HDV (Heavy Duty Vehicle) charging explained

Heavy-duty vehicles (HDVs) play a crucial role in the transportation sector. Electrifying these vehicles is vital for reducing emissions and combating climate change. The EU’s highway charging law, known as the Alternative Fuel Infrastructure Regulation (AFIR), aims to establish a robust public charging network by 2030. This article explores the current state of HDV charging, challenges in implementing AFIR, strategies for effective infrastructure deployment, and recommendations for optimising the charging network.
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In this article

1. The current state of HDV charging in Europe

Electrification of HDVs in Europe is growing. Over 15,000 battery electric trucks (BEVs) are already on the roads. Depot charging is the primary method, but a public charging network is needed for long-distance travel. Key players in the HDV charging market include Milence, OREVE, Recharge City, TBL, and Fastcharge. Petrol station operators like Circle K, OKQ8, and Uno-X are also entering the market, especially in the Nordics. Despite these efforts, HDV charging infrastructure is still developing compared to the light-duty vehicle sector.

map highlighting the distribution of truck charging stations across Europe, focusing on five countries.
Map of charging hubs dedicated for HDV in Europe. Source: Gireve

3. Strategies for HDV charging infrastructure

3.1 Depot charging

Depot charging is the cornerstone of HDV electrification. Vehicles charge at their home base, typically overnight. This method suits fleets with predictable routes and schedules, like city buses and regional delivery trucks. Depot charging lowers infrastructure costs and uses off-peak electricity, reducing grid strain. It aligns with existing logistical patterns, making it easier for operators to integrate electric vehicles without significant changes to operations.

3.2 Opportunity charging

Opportunity charging happens during natural breaks in a vehicle’s operation, such as at offload points or loading docks. This strategy is useful for urban and regional delivery services, where vehicles stop frequently. Installing chargers at these points maximises vehicle uptime and ensures HDVs are ready for the next journey. It supports operational flexibility, allowing trucks delayed or needing additional range to charge during downtime.

3.3 En-route fast charging

For long-distance travel, en-route fast charging is essential. Located along highways, these chargers provide rapid top-ups to extend HDV range. Although en-route charging infrastructure is nascent, several projects aim to expand its availability. Fast charging reduces downtime, making it crucial for long-haul trucking. It addresses the needs of logistics companies operating on tight schedules, helping maintain supply chain efficiency.

3.4 Megawatt Charging System (MCS)

The Megawatt Charging System (MCS) represents the future of HDV charging. MCS technology allows for extremely high power outputs, significantly reducing charging times. This system is ideal for long-haul trucks needing quick turnarounds. Deployment plans for MCS include a network of high-power chargers along major transport corridors, ensuring HDVs can travel long distances without delays.
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Possible grid impact and opportunities per main HDV charging use case. Source: ENTSO-E

4. Challenges and solutions in implementing AFIR

4.1 Adapting to real-world demand

National deployment plans should align with real-world traffic data and projected fleet sizes. Adjusting the power output and spacing of charging hubs to match HDV traffic volumes ensures efficient resource allocation, preventing underutilisation or congestion at charging points.

4.2 Forward-looking grid capacity and planning

Proactive grid planning is crucial for the expected surge in HDV adoption. National Regulatory Authorities (NRAs) should ensure Transmission and Distribution System Operators (TSOs and DSOs) expand capacities in anticipation of demand. Streamlining administrative processes for grid connections, such as clear timelines for connection requests and accessible capacity maps, is essential.

4.3 Economically efficient use of public funds

Public funding should bridge gaps in initially unprofitable locations to ensure timely and comprehensive network coverage. The Renewable Energy Directive’s (RED III) crediting mechanism should be fast-tracked to support early-stage infrastructure. Smart tendering strategies, bundling high and low utilisation locations, can prevent monopolistic control and ensure balanced deployment.

5. Recommendations for member states

5.1 Adapting AFIR targets to actual demand

Member states should tailor AFIR targets to projected needs, considering the pace of BEV uptake and varying dynamics across regions. Flexibility in target distances between hubs and power output requirements can better match future demand.

5.2 Ensuring grid readiness

Regulatory frameworks must allow anticipatory grid investment. Streamlining administrative processes and enhancing transparency will facilitate quicker grid connections and infrastructure setup.

5.3 Efficient use of public money

Implementing the RED III crediting mechanism can generate significant revenues for public charging points. Smart tendering and funding strategies, such as blending high and low utilisation locations, ensure balanced deployment and prevent market distortions.

6. Stakeholder engagement and collaborative planning

Continuous engagement with all relevant stakeholders, including vehicle manufacturers, Charge Point Operators (CPOs), grid operators, and public authorities, is vital. This collaborative approach facilitates information sharing and ensures infrastructure development is responsive to regional needs. Examples of successful multi-stakeholder cooperation include France’s initiative led by ENEDIS and Germany’s “Initiales Netz” planning.

7. Market-led infrastructure deployment

While initial public support is necessary, the long-term goal should be a market-led deployment strategy. This ensures sustainable infrastructure development that can adapt to evolving market conditions without continuous public financial support. Market-driven examples from Europe highlight the effectiveness of this strategy in creating a resilient and adaptive charging network.
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Public HDV Charging demand in European countries in 2030. Source: Transport & Environment

8. Future outlook and conclusion

The long-term vision for HDV charging infrastructure involves achieving a balanced, efficient, and market-driven deployment. Technological advancements, such as the Megawatt Charging System (MCS), will play a crucial role in meeting future demand. By adapting targets to real-world needs, ensuring grid readiness, and engaging stakeholders, Europe can build a robust charging network that supports the electrification of HDVs and contributes to environmental sustainability.

The future of HDV electrification is promising, with significant investments and technological advancements paving the way for a cleaner and more efficient transportation sector. By addressing challenges and implementing strategic solutions, Europe can lead the development of a comprehensive and reliable HDV charging infrastructure, supporting the transition to electric vehicles and contributing to global efforts to combat climate change.

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