Volvo rolls forward with VNR Electric trucks

TORONTO, Ont. – Volvo Trucks North America is powering ahead with plans to roll out a battery-electric truck, officially launching production of the VNR Electric in early 2021.

“It’s a historical day for us, it’s a historical day for our customers,” said Volvo Trucks North America president Peter Voorhoeve, calling it a key step in the journey to sustainability.

Early applications will include local and regional haulers, food and beverage fleets, and pickup and delivery applications.

The lineup will include three configurations – a single-axle straight truck, and 4×2 and 6×4 tractors.

The VNR Electric will deliver up to 455 hp and 4,051 lb-ft of torque, managed through a two-speed I-Shift transmission. (Photo: Volvo Trucks North America)

Power and charging

Bringing the mobility to the electromobility will be a pair of electric motors delivering 455 hp and 4,051 lb-ft of torque, managed through a two-speed I-Shift transmission.

Operating ranges will reach about 240 km between charges, depending on the configuration.

The range can be boosted by up to 15% through regenerative braking, adds John Moore, senior product manager – electric vehicles. And the 264 kWh battery can reach an 80% state of charge within 70 minutes when using a 150-kW charger.

Connections can be made with CCS1 or CCS2 connectors.

While cold weather can reduce battery range, this is being addressed with a glycol circuit that feeds through the truck, adding heat when required, Volvo officials say.

With the batteries, the trucks are about 4,000 lb. heavier than their diesel-powered counterparts, says Brett Pope, Volvo Trucks North America’s director – electric vehicles.

A single-axle straight truck will have a gross vehicle weight rating of 33,200 lb. The 6×4 will have a 66,000-lb. gross combination weight rating, and the 6×2 will have a GCWR of 82,000 lb. in specific applications.

The 264 kWh battery can reach an 80% state of charge within 70 minutes when using a 150-kW charger. (Photo: Volvo Trucks North America)

European experience

The electric platform is largely based on the technology found in Volvo FE Electric trucks, produced in Europe, but it was adapted for the specific needs of the North American market.

Volvo made no secret about its plans to launch the lineup. It was one of the first OEMs to commit to producing battery-electric commercial trucks, and announced the targets as early as December 2018.

It’s even been involved in electric vehicles for longer than that. The OEM has been producing electric buses for a decade, and has about 5,000 of those on the road worldwide.

There are no plans to stop there. Volvo has committed to a complete product line that will run on options other than fossil fuels as early as 2040. Its vision for longer-range vehicles includes hydrogen fuel cells, being developed in a partnership with Daimler.

And commitments to natural gas and compressed natural gas also continue, says Magnus Koeck, vice-president – strategy, marketing and brand management.

For drivers, the cab is largely identical to a diesel-powered VNR, but there are differences. A power meter replaces the tachometer, there’s a stalk-mounted regenerative brake controller, and everything is quieter. (Photo: Volvo Trucks North America)

Pre-production trucks

There are currently 70 pre-production VNR Electric trucks on the road, produced under Low Impact Green Heavy Transport Solutions (Volvo LIGHTS) – a project leveraging US$21.7 million from the U.S. EPA and South Coast Air Quality Management District.

Volvo officials stressed several times during the launch that initial rollouts will rely on financial incentives.

“Electric trucks, especially in asset value, are higher than diesel trucks, and in order to get it going we need an incentive structure,” Voorhoeve said.

Maintenance and financing

Ongoing support beyond that will come in the form of the Volvo Gold Contract — a standard offering which includes preventive and scheduled maintenance, towing, and electromobility repairs, says Mark Curri, senior vice-president of uptime and customer support.

The batteries themselves are designed for eight years of nominal use, depending on the application.

Volvo Financial Services will finance the trucks over six years, through loans or lease options, adds Chris Roback of Volvo Financial Services.

The decisions to acquire these trucks will involve more than vehicles alone, however.

“Customers that are interested, dealers that are interested in electric transport, talk to your utility company because getting the chargers on site takes some time,” Voorhoeve said.

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, Solid Waste & Recycling, and Road Today. The award-winning journalist has covered the trucking industry since 1995.

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