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Revolutionising Long Distance Heavy Duty Transport

Ricardo is working on the ZEFES (Zero Emissions flexible vehicle platforms serving the long-haul Freight Eco System)  programme, co-funded by the European Commission, which brings together five truck and two trailer original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), suppliers, logistics operators and research partners to work towards accelerating the integration of zero emission vehicles (ZEVs) for long distance heavy transport.  


The €39 million project supports the decarbonisation of long-distance freight transport by demonstrating real-world applications with battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) across Europe.

The ZEFES project officially started on 01 January 2023 and will last 3.5 years. It will contribute to the aims set out in the European Green Deal - and the 2Zero partnership where the EU makes the commitment to become the first climate-neutral continent by 2050 – and the Strategy for Sustainable and Smart Mobility – which sets the vision for a smart, competitive, safe, accessible and affordable transport system. 

The use of zero tailpipe emission vehicles for long-distance heavy-duty freight transport is an important pathway towards achieving this target. Ricardo has been supporting the European Commission with the revision of key policies to accelerate the uptake of these vehicles, including the revision of the CO2 standards for heavy-duty vehicles (which proposes more ambitious EU CO2 emission targets - 45% reduction target in 2030, 65% in 2035, and 90% in 2040 – currently under discussion) and the revision of the alternative fuels infrastructure directive (which became a regulation and sets specific targets for the deployment of charging stations and hydrogen refuelling infrastructure for heavy-duty vehicles).

The share of zero tailpipe emission vehicles in heavy-duty transport will therefore need to increase rapidly. However, current vehicles and technologies have challenges, regarding range, available payload, charging/refuelling possibilities, and energy/fuel costs, making them not comparable to traditional ICE vehicles. 



Ricardo experts are providing the digital simulation platform for the programme, which allows: 

  • Modelling of a range of vehicle operations and technology over multiple routes
  • Digital twinning
  • Removal of ambiguity of long-term investment decisions for the fleet operators buying new technologies
  • Local governments to make informed infrastructure decisions



By 2025, the programme aims to deliver nine different vehicles running over one million kilometres across EU corridors in ‘real world’ daily operations, all guided and validated by the digital platform designed by Ricardo. 
Vehicles will carry over 40 tonnes across distances of up to 750km, to vigorously test electric vehicle (EV) and fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) trucks against real world performance and to help understand infrastructure needs. 
The focus will be on improving efficiencies, mass production capabilities and demonstrating the use of the technologies in daily operations. 



  • Client gains a revolutionary digital simulation platform, allowing modelling of a range of vehicle operations and technology over the routes and validation of test.
  • The creation of zero emission, flexible vehicle platforms with modular powertrains serving the long-haul freight ecosystem.
  • Improved efficiencies, mass production capabilities and the use of technologies in daily operations.
  • Creation of a consortium of partners and experts in the industry to deliver future mobility strategies and technologies


European Commission Research & Innovation

Start and end dates

01/2023 - 06/2026



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