Volvo Trucks North America unveiled the VNR Electric zero-emissions truck at the factory where it will be built Thursday, providing details about its architecture and the plan for marketing the vehicle.
The truck is part of a broad initiative to commercialize electric trucks starting with highway road tests this year and commercial production and sales in 2020.
The company is plowing $400 million into its New River Valley, Va., factory in part to support assembly of its new line of VNR Electric heavy-duty trucks.
“Battery electric vehicles address environmental concerns. Customers are asking for that. There is a sense of urgency that we need to address environmental issues,” said Brett Pope, Volvo’s North American director of electric vehicles.
“There are now consumers and businesses that want goods and products delivered in an environmentally-friendly way with zero-emissions vehicles,” Pope said.
Volvo, a separate company from the car brand with the same name, is building a business plan designed to market the new technology.
The truck company will market the VNR Electric with a single monthly lease payment that will include maintenance and insurance. Volvo also plans to lease charging installation and infrastructure improvements to customers. It will provide consulting services to help customers manage an electric fleet and charging needs.
Additionally, Volvo is exploring providing energy services such as fixed, negotiated electricity rates and onsite solar generation. The truck company also is looking at recycling depleted batteries into secondary services, such as providing onsite energy storage.
Volvo will deploy 23 battery-electric VNRs in Southern California. They will run between the Inland Empire in cities of Ontario, Chino and Fontana and the massive combined Long Beach and Los Angeles port complex.
The first five go into service this year with the remainder next year. Dependable Highway Express and NFI are the first customers. NFI also is participating in an early test of Daimler’s Freightliner eCascadia heavy-duty trucks. Volvo dealer group TEC Equipment of Fontana, Calif., also will use a VNR Electric to ferry equipment to some of its facilities.
The diesel version of the VNR is Volvo’s regional haul, heavy-duty truck. A regional haul truck works best for early deployment of electric trucks, Pope said. That’s because they travel on set routes and can return to a central depot for charging. That reduces the investment in charging infrastructure needed to deploy an electric truck.
Regional trucks typically drive routes of 200 miles or less, which fits within an electric truck’s range. But Volvo is not yet identifying the VNR Electric’s range. It is waiting to see how the vehicle performs in real-world tests hauling goods, Pope said.
Volvo also is waiting closer to commercial launch before providing a price for the vehicles. It plans sales first in California where there are state environmental incentives and a market created by emission regulations.
TURNING ON LIGHTS
The test is part of Volvo’s Low-Impact Green Heavy Transport Solutions, or LIGHTS program. It is a $90 million program funded by 16 partners. Volvo is contributing $36 million and the California Air Resources Board $45 million. Another $9 million will come from the other partners. The South Coast Air Quality Management District, which oversees air quality in Southern California, will manage the program.
The LIGHTS program includes the trucks, 29 zero-emission forklifts and yard tractors, 58 charging stations and other equipment.
The electric VNR has dual electric motors mated to a two-speed gearbox. Volvo located the motors in the center of the truck rather than at each wheel because of high forces axles must withstand. Some truck manufacturers place motors at each wheel in their designs. But Volvo believes its design will be more durable, said Chad Burchett, chief project manager for the VNR Electric.
Volvo located the electronics and controls in a modular power box under the hood – the former home of the diesel engine in a conventional vehicle. That allows for easy access and service.
Battery packs slide into shelves on each side in the chassis. Technicians can remove and service the batteries without lifting the body off the truck, again easing access, Burchett said.
The batteries can be charged from 50 percent to full in about 30 minutes and from empty in about 65 minutes. German supplier Akasol, which is building a factory in Detroit, will produce the battery packs.
Volvo will launch limited commercial production of the electric VNR late next year. The first deliveries will be in California and other regions where environmental regulations are pushing zero-emission trucks, Pope said.