electric HGVs and other types of electric vehicles. There is a discount of £25,000 for eligible vehicles and for an HGV to qualify it must be heavier in weight than 12,000kg and have an electric-only range of at least 96km.

There is no need to apply for the PIVG Grant like you would for other OZEV (Office for Zero Emission Vehicles) grants, with the HGV dealer at the time of purchase including the grant discount in the overall value of the vehicle. This is a process that makes it much more straightforward for businesses to use the grant and to adopt electric vehicles, rather than requiring the time to fill out an application and go through the process before being awarded a grant. 

How to effectively integrate electric HGVs into fleet operations

There are various things to consider when integrating electric HGVs into existing fleet operations. The first is to look for expert assistance from a company like ElectrAssure to implement a network of charge points and a charge point management system. This helps to provide enhanced operational transparency, optimisation of journey planning and schedules of charging to ensure all HGVs are working in optimal conditions. Alongside this there needs to be a detailed plan to provide training for drivers and maintenance personnel in essential operation and maintenance of electric HGVs. Proficiency in new models of HGVs is vital to a consistent level of performance for the fleet as a whole. The same can be said about maintenance issues, with less maintenance required for electric vehicles when compared with diesel and petrol-powered vehicles, but there is still a need to fully understand the requirements to minimise downtime and disruption. 

What is the current state of the charging network for HGVs in the UK?

It is relatively early days for the charging network in the UK for electric vehicles. To improve to a point that it needs to be at for widespread adoption of electric vehicles, and for massive industries such as the haulage industries to adopt electric HGVs on a wide scale basis, there will need to be investment from both a government level and industry. The biggest issues facing electric HGVs is the availability of charging stations and the length of time it takes to charge a larger vehicle. Installation of charging stations designed to accommodate larger vehicles such as HGVs is a good start for businesses with HGVs as part of their fleet. As we move forward over the next few years, expect there to be an improvement in the provision of charging stations that can cope with HGVs across a much larger network than is currently available. 

Is it possible to convert a petrol or diesel HGV to an electric vehicle?

Although it can be done, it is a complex process to convert a diesel or petrol HGV into an electric vehicle. The cost and complexity could cost more than purchasing a brand-new electric HGV outright. The transition to electric vehicles for businesses that use HGVs might be daunting enough without the challenges of converting a fleet of diesel HGVs to electric. 

What is the future of electric HGVs?

By 2040, all new HGVs that are sold must be fully zero emission at the exhaust, and a ban on the sale of any new HGVs that are non-zero emission under or equal to the weight of 26 tonnes by 2035. With ambitious targets from governments around the world, it is only a matter of time before electric vehicles outstrip sales of diesel and petrol vehicles, and the haulage industry is one of the areas where there is the potential for more growth, as technology improves, and the costs come down for consumers.

Transitioning to electric HGVs will take a big technological shift that is fortunately already underway, but also a commitment from both industry leaders and government to ensure an approach that favors sustainability and a greener environment in the future. ElectrAssure has the expertise and innovative approach to help businesses to transform the provision of electric charge points and management systems that help employees, visitors, suppliers, fleet, and customers to have access to electric charge points. For companies with an HGV fleet, this helps them to make the switch in a cost-effective way that positions them as leaders in an ever-evolving industry.

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