Gothenburg gets its first electric truck

Gothenburg, the home of Volvo Trucks, has high sustainability ambitions. This year the city gets its first all-electric truck, marking a small but important step in the direction of electrification of the city’s commercial transport. But what went on behind the scenes to get the first electrically powered truck onto the streets of Gothenburg?
Gothenburg sunset.

“In spring 2016 we were asked by the city’s Sustainable Waste and Water department to examine the possibility of developing an entirely electrically powered refuse truck. The aim was to use it in a project to find out how smarter and more sustainable transports can contribute to a more attractive urban environment,” relates Jonas Odermalm, Head of Product Strategy Volvo FL and Volvo FE at Volvo Trucks. 

It signalled the start of intensive cooperation between the City of Gothenburg, Volvo Trucks, JOAB and Renova. In their roles as customer, vehicle developer, bodybuilder and operator, the four all worked closely together.  

“We began by examining the route that the electrically powered refuse truck would take and the configuration of the vehicles currently being used on this route. How far do they drive, what speed do they reach, how heavily loaded are they, how many stops do they make per shift, is the road hilly or flat?” explains Jonas Odