Volvo Trucks is on a mission to make electrification the norm. Although it’s not owned by the same conglomerate as Volvo Car Group, Volvo Trucks is just as Swedish when it comes to its philosophy, meaning it’s human-centric.
Sustainability isn’t a fad, it’s part of its heritage because the company has been involved in climate initiatives since the 1970s when it took part in the first environmental summit in Stockholm, Sweden. During our chat with Peter Voorhoeve, president of Volvo Trucks North America, we learned a lot about its electrification initiatives and found it will be offering multiple solutions to its customers.
“The future of transport is zero-emissions vehicles without any tailpipe emissions, no greenhouse gases, no noise, and no fine particles,” said Voorhoeve. He added that Volvo Group translated the electrification solution for its buses and translated to trucks with the first model being the VNR in North America. The company electrified the VNR first because of its role as a regional hauler that works closer to city centers.
Sustainability part of Volvo Truck heritage
Discussions with the South Coast AQMD and California Air Resources Board resulted in the Lights Project, in which Volvo Trucks became the main truck supplier. Together with its partners, Volvo Trucks aims to show off the viability of electric commercial trucks and currently has 25 in operation. “These trucks are being used in normal day-to-day operations,” added Voorhoeve. “It’s not a pilot and the operators aren’t going to give the trucks back; they are being put in real-world commercial operations.” Volvo Trucks is also getting good feedback on the vehicles’ uptimes. The company is already taking orders for the battery-electric VNR, which are eligible for several incentives.
Voorhoeve stresses that they’re in this for the future. “We’re not just taking orders for the trucks,” he stated. “We’re building them, delivering them, maintaining them, and putting them to work in commercial fleets.” The largest order, which is 16 units from the Performance Team, a subsidiary of the Maersk Group, will be on the road before the end of 2021. “This isn’t what we’re planning to do, this is what we are doing,” added Voorhoeve.
Beyond battery-electric vehicles, Volvo Trucks is also looking at fuel cell powertrains as a solution. Voorhoeve stressed that hydrogen fuel cell trucks are still electric vehicles, the only difference is that it creates electricity while you’re driving. He added that internal combustion engines will still play a key role in areas where battery-electric and hydrogen fuel cell powertrains aren’t as viable. For that, Volvo Trucks will be using something called “fossil-free” fuel or a type of biogas. A joint venture called cellcentric with Daimler has been established to help develop and commercialize hydrogen fuel cell powertrains that are expected to launch in the second half of this decade.
Volvo Trucks is also walking the walk by deploying its VNR Electric trucks in its own operations. It will use three of them on local routes to support its New River Valley assembly plant in Dublin, Virginia starting at the end of 2021 where they are expected to make 16 roundtrips per day. By 2040, Volvo Trucks aims to become carbon neutral and it’s leading by example. Through its multi-solution approach, the company aims to have something for every requirement. Think of this as the continuation of its sustainability commitment when it took part in the first climate summit.
Electrification is an extension of the Volvo heritage and the next logical step in cutting its carbon footprint.