Volvo extends VNR Electric range, explores options for battery life

Volvo Trucks North America continues down the road of electrification, and the latest update to its VNR Electric is promising a range that will take if further still.

The Class 8 battery-electric truck now comes with up to a 275-mile (443-km) range before recharging is required, well beyond the 150 miles available with first-generation models. And while the six battery packs each weigh about 3,000 lb., the total weight of the truck itself comes within 4,000 lb. of its diesel-powered counterpart.

“It was mainly driven on customer demands,” says Volvo Trucks North America president Peter Voorhoeve, referring to the call for such trucks to travel longer distances.

Volvo Trucks North America president Peter Voorhoeve
Volvo Trucks North America president Peter Voorhoeve (Photo: John G. Smith)

Results will admittedly vary. But Voorhoeve stresses that Volvo is typically conservative in such projections. NFI, for example, found it could travel close to 180 miles with the first-generation trucks.

“Trucks do not always run 100% full,” he observes, referring to one factor that can play a role in longer ranges. “The average fill rate of a truck is 25%.” Drivers, meanwhile, can replenish power through regenerative braking.

But the OEM’s commitment to sustainability looks beyond truck range alone. It is also exploring ways to rebuild or repurpose batteries for a second life.

“The state of the battery after eight years is actually still really, really good. I mean, you’re talking about 80%,” Voorhoeve says, referring to projections about the storage capacity that will remain.

“There will be an element of remanufacturing where you basically take the battery back in and you redo the cells,” he adds. So, too, could such batteries be used store energy produced through environmentally friendly means such as solar panels or wind turbines. Those ideas were explored during the Volvo LIGHTS electric vehicle demonstration project in Southern California.

The journey, however, will also require more than trucks alone. Such vehicles will require charging infrastructure. The good news is that government funds are being committed for such work.

“Charging infrastructure leads to a higher level of adaptation,” he adds. Quebec’s Groupe Morneau, for example, discovered the charging station at a nearby Petro-Canada station after taking delivery of its first VNR Electric. It then requested a second vehicle, because the placement of that second charger immediately allowed the fleet to extend the length of a typical trip.

Government incentives will also have a role to play in advancing the rollout of such trucks. The vehicles can cost US $350,000, he notes. “You need to make a profit in your business, right? I mean, otherwise, the whole system doesn’t work.”

But such investments will deliver dividends.

“We need to spend a certain amount of money on sustainability or otherwise we will disqualify from business in the future,” he says.

Accelerating the shift, Volvo adds, will help to “move the world we want to live in.”

John G. Smith is the editorial director of Newcom Media's trucking and supply chain publications -- including Today's Trucking, trucknews.com, TruckTech, Transport Routier, Inside Logistics, Waste & Recycling, and Road Today. The award-winning journalist has covered the trucking industry since 1995.


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