Volvo Forecasts Rapid Growth for Electric Truck Adoption

April 26, 2021 by Jerry Hirsch, @Jerryhirsch

Volvo Trucks is pushing rapidly into heavy-duty electric trucks and believes that they could be accounting for half its sales in some markets within a decade.

“More and more transport companies are realizing they need to start their electrification journey right now, both with the environment in mind and for competitive reasons to satisfy customer requirements for sustainable shipping. With our wide and deep offering, it is totally feasible for far more transport companies to go electric,” says Roger Alm, President of Volvo Trucks.

The truck company launched the production of electric trucks in the U.S. late last year. Assembly of three new electric models for Europe will start later this year. Volvo first started selling its Volvo FL Electric and Volvo FE Electric in Europe about two years ago.

When the new models launch, Volvo Trucks will have a lineup of six medium and heavy-duty electric trucks, giving it the most extensive model lineup in the industry.

“There is huge potential to electrify truck transports in Europe, and also in other parts of the world, in the very near future,” Alm said.

The company has set a target to have electric trucks account for half of its sales in Europe by 2030.

In the U.S., Volvo just landed its most significant electric truck order to date.

Quality Custom Distribution, a national foodservice logistics supplier, will lease 14 Volvo VNR Electric trucks to use on delivery routes in Southern California. Volvo will start to deliver the trucks to QCD’s distribution center in Fontana later this year.

QCD operates a fleet of 700 Class 8 diesel tractors, of which than half are Volvo models.

“The experience gained from this program will help accelerate battery-electric truck adoption in QCD’s fleet, as well as other last-mile delivery fleets,” said Mike Douglas, senior director of strategic procurement, QCD.

SAIA, motor carrier with 5,000 diesel tractors, also recently leased two electric VNRs from Volvo to use in Southern California.

“Partnering with Volvo Trucks to deploy the VNR Electrics into our Southern California freight routes will allow us to explore and fully utilize zero-emission technology to reduce our fleet’s carbon footprint,” said Fritz Holzgrefe, Saia president and chief executive officer.

Volvo has about 100 trucks ordered or in operation in the U.S. and has additional orders for customers in California and other states that it has not yet announced.

For now, electric truck sales in the U.S. still rely on government subsidies. QCD’s deal is included funding by a $3.9 million grant awarded to Volvo Financial Services from the Mobile Source Air Pollution Reduction Review Committee’s Inland Port Program. That helped reduce the cost of the 14 trucks and charging equipment.

Some analysts expect the number of electric trucks to start to grow rapidly, especially in California where subsidies and regulations will speed adoption.

“With California’s Advanced Clean Trucks rule approved to start implementation by 2024, we expect annual sales of electric trucks to exceed 3,000 by 2025. Given that some manufacturers could receive credits for early compliance, we could see electric truck sales reaching the thousands in 2023, said Cristiano Façanha, global director of Calstart’s Drive to Zero program.

Mack Trucks, which Volvo owns, also is taking the initial steps to start selling and servicing electric garbage trucks.

Mack delivered pre-production Mack LR Electric vehicles last year to the New York City Department of Sanitation. Republic Service also is testing the LR Electric model on a residential collection route in Hickory, N.C.

Mack and Volvo are leasing space in Hayward, Calif., to build a training facility to support electric truck customers.

“Mack’s new Hayward training facility will serve as the flagship location for our LR Electric training and will greatly improve the convenience for our dealers and customers in the Western U.S. and Canada,” said Jonathan Randall, Mack Trucks senior vice president of North American sales and commercial operations.

Volvo said the next step in developing green transport is to launch the production of hydrogen fuel cell trucks. That class of trucks will better meet the demands of heavy cargo hauling over a long-range.

“Our aim is to start selling fuel-cell electric trucks in the second part of this decade, and we are confident we can make this happen,” Alm said.

Earlier this year, Volvo partnered with arch-rival Daimler Truck AG to form cellcentric GmbH, a joint venture that will develop, produce and commercialize fuel-cell systems for use in heavy-duty trucks. The truck makers want to launch with customer tests of trucks with fuel cells in about three years and begin production during the second half of this decade.

Both own equal interests in the joint venture but will continue to compete against each other by using different vehicle technology and fuel-cell integration in versions of the trucks for their respective brands.

Jerry Hirsch March 31, 2021
A series of recent deals involving Volvo, Aurora and Plus demonstrates how the journey to autonomous trucking is gaining speed. 

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