January 23, 2018 by John O'Dell

Volvo Will Sell Electric Trucks in Europe Next Year, North America to Follow

Volvo Trucks will launch sales of battery-electric delivery trucks in Europe next year, with electric models for the North American market to follow.

The company, a major manufacturer of commercial trucks of all classes, said its first all-electric model in Europe will be a cab-over “urban distribution” truck using Volvo’s second-generation medium-duty FE chassis.

The decision follows a study in Sweden that found use of quiet-running electric urban delivery and distribution trucks made nighttime deliveries feasible in crowded central Stockholm. Because the trucks didn’t have to deal with daytime traffic, assignments typically were completed in a third of the normal time.

“There are considerable differences” in trucking patterns in North America, but Volvo believes use of electric trucks in the U.S. and Canada is a logical follow-up to the introduction in Europe, Brandon Borgna, a spokesman for Volvo Trucks North America, told Trucks.com.

The company is looking at the use of electric delivery trucks in urban areas of North America initially, Borgna said.

The trucks’ quiet, emissions-free operation will reduce freight delivery impacts in cities and ports, and, as is expected to be the case in Europe, could lead to increased nighttime delivery, he said.

That would ease the impact of truck traffic on daytime rush hour periods as well as reduce delivery costs by cutting time spent in transit, Borgna said.

Volvo did not release the estimated range and battery specifications of its electric trucks.

Sweden's Volvo Group owns the Volvo and Mack truck brands as well as France's Renault Trucks and UD Trucks in Japan.

“Urban distribution and other pick-up and delivery applications are a starting point for battery-powered electric trucks, but we envision broader deployment of electric trucks for freight movement in North America as technologies and the market mature,” said Göran Nyberg, president of Volvo Trucks North America.

Volvo isn’t alone in moving toward the use of electric trucks in North America. There is already competition in the urban delivery market from Daimler Trucks’ new electric truck unit, E-Fuso, and by Los Angeles-based startup Chanje Energy Inc.

The initial electric delivery truck

The initial electric delivery truck from Volvo will use the European FE medium-duty chassis. (Photo: Volvo)

Industry analysts say that most major truck manufacturers are at least developing prototype electric models for testing, and several have announced firm production plans.

Daimler Trucks’ E-Fuso already is selling a medium-duty, cab-over electric delivery truck in the U.S. and Europe. The E-Fuso eCanter was introduced in the summer of 2017. A few months later Daimler showed a prototype Class 8 model, the E-Fuso Vision One, that it said would be in the market by 2020.

That would put it in direct competition with the electric Class 8 truck introduced late last year by Tesla Inc.

The Tesla Semi stirred the market by landing more than 400 advance orders for a truck that won’t be available until 2019 at the earliest.

Each truck commands a refundable deposit of up to $20,000. Initial orders for the Tesla electric truck were placed by UPS, PepsiCo, Sysco, Anheuser-Busch, J.B. Hunt, Walmart and Ryder Systems.

China’s BYD, which has a major electric bus and truck plant in Southern California, builds Class 5-7 electric vans as well as heavy-duty electric trucks for the port drayage and refuse industries. Los Angeles-based startup Chanje recently launched a Class 5 electric urban delivery van.

Other companies with electric truck plans include engine giant Cummins Inc., which recently showed a Class 7 “Aeos” electric truck prototype and said it plans to build electric powertrains for buses and trucks; electric transit bus manufacturer Proterra, which said it intends to move into electric truck manufacturing soon; and startup Thor Trucks, which is developing a Class 8 battery-electric truck powertrain that can be installed in various heavy-duty chassis.

Peterbilt unveiled a prototype Class 8 battery-electric refuse truck in early 2017, Wrightspeed has been installing its range-extended electric powertrain in Class 8 refuse trucks since late 2016, Motiv Power Systems builds scalable electric powertrains for numerous commercial applications including refuse and delivery trucks and Orange EV builds heavy-duty electric drayage tractors for port and terminal applications.

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