“There are pretty hardcore commitments in this, we are sticking out our neck and saying quite a few things we haven’t in the past.”

The heads of Europe’s biggest truck businesses have signed a joint pledge to ditch traditional diesel engines by 2040, a decade earlier than originally planned.

They are also calling on governments to impose higher carbon taxes to disincentivise diesel trucks, and make new technology more attractive to operate

An alliance of Daimler (Mercedes-Benz), Scania, MAN, Volvo, DAF, Iveco, plus light commercial/van maker Ford have signed a pledge to phase out pure-diesel and focus on hydrogen, battery technology and clean fuels.

The industry will spend about €50bn-€100bn on new technologies, Scania CEO Henrik Henriksson told today’s Financial Times, ahead of the formal announcement of the pledge.

The truckmakers, under the umbrella of EU carmaker association ACEA, are working with the German funded Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research to consider the best technologies and approaches.

The pledge signed by the CEOs of the truck and van businesses also calls for widespread investment in energy grids and a higher tax on carbon across Europe to help drive the change.

“If we can make this happen, we need to work all together,” said Mr Henriksson, who chairs ACEA’s commercial vehicle board.

“If we can make this happen, we need to work all together” said Mr Henriksson, who chairs ACEA’s commercial vehicle board.

Scania CEO and Chair of the ACEA CV Board, Henrik Henriksson

The EU plans to reduce CO2 emissions by 50% by the end of the decade. Transport – especially by road – is the biggest producer of CO2 across Europe.

The UK has said it will end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars including hybrids by 2035, and will consult on trying to end the use of diesel trucks.

Professor Johan Rockström, Director of the Potsdam Institute, observes that freight is one of the most difficult areas to decarbonise: “It’s the backbone of any society in the world today, but we have to recognise that it is very dependent on the internal combustion engines (ICE) to transport all the goods of every industry.”

The institute previously helped the seafood industry decarbonise, by working with its largest players to make changes that smaller companies also followed.

While technologies such as battery electric systems work for inner-city delivery vans, long-distance haulage vehicles still require diesel because of the need to charge and the weight of batteries reducing payload.

Hydrogen, which requires its own refuelling infrastructure network, is expected by the industry to be a more likely solution for the largest long distance trucks, while biofuels are expected to help cut emissions in the shorter term.

Mr Henriksson adds: “There is no silver bullet; it won’t be that one technology will rule everything, there will be parallel technologies over time.

“They will come in different paces, but if we sit and wait for the perfect technology to emerge we will burn the planet.”

“There is no silver bullet; but if we sit and wait for the perfect technology to emerge, we will burn the planet”

Scania CEO and Chair of the ACEA CV Board, Henrik Henriksson

Any of the changes will require significant investment in either battery charging bays or hydrogen stations, as well as grid upgrades so the network can handle the sudden rush of demand for a fast-charger on a large lorry.

“The basic grid needs to be concentrated so that we can charge at depots and at highways,” said Mr Henriksson. “That is not a big investment, but that needs to happen.”

The group is also calling for a higher carbon tax in the EU, to disincentivise investments into fossil fuel technology.

Mr Henriksson concludes: “If politicians continue to subsidise fossil fuels, it will be very difficult for us, we need to change behaviour of our customers, and of our customers’ customers.”

“There are pretty hardcore commitments in this, we are sticking out our neck and saying quite a few things we haven’t in the past.”