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Trucks and Buses

Not on track
Shutterstock 599847713

About this report

The Covid-19 pandemic led to decreased transport activity in 2020, reducing bus and truck CO2 emissions 5% from 2019. Although emissions are expected to rebound in 2021, for the Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario they need to peak in the next several years and then begin to decline, averaging year-on-year decreases of 2.1% from 2021 to 2030.

To achieve this reduction in emissions, more countries need to adopt heavy-duty fuel economy and CO2 emissions standards as well as zero-emission vehicle mandates (and existing ones need to be made more comprehensive and stringent to spur adoption of zero-emission technologies). Rapid electrification of buses and the deployment of hydrogen and electric medium- and heavy-duty trucks, along with strategic infrastructure deployment, are needed in this decade to pave the way for large-scale battery and fuel-cell truck adoption in the 2030s.

CO2 emissions from trucks and buses in the Net Zero Scenario, 2000-2030

Tracking progress

After being a decade behind light-duty vehicle (LDV) standards for many years, policy coverage for heavy-duty trucks is catching up. Nearly 80% of heavy-duty trucks sold in 2020 were bought in markets where fuel economy standards or vehicle efficiency regulations covered at least some vehicle categories, compared with nearly 90% for light-duty vehicles (cars and light commercial vehicles). While 82% of LDVs were already covered by vehicle efficiency standards in 2016, only 61% of heavy-duty trucks were sold in regions with coverage.

Heavy-duty vehicle sales in countries with adopted fuel economy (and/or GHG/CO2) standards, 2005-2020


Light-duty vehicle sales in countries with adopted fuel economy (and/or GHG/CO2) standards, 2005-2020


Global sales of electric buses have contracted since a high in 2016 and have rebounded slightly from 2019 levels. In 2020, approximately 600 000 electric buses and 31 000 electric heavy-duty trucks were on the road globally. China continued to dominate both markets in 2020, with registrations of 78 000 new electric buses (up 9% from 2019) and 6 700 new electric trucks (up 10%).  

Europe has the greatest number of zero-emission truck models available, and electric heavy-duty truck registrations rose 23% in 2020 to about 450 vehicles. Electric bus registrations in Europe totalled 2 100, an increase of roughly 7% (well below the doubling in registrations in 2019).  

In North America, 580 new electric buses took to the road in 2020. In the United States, electric heavy-duty truck registrations increased to 240 vehicles, representing less than 1% of sales. 

While electric bus registrations increased in these markets in 2020, accelerated deployment is required to expand the fleet to 8 million by 2030 to be in line with the Net Zero Emissions by 2050 pathway. Along with massive development of charging and refuelling infrastructure, the sales share of battery electric and fuel cell electric heavy-duty trucks will have to scale up rapidly from well below 1% in 2020 to 30% in 2030. 

In addition to a number of previously announced commitments, several governments declared specific targets for trucks and buses during the Covid19 pandemic. 

Country/region Year announced Description
New Zealand 2021 Only zero-emission public transport buses available for purchase by 2025, with the goal of completely decarbonising the public transport bus fleet by 2035.
Canada 2021 USD 2.2 billion in funding over next five years to support the decarbonisation of public transit, including zero-emission public transit and school buses.
United States 2021 The government issued an executive order that calls on the EPA and DOT to consider new emissions and fuel economy standards relating to heavy-duty trucks as well as light- and medium-duty vehicles.
United States 2021 The government issued an executive order that calls on the EPA and DOT to consider new emissions and fuel economy standards relating to heavy-duty trucks as well as light- and medium-duty vehicles.
Ireland 2021 New targets for 45% of buses and 10% of trucks procured by public bodies to be low- or zero-emissions, rising to 65% and 15% by 2030.
Austria 2021 100% of new registrations of heavy-duty vehicles less than 18 tonnes to be zero-emissions starting in 2030, and for those greater than 18 tonnes, in 2035.
Hungary 2020 Launched a Green Bus Programme, committing to replace half of the conventional bus fleet in its largest cities with electric buses in the next ten years.
Cape Verde 2019 100% electric sales target for new medium- and heavy-duty trucks as well as public transport buses by 2035. All vehicles on the roads, including trucks, to be electric by 2050.
Colombia 2019 100% of new buses incorporated into public transport systems to be electric by 2035.
Pakistan 2019 30% of new heavy-duty trucks and 50% of new buses to be electric by 2030, and 90% by 2050.
Norway 2017 50% zero-emission sales target for new heavy-duty trucks by 2030, and 75% for new long-distances buses.
Denmark 2016 All public transport in their concessions to be 100% zero-emissions by 2030, and all new buses entering service from 2025 to be zero-emissions at the onset.
MoU states
(United States)
2020 Sales of new medium- and heavy-duty trucks to be 30% zero-emissions by 2030 and 100% by no later than 2050.
(United States)
2019/2020 Beginning in 2029, 100% of new buses purchased by transit agencies should be zero-emission. All medium- and heavy-duty vehicles in operation should be 100% zero-emissions by 2045, where feasible.
2019 No new gasoline or diesel buses by 2020, and no gasoline or diesel buses in the bus stock by 2025.

The MoU states are California, Colorado, Pennsylvania, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Maine, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Washington, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Jersey, North Carolina and New York. Targets may not be reflected in official policy documents or laws.

The European Commission’s Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy released in 2020 aims for 90% lower transport sector emissions by 2050. Milestones to achieve this target include ensuring that “nearly all” cars, vans and buses in operation, and new heavy trucks sold, are zero-emissions by 2050.

