As the first electric heavy-duty trucks start rolling on Southern California’s highways, Volvo Trucks North America Peter Voorhoeve sees enough market potential to start scaling production of the vehicles at a company factory in Virginia by the end of the year.
Volvo has a handful of battery-electric Volvo VNR heavy-duty trucks operated by customers on routes that connect the giant Los Angeles port complex to inland distribution centers. Volvo is rolling out a fleet of 70 electric trucks this year. California environmental agencies support much of the program with financial incentives and other funding.
Voorhoeve talked about what Volvo is learning from its initial tests of the trucks during the keynote session of the Alternative Clean Transportation, or ACT, virtual educational series on Tuesday.
Here is an edited version of that speech.
Electromobility is happening right now as a number of key indicators illustrate. There is a push, both societal and environmental, and also growing customer demands. Policies and incentives to accelerate electromobility are high on the agenda. Battery technology is progressing rapidly and industry investments are starting to heat up. Electric vehicles are part of our future.
We are harnessing our global electromobility development to secure a quick quality introduction of this technology.
For the North American market, we use group technology to adapt to our regional haul model, the VNR. Rather than bringing an existing electric truck model from Europe, we transferred the electric driveline into our North American model, which was designed and developed here in the United States to meet our North American customers’ specific needs. And we have optimized the technology to work into conditions our drivers face here. We build all of these trucks in the United States.
We must ensure that the electromobility is a financially viable and sustainable option. That means incentivizing the purchase of electric vehicles and funding the development of a robust charging infrastructure.
We have gained important information on how to prepare for serial production at our Volvo trucks plant. We have examined data from the tricks to optimize their performance in real-world conditions. We have demonstrated the VNR’s electric capabilities to our customer partners and verified our algorithms for energy management. We have gained insights into the logistics of charging vehicles, and we have learned how we can fine-tune our supporting tools.
We are working together with Volvo’s financial services to test new business models. This work includes full-service lease solutions to further enhance the ease of operations. We’ve gained experience to help guide fleets as they embark down this unpaved path towards electrification. For example, we’ve gathered insight into the details of developing and installing infrastructure for heavy-duty vehicles, including utility regulations and processes that can complicate installation time.
We have learned that it is important for fleets to engage utilities and local officials very early in the process of acquiring electric trucks.
We’ve also learned that when you use public funding, you want to work far in advance and thoroughly do your research.
We’ve discovered that having a dedicated electromobility point of contact in your organization is not only very helpful, but is really key to the process.
Interest is high for zero-emission vehicles. But it will be essential to apply the knowledge gained by early adopters to ensure that sufficient resources and supportive policies bolster their success in the marketplace.
The transition to zero-emissions vehicles will be a paradigm shift requiring greater interdependence among fleets, utilities, truck, and policymakers. Incentives to encourage the expansion of the electric vehicle population will be absolutely critical.