Leading truck manufacturer, Volvo has expressed dismay at the lack of a clear strategy for zero emission commercial vehicles in the Federal Government’s first National Electric Vehicle Strategy which was announced by Minister Chris Bowen yesterday.
T&B News approached other truck manufacturers for comment on the Government national Electric Vehicle Strategy but Volvo was the only maker to respond.
The lack of detail on heavy commercial vehicles in the strategy flies in the face of the fact that the national heavy vehicle fleet currently accounts for about four per cent of the total vehicle fleet, but are responsible for about 25 per cent of the transport emissions.
A spokesman for the Volvo Group told T&B News that it was disappointing that the National EV Strategy did not have any clear guidance for heavy commercial transport which needs some serious regulatory changes and incentives to ensure targets for zero emission are met.
“The industry needs considerations about on such things as front axle weights, as well charging networks, and a range of other issues otherwise we will not be in a position to meet Volvo Group’s target of 30 per cent zero emission vehicles by 2030 and 100 per cent by 2040,” said the Volvo spokesperson.
“It is very disappointing, particularly with the lack of clarity on vehicle weights and standards with zero emission trucks,” the spokesperson said.
Backing this up, Volvo Group Australia president , Martin Merrick speaking at the launch of Australian Heavy Vehicle Industry Week earlier this week, provided crucial insights from the manufacturer’s perspective, emphasising his company will not meet its zero emission vehicle target in Australia if action is not taken by the government.
“Volvo Trucks now have a full range of heavy-duty electric vehicles that we intend to launch in Australia this year, with a view to manufacturing these vehicles right here in Brisbane by 2027,” Martin Merrick said.
“However – let me be clear – these targets will not be met, unless we have all levels of government working together to change legislation that will allow these vehicles to operate here in Australia,” he added.
Merrick explained that the lack of political decisiveness on the issue is hindering investment decisions, and needlessly shackling Australia’s economy.
“The stakes are too high to ignore this issue any longer,” he said.
“I call on all levels of government to create a taskforce to deal with this issue as a matter of urgency.
“This is not a Volvo problem; this is a zero-emissions future problem; this is an industry-wide problem,” the straight talking Volvo boss said.
The Brisbane based Heavy Vehicle Industry Association ( HVIA) also reacted strongly yesterday, backing up what the Volvo Group said, however the Truck Industry Council which purports to be the sea industry body for truck manufacturers has not made any public statements so far.
The HVIA said in its statement yesterday that the heavy vehicle industry’s position on the regulatory changes needed to support next-generation Zero-Emissions Vehicles (ZEVs) is clear but needs urgent action by the Government and its policy and regulatory agencies.
“Current truck axle load limits are too low,” said HVIA chief executive, Todd Hacking.
“If not addressed, they will completely strangle efforts to decarbonise the industry, preventing it from contributing to Australia’s mandated emissions reductions targets,” Hacking said.
The HVIA says that it is a position that is unilaterally supported by industry associations, manufacturers, and all suppliers to the road freight transport industry.
In its submission on the draft National Electric Vehicle strategy in 2022, HVIA said it highlighted the need for a review of heavy vehicle steer axle mass limits.
“Allowing heavier electric and hydrogen trucks is vital in opening up access to new low and zero-emissions heavy vehicles,” HVIA’s National Policy and Government Relations manager, Greg Forbes, said at the time.
Last week, HVIA’s chief technical officer, Adam Ritzinger, detailed the technical need for steer axle mass limits review and proposed four practical actions that can be implemented by regulators right now.
“We are on a path to becoming the highest emitting industry in Australia if nothing is done,” he said.
He called on road managers such a as state roads authorities and councils to urgently classify roads based on their current structural capacity, leading to the development of networks that can support the heavier axles of zero-emissions trucks.
“Australia has been ‘sweating the road asset’ for many years to meet productivity demands. It is time to refocus on the environmental demands and sweat the asset from that perspective.
“Australia has the capability and technology to resolve this problem and must urgently act to do so.”
Todd Hacking echoed Volvo’s position with insights gained directly from other HVIA members.
“The heavy vehicle industry wants to transition the fleet to zero emissions vehicles, and the technology is available rig.t now,” said Hacking.
“Australia has everything it needs to meet emissions reductions targets, creating more local jobs and investment in the process,” he added.
“The only missing piece is the regulatory framework to support us.
“HVIA urgently calls on government at all levels to accelerate truck axle mass regulatory reform,” Hacking said.
“The ongoing contribution of the industry to Australia’s economy and emissions reduction targets is at stake,” He concluded.