© NICOLAS RODET
Patrick Cholton declared: “I am truly delighted to see the profile and numbers of people who made time for the event this year, which also proves the value of these industry days. HGV and LCV manufacturers, hauliers, energy providers, rental companies, and equipment suppliers, from France and Europe all made the journey to address subjects of the highest importance and witness some very high-level discussions.”
While Clément Beaune, the French Minister of Transport, who had been scheduled to attend in support of the Industry Meetings, had to cancel his visit at late notice, he nevertheless recorded a video message aimed at the entire sector. In his speech, he sent out “a message conveying the Government’s very strong, clear support for the large and powerful momentum of change that the sector is experiencing at the moment, and its congratulations for all the efforts made for so many years.” The minister highlighted the electrification of trucks: “the decarbonisation potential of heavy-duty transport mainly resides in the replacement and greening of its powertrains. In the energy mix of the ecological transition of fleets, electric power constitutes a foremost vector.” Clément Beaune, who recently launched the first ministerial committee on low emission mobility zones (ZFE-m in French), alluded to the mechanisms already in place in main cities: “The Government has also embraced the subject to simplify transition measures for professionals by undertaking work to harmonise the rules to be defined and applied by city councils for professionals.”
Inflation in the spotlight
First up at these Meetings, Anne-Sophie Alsif, Chief Economist at BDO, gave us a few pointers to understanding the global economic landscape. In particular, she explained the difference between American and European inflation which, while they appear similar in terms of percentages, do not depend on the same components. In the United States, inflation is caused by excessive demand, due to post-Covid budgetary stimulus packages. Consequently, the Federal Reserve is today raising interest rates to make this inflation fall and revert to a normal situation in the medium term; they additionally do not have any energy supply problems since they already produce gas and crude oil. In Europe, the situation is quite different, since 60% of our inflation is triggered by the rising prices of energy and foodstuffs. This crisis-induced imported inflation is more difficult for the Central Bank to address. The ECB itself is raising rates, but the measures will have less impact since we are still dependent on energy. In the same way, economic growth will be weaker. Her conclusion is that we should not depend on a specific energy procurement source and therefore should buy our energy from several countries.
First talk: “Energy transition: the impossible scenario of Brussels?”
The first round table had an evocative title: “Energy transition: the impossible scenario of Brussels?” Listening to the points of view of the HGV manufacturers in around the table (representatives from Iveco, Scania, Volvo Trucks and the importers association CSIAM), a certain form of unanimity could be observed in regretting the Euro VII targets compounding those for electric mobility. In other words, their human and financial resources would appear incapable of pursuing and meeting all the targets within the given timeframe.
While all agree that battery electric vehicles will dominate the market in the long run, there will still remain a space for fossil fuel engines for certain missions unsuited to electric mobility. But, as recalled by many speakers, most notably Amélie Rung from Vinci Autoroutes, one of the key issues will be how to provide sufficiently powerful and dense charging infrastructure to charge all these HGVs. The recent announcements by RTE on the preservation of the French electricity grid in January 2023 would indicate that there is still a very long way to go.
The VIsion’AIR platform
Following this first round table, FFC and BDO presented the latest developments in the VIsion’AIR survey, with a platform to visualise the powertrains anticipated on the European market by country, vehicle type and use case. The platform also includes the TCO of each powertrain. The whole solution was designed to be user-friendly.
Stéphane RAUX, Special Guest Speaker
We were then offered the benefit of insights from our special guest speaker Stéphane Raux, head of the Powertrain Technology Department at IFP Energies Nouvelles, who offered us a focus on the various energy sources.
Constraints imposed by LEZs
The last part of this busy day was dedicated to one of the hottest topics of the time in our sector, as we discussed low emission zones (or clean air zones) which will lead to nearly 90% of trucks being banned from driving in city centres. In recent years, Europe has seen a conspicuous rise in LEZs of which there are now 320, including 253 in Italy, 82 in Germany and 22 in the United Kingdom. In France, there are currently 11, including five which have set out a deployment timeline culminating in a total ban on diesel vehicles in 2024 in Paris, 2025 in Grenoble, 2026 in Lyon and 2028 in Strasbourg. How will the haulage industry and market vertical cope with these new constraints ?
During the evening function following the series of talks and debates, Luc Chatel, Chairman of PFA, received the Industry Personality of the Year Award from Henri Paccalin, the Chairman of CSIAM. With this accolade, the FFC wished to pay tribute to the actions deployed by Luc Chatel at the height of the crisis to support our businesses.
Patrick CHOLTON presented an outline of the 2023 SOLUTRANS exhibition. On the agenda: themes covering the sector’s burning issues, such as the energy transition, retrofitting, alternative delivery methods, etc. A Cargo Bike area will also feature at the show, together with a comprehensive programme of live content. Another feature not to be missed is the new scenography of the Gala Dinner, a true institution at SOLUTRANS, which in 2023 will host an exceptional artist.