The European Commission also presented a series of legislative proposals in July 2021 as part its Fit for 55 initiative, including revising the AFID as a regulation (AFIR) so that EU member state targets for deploying charging and refuelling infrastructure become binding. The proposed revision includes mandatory distance-based placements of electric recharging and hydrogen refuelling stations for heavy-duty vehicles along EU highways. In addition, the revised Clean Vehicles Directive requires a rise in national public procurement targets for clean-energy heavy-duty vehicles. 

Buses were the earliest and most successful case of electrification in the heavy-duty vehicle market, though manufacturers continue to respond to growing demand for zero-emission trucks – including medium and heavy freight trucks.  

Truck makers such as DaimlerRenaultScaniaMAN and Volvo have all indicated their commitment to a future of zero-emission trucks (including battery and fuel cell electric models). Scania recently deepened its engagement by pledging to launch at least one new electric vehicle in the bus and truck segment every year. Meanwhile, a Volvo Truck and DHL freight partnership has announced plans to begin piloting a long-distance electric heavy freight truck in 2021 with plans of eventual deployment across Europe. Fuel cell trucks are also gaining attention, with Hyzon receiving orders for over 1 500 trucks to be delivered by 2024 to New Zealand and EuropeDaimler and Volvo also plan to commence series production of fuel cell trucks in 2025 as part of a joint venture. 

Zero-emission heavy vehicle models (current and announced) by class, country and range

Current And Announced Zero Emission Hdv Models By Segment Release Year And Powertrain In Major Markets 2020 2023
Zero-emission heavy vehicle models (current and announced) by class, country and range
Current And Announced Zero Emission Hdv Models By Segment Release Year And Powertrain In Major Markets 2020 2023

There have also been developments in electric road system technology. The United Kingdom recently announced funding for a project to assess the feasibility of a 20-kilometre stretch of road on which overhead catenaries via a pantograph will allow heavy trucks to charge while in motion. In Germany, Siemens Mobility and SPL Powerlines Germany are already testing the technology in three public field trails. Five trucks will be tested regularly in both directions along the 3.4-kilometre route known as “eWAYBW”. 

Fiscal policies, such as road tolls and fuel taxes that account for the various externalities of incumbent polluting ICE technologies, can make zero-emission heavy-duty trucks more attractive. For example, Switzerland’s road tax on diesel truck operations has spurred fuel cell truck deployment. Zero- and low-emission zones in cities can also be created to encourage the use of zero-emission trucks in urban areas.  

Purchase subsidies and/or favourable loan terms for fleets looking to purchase zero-emission heavy-duty trucks and their requisite infrastructure can also encourage deployment. Mechanisms that reduce the purchase price of zero-emission heavy-duty trucks, which tend to cost more than their ICE counterparts, have been used successfully in several regions, resulting in some of the highest rates of adoption. 

In collaboration with truck manufacturers, governments should take stock of the competitive prospects for battery electric and fuel cell trucks by 2030, to focus R&D on the most important challenges and allow adequate time to deploy supporting infrastructure. 

In addition to the development of codes and standards, more R&D on components and system integration is needed to enable the commercialisation of megachargers, electric road systems and high-throughput high-pressure hydrogen refuelling stations. Even overnight depot charging of electric trucks may require planning and co-ordination among electricity generators and other stakeholders, and significant investment could be needed for grid reinforcement and modernisation.  

Just as with LDVs, regulations that set minimum HDV performance standards (such as for fuel economy or CO2/GHG emissions), as well as pollutant emissions standards, attract innovation and investment for manufacturing and selling cleaner trucks.  

Countries that already have standards in place will need to make them more stringent to cut emissions further, and those that do not yet have such standards will need to introduce them. A G20 clean-transport task group is helping countries begin to benchmark current technologies, categorise truck and bus operations, and use models such as VECTO and the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Model (GEM) to gather the information necessary to design regulations.  

In June 2020, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) adopted the Advanced Clean Trucks regulation, requiring truck and van manufacturers to transition to selling zero-emission trucks beginning in 2024. By 2045, every new truck sold in California must be zero-emissions (where feasible). In July 2020, California and 14 other states as well as the District of Columbia signed a memorandum of understanding to ensure that 100% of all new buses and trucks sold by 2050 will be zero-emissions.  

At the same time, some heavy-duty vehicle CO2 emissions standards also incentivise zero- and low-emission vehicle deployment through a super-credit system. These super credits reward manufacturers of zero- and low-emission trucks and buses by relaxing HDV CO2 emissions standards.  

While such schemes promote the market adoption of electric and hydrogen trucks in principle, if they are not designed to consider the variability within heavy-duty vehicle segments they may actually compromise the efficacy of emissions standards. It is crucial that standards take into account the unevenness of electrification potential (in the absence of policies) and differences in emissions implications from one segment to another. 

For instance, electrification of urban buses and municipal fleets will probably be rapid, so since most emissions come from regional and long-haul trucking, providing too many credits to manufacturers of electric urban buses and municipal trucks is likely to arbitrarily reward certain manufacturers while diluting the effect of the standards. 


The authors would like to extend their gratitude to Felipe Rodriguez (ICCT), Eamonn Mulholla (ICCT), Matteo Craglia (ITF), and Fedor Unterlogner (T&E) for reviewing and providing valuable feedback on a draft of this section.