Australia too slow to charge into electric trucks

Jennifer Dudley-Nicholson |

Woolworths chief executive Brad Banducci with an electric delivery truck.
Woolworths chief executive Brad Banducci with an electric delivery truck.

Australia is missing a significant opportunity to cut its transport emissions, with legal delays, missing infrastructure and a lack of financial support holding back the transition to electric delivery trucks, an expert has warned.

But Adiona chief executive Richard Savoie said launching transport policies now could deliver major changes by 2030 and encouraging the adoption of zero-emission trucks would make an even bigger impact than moving to electric cars.

The warning from the transport technology provider comes days after the federal government invited ideas on how to cut Australia’s transport emissions.

It also comes after supermarket chains Woolworths and Coles committed to using electric trucks in their delivery and supply networks.

Mr Savoie said it was gratifying to see both major supermarket chains going electric but the move was happening too slowly even though it could significantly cut transport pollution.

Transport is the third largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Australia, making up 19 per cent.

“Commercial vehicles are a big opportunity to decarbonise fast,” Mr Savoie said.

“Delivery trucks and commercial vehicles generally have a disproportionate effect on emissions – they are on the roads longer and they’re utilised every day.”

Coles electric truck
Coles added its first electric delivery truck to its Queensland fleet in August. (HANDOUT/COLES)

Adiona research showed replacing 10 delivery trucks with electric models would be equivalent to replacing 56 petrol cars, but Mr Savoia said their impact did not win enough recognition from policymakers.

A Woolworths spokeswoman confirmed the company had added 29 electric delivery trucks to its Sydney fleet, and three heavy trucks transporting goods between Sydney and Melbourne.

The company has pledged to use only electric delivery trucks by 2030, replacing more than 1000 diesel vehicles.

Coles also added one electric delivery truck to its Queensland operations in August, and has trialled a larger electric truck with Linfox and an electric yard tractor.

Mr Savoia said several factors were delaying the wider adoption of low-emission trucks in Australia, including a lack of financial rebates, a scarcity of charging infrastructure for large vehicles, and delays to the delivery of a fuel-efficiency standard.

The national standard, which would set an emissions limit on each automaker’s fleet, was expected before the end of the year but has been delayed.

“California has had fuel-efficiency standards for years and it absolutely has put them in a leadership role because they’re looking at phasing out diesel trucks across the state by the end of the decade,” Mr Savoia said.

“The fact that Australia doesn’t have emissions limitations means it’s going to continue to be a dumping ground for inefficient, cheaper vehicles.”

The call for greater support came two days after the federal transport department launched consultation into a Net-Zero Roadmap looking at barriers and opportunities to cut transport emissions.

The consultation, which will investigate active, road, aviation, maritime, rail and freight transport, will be open until December 22 and a draft plan is expected early in 2024.