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July 2022 Newsletter

Dear HVTT Forum subscriber,

I hope this newsletter from Europe finds you in a good shape no matter you are currently enjoying peak of the summer or winter period. For this newsletter I selected two topics being the various approaches to deploy A-double combinations in Europe and continuous rise of electrification in the road freight transport.

As you may remember from some of the previous newsletters, I was updating you over the progressing developments to pilot of A-double combination (tractor with two semitrailers coupled by a dolly) on dedicated corridor between cities of Rotterdam and Venlo, being lead logistic hubs,  in the Netherlands. Sadly, in May the Dutch Ministry of the of Infrastructure and Water management has decided to put the pilot on hold without further support or investments. It is mainly due to prevailing opinion at the Ministry that implementation of A-Double represents considerable safety risks for the road transport and the infrastructure despite the studies supporting the pilot which were elaborated previously. Fortunately, this is in complete contradiction to the situation in other parts of Europe, specifically Spain, Sweden, Denmark or Finland where the testing or implementation of A-double is progressing very well.

Without any doubts Finland is a front runner who started with the first pilots of A-double in the traffic already by the end of 2013 with the decisive mindset that authorities will take too big risk if they do not allow for the pilot, being missed opportunity with significant impact for decarbonization of road transport sector. Over the years the pilots revealed that challenges of operating significantly longer combinations in the existing infrastructure could be solved with the development of vehicle technology and regulation (such as setting a strict limit for safety equipment, weight distribution, and dynamic driving stability). The goal with the limit values ​​was to reach at least the safety level of the average EMS1 combination (25.25 meters) with the worst EMS2 combinations while using long wheelbases and a steerable last axle in trailers, as well as a 2015 or newer level of active safety systems in combination with blind spot cameras. In 2019, and after 10 million kilometers driven, this resulted in the decision of Ministry of Transport to allow vehicle combinations (including A-Doubles) up to 34.5 meters of length and 76 tonnes weight for the entire road network.  In 2021, almost 5.5% of the road freight traffic on main roads was done by EMS2 and the share is steadily growing whilst the average emission per ton kilometer is decreasing. It should be noted that with such large volumes of traffic, accidents cannot be avoided. Accidents with EMS2 combinations are basically the same as with all others, running off the road on a slippery road, falling asleep at the wheel or other driver error and running off the road. And so far, EMS2 combinations have not caused any fatal accidents.

Even though the operational conditions may differ per country these results certainly represents good premise for further implementation of A-double on European roads and hopefully good hint to resurrect the pilot also in the Netherlands.

Besides making the road freight transport more environmentally friendlier (and productive) by  configurating vehicle units into longer combinations, additional approach which resonates nowadays in Europe is the electrification of this sector. Next to already existing electric heavy vehicles for local delivery or public transport a number of European OEM’s recently introduced market ready solutions of long-haul heavy vehicles having sufficient battery capacity (500-600kWh) which should enable normal daily operation which typically consists of two four-hour cycles with 45-minutes long compulsory break in between for the driver which also allows to recharge the batteries.

What is critically missing at this moment is sufficient charging infrastructure, which is still seen as main bottleneck to deploy these vehicles in bigger scale. At the moment there are two approaches seen as promising charging alternatives in Europe being the e-highway, with number of pilots around the Europe in Germany, Sweden and United Kingdom, and high-performance stationary chargers. To address the latter one a joint venture between number of truck OEM’s has been founded already at the end of the last year and recently completed the finals steps to start the cooperation. The goal of the joint venture is to act as catalyst and enabler for realizing the European Union’s Green Deal by providing the necessary infrastructure and targeting green energy at the charging points. The plan is to install and operate at least 1,700 high-performance green energy charge points on, and close to, highways as well as at logistics hubs across Europe. The parties of the joint venture are committing to invest €500 million in total, which is assumed to be by far the largest charging infrastructure investment in the European heavy-duty truck industry to date. A recent industry report from ACEA  is calling for up to 15,000 high-performance public and destination charging points by no later than 2025, and up to 50,000 high-performance charging points by 2030. Therefore, this kick-start is also seen as a call for action to all other industry players, as well as governments and policy makers, to work together for a rapid expansion of the necessary charging network.

As for the weather in Netherlands, we just enjoying the warm summer period which now and then escalates into storms or even tornados which we experienced at the end of June. Luckily, it was not as severe as the one in Czechia almost the same day year ago. It should be noted that tornados are certainly not a common weather neither in Netherlands nor Czechia.

Best regards, and for those on northern hemisphere enjoy the summer holidays,

Karel Kural

Vice President Europe

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