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How and Where Will Electric Commercial Vehicles Charge in the UK?

Getting the UK’s charging infrastructure network right is essential as electric commercial vehicles and electric HGVs continue to increase on the roads.

electric hgv trucks uk

As we discussed in this blog, the electrification of commercial vehicles (CVs) and heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) is gradually starting to take shape. HGVs account for 4.3% of overall UK greenhouse emissions, so turning commercial road vehicles green is vital for paving the way to a more sustainable transport system overall. 

Despite the very different roles they play in the transportation sector, electric CVs and HGVs are not unalike the electric passenger cars we are seeing more and more of in the UK.  

Just like with any electric model, electric CVs and HGVs will need to charge, and that means we need reliable charging infrastructure for this purpose. However, due to their size and the high-power demand they will require for a full charge, this is not necessarily a straightforward process. 

In this blog, we talk through: 

  • The types of locations that are best suited to host charging infrastructure for this market 
  • How much power and how long it will take to charge electric HGVs and CVs 

Where can you charge electric CVs and HGVs?

Currently, the charging infrastructure for CVs and HGVs is very limited. As more electric models come to our roads, however, charge points will be in demand. 

Charging infrastructure will be installed at both private, depot sites, and public sites. Let’s look at the two options in more depth. 

Depot EV charging

Depot-based HGV fleets predominantly executing back-to-base operations of approximately 400 km or less a day are expected to be the primary initial focus for electric HGV uptake. 

National Grid estimates that 70-90% of refuelling for EVs is expected to occur at depots or fuel bunkers. High powered chargers will be required to charge a vehicle quickly between shifts. However, low power chargers would work for charging vehicles in a depot overnight – if vehicles are returning to base at the end of a shift, the infrastructure should be suitable for longer, overnight charges. 

There is an exciting opportunity to invite other fleet vehicles to use this private infrastructure and offer them the chance to share in the use of the charge points. This further enhances the business case and reduces the total cost of ownership of the charge points, as fleet managers can generate revenue to help pay off the expenditure of the infrastructure. 

Public charging

What if vehicles need to charge within shifts, but they cannot make it back to base in enough time? 

To support the charging offered at company depots, there will need to be charging infrastructure on the UK’s public network that is designed specifically for the CV/HGV driver. Rather than return to base for a rapid charge, public charge points that are accessible whilst travelling on route can be used. 

 If 70-90% of HGV charging will be done overnight at a depot or destination, only 10-30% will be done on route at motorway and trunk road service stations. But the public network will nonetheless be integral to support those vehicles which cover long distances and will need to be on the road for long periods of time. The charging infrastructure should be suitable for a speedy top-up charge, so drivers are not delayed on their journeys for an unnecessary amount of time. 

What makes a good public charging location for electric CVs/HGVs?

A study conducted by Fraunhofer ISI on behalf of the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) indicated key locations for the future deployment of charging points for battery electric trucks. 

To identify the sites, Fraunhofer analysed 30,000 aggregated truck stop locations. This information was based on the logistics activity of some 400,000 trucks using 750,000 individual stops. Some of the findings were: 

  • Truck stop locations are concentrated around highly populated areas in central Europe. They are denser around important industrial areas and major cities. 
  • Around one third to one half of the stops are in rest areas close to motorways. One quarter to one third are found at company sites or logistic hub locations, whilst only 1% – 5% are in ports and ferry terminals. 

Public charging will most likely be found along major traffic arteries, routes, conurbations and forecourts. In the first instance, the sites chosen will likely be tailored to where trucks generally terminate and rest.  

When looking at the feasibility of using the public network, fleet managers must consider the routes the vehicles take and whether a charge stop can be realistically mapped into the journey. 

And, for both private and public charge point installations, the availability of power grid capacity and what scope there is to upgrade the power supply, if necessary, must be considered. 

ev truck charging

How much power for such large vehicles? 


How long does it take to charge electric HGVs and CVs?

Charging speed will depend on the infrastructure, whilst the range any given vehicle is able to cover following this charge will depend on its size and duty load. 

Crucial to this discussion in the shift patterns of these vehicles, and how long they will be driving for. With every unique case, we must consider the type of charging needed to ensure the vehicles can stay on the road for the time that they are required to.  

How much power does it take to charge electric HGVs and CVs?

For electric cars, there is a wide range of hardware options and charging speeds, from 7kW slow charging all the way to 300kW ultra-rapid charging.  

It is likely there will be a new charging hardware standard for HGVs. The range will be from CCS 4 -500 kW output, enabling up to 300 kilometres of charge within 1-2 hours, to a ‘Megawatt Charging System’, or MCS, for the biggest vehicles. 

Asking the right questions to inform the future of your fleet 

There are some key questions fleet managers should consider when thinking about how, when and where their new electric CVs and HGVs will charge: 

  • How long does a vehicle have to charge between shifts? Can they return back to base to charge, or will they need to charge on route? 
  • What kW output is needed for respective vehicles and their shift patterns? 
  • Thinking about depot charging, if a grid connection upgrade is required, how long will it take and how much needs to be invested? If a grid upgrade is not possible, what other options are available in line with budget and time scales? 

Mer can help you find the answers

It can be daunting to launch into a new era of electrifying your commercial vehicles. Mer has the experience and knowledge to support fleet managers on this journey. 


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