From concept to practical reality, the transition to low and zero emission trucks is a journey which speed is accelerating rapidly and Volvo Trucks has demonstrated a determination to be at the forefront of road transport’s CO² reduction.
Heavy hitters no less than Roger Alm, President and CEO of Volvo Trucks globally and Per-Erik Lindstrom, who is the Senior Vice President of Volvo Trucks International, travelled to Australia to participate in the Volvo Trucks Australia Sustainability Summit held just prior to the 2023 Brisbane Truck Show.
“We decided very early that electrification is the best way to meet zero transport emissions for our customers and our society,” says Roger. “In 2019 we started series production of our first electrical trucks for city distribution and refuse applications. We are breaking new ground and we are doing that together with our customers.”
In September 2022 Volvo commenced production of heavy-duty electric trucks and currently has six electric truck models covering the majority of customer needs including city distribution, construction and linehaul applications.
Volvo has sold 5,000 electric trucks to date into 40 countries and is poised to enter the African, Asian and Latin American markets towards the end of 2023.
“By 2030 our ambition is that 50 per cent of all global volume for Volvo Trucks will be Battery Electric or Fuel Cell Electric, and by 2040 our aim is all trucks we sell will be net zero emissions trucks,” says Roger. “This is very ambitious for Volvo, but we are so very determined to continue to lead.”
Volvo Trucks’ recent global success in sales, including significant market shares in Europe and North America is important in providing the financial requirements for the massive investments in research and development of zero emission trucks.
“We see the future having different technical solutions but we strongly believe that Battery Electric trucks will be the huge majority in reaching our target of 100 per cent fossil free vehicles by 2040,” says Per-Erik Lindstrom. “We realise we need to work with more than one solution.”
After more than a century of development, modern internal combustion diesel engines have thermal efficiencies approaching 50 per cent and significantly, all of the non-electric Volvo trucks displayed in Brisbane were fuelled by hydrogenated vegetable oil (HVO) which is one of several renewable fuels being explored along with liquefied bio-gas as interim solutions in the transition away from fossil-sourced diesel.
HVO became recognised as a fuel by the Commonwealth Government at the beginning of July earlier in the year.
“We see different types of gas solutions like Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) and liquefied biogas as sustainable solutions,” says Per-Erik.
“We also see hydrogen as a possibility for internal combustion engines. It’s roughly the same technology as using LNG.”
Hydrogen is also being utilised to generate electricity in Volvo’s fuel cell electric vehicles. In this category, a joint venture with Daimler Trucks draws upon the expertise of fuel cell specialist Cell Centric to develop heavy-duty trucks with effective travelling ranges of 1,000 kilometres.
“We have been testing on public roads in Sweden, and in a couple of years from now we will actually have real customer tests,” say Per-Erik.
“We foresee this technology will be more mature in the second half of this decade, and we have to remember this is an electric truck and there will be batteries on the truck.”
Currently, production facilities overseas are performing assembly of diesel, gas and electric powered trucks on the same production lines.
There are currently no plans to introduce the manufacture or assembly of electric trucks in Australia. As its source of batteries, Volvo has a partnership with Samsung and plans to build a battery factory near the present engine plant in Sweden. As it pursues the transition to electric and hydrogen vehicles, Volvo also remains focused on the here and now.
The Volvo FL and FE Electric medium-duty range provides a zero emissions option in GVM applications ranging from 16,000 to 26,000kg. Electric Volvo FL and FE medium-duty trucks are operating in Australian fleets including Linfox, Team Global Express and Australia Post.
Volvo has also announced the first Australian order of the recently unveiled heavy-duty truck, the FH Electric which is the largest truck in Volvo’s fleet of electric vehicles and has a range of 300km at a GVM of around 44 tonnes.
The order also includes the mid-sized FL Electric, which has a range of 400km and both trucks are anticipated to be delivered to Followmont Transport in late 2023. An order for a FMX Electric prime mover has been placed by Queensland Fire and Rescue.
“We’re really excited to have our entire electric range now available for sale in Australia” says Gary Bone, Vice President Volvo Trucks Australia. “The charging network is going to be critical to the success of these electric vehicles for our customers and the industry as a whole. At Volvo we use the acronym ABC: ‘Always Be Charging’. We are encouraging our customers that when they do pull up to load or unload, or the driver is on a rest break, start charging.”
A basic Alternating Current charger capable of charging 22kW hours for medium-duty and 43kW hours for a heavy-duty application is simple to install and requires around eight hours to fully charge a truck.
Direct Current chargers require more investment and are more sensitive to depot energy availability and performance ranges from 50-150kWh units requiring 1.5 to 3 hours charging time, all the way to 1,000kWh units needing just 16 minutes to recharge.
“When we delivered our first two electric trucks to customers for trials last year, we said that this was just the start of our Australian electro-mobility journey,” says Paul Illmer, Vice President Emerging Technology, Volvo Group Australia.
“Customer demand for electric transport options is fast becoming a tsunami, and we are now well placed to ride that wave of demand”.