The Committee of Climate Change has recommended a 2040 phase-out of diesel HGVs if the UK is to meet its 2050 net zero deadline.
The CCC made the recommendation as part of its Sixth Carbon Budget report.
Lord Deben, CCC chair, said in the report: “The implication of this path is clear: the utmost focus is required from the Government over the next 10 years.
“If policy is not scaled up across every sector; if business is not encouraged to invest; if the people of the UK are not engaged in this challenge - the UK will not deliver Net Zero by 2050.
“The 2020s must be the decisive decade of progress and action.”
The CCC acknowledged there is currently “considerable uncertainty” over the most cost-effective and feasible decarbonisation option for heavy goods vehicles (HGVs).
It also said the Government will need to fund large-scale trials of different technologies to gain a better understanding of options and for the market to develop.
The CCC said 96% of HGVs, buses and coaches will need to be zero emission vehicles by 2035 and this will need to reach almost 100% by 2040.
The CCC said there will need to be around 300 ultra-rapid public charging stations and 100 hydrogen stations by 2035 to support the transition, increasing to 650 and 250 respectively by 2040.
These alternative fuel infrastructure will be in addition to the depot charge points and refuelling facilities that will also be in operation by the HGV industry.
Gerry Keaney, chief executive of vehicle leasing industry body BVRLA, said setting a date for the phasing out of diesel trucks and lorries is a positive step, but HGV operators need a zero-emission roadmap.
He said: “Upgrading fleets and refuelling infrastructure to adopt hydrogen or battery electric technology will be very expensive and the Government will need to help operators absorb that cost burden.
“Many trucks travel huge distances, cross many borders and rely on public fuelling facilities, so UK policymakers will need to align their freight decarbonisation strategy with other countries.”
Europe’s truck manufacturers have agreed with the 2040 deadline.
Meeting this target, however, will only be possible, if the right charging/refuelling infrastructure is built and policy framework is put into place, they say.
To develop their roadmap to carbon-neutrality by 2050 at the latest, the CEOs of Europe’s commercial vehicle manufacturers, under the umbrella of the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA), have joined forces with scientists from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK).
Henrik Henriksson, chair of ACEA’s commercial vehicle board and CEO of Scania, explained: “If road freight transport is to maintain its role in serving society, we need to move away from fossil fuels as quickly as possible.
“Not only are we convinced that it is necessary, we know it is possible and we are ready to make it happen. But we cannot do it alone; we need policymakers and other stakeholders to join forces with us.”
A joint declaration by ACEA and PIK, published today, outlines the roadmap and conditions for transforming the road freight transport system.
Alongside investments by the commercial vehicle industry, this includes policy options such as road charges based on CO2 emissions, and an energy taxation system based on carbon and energy content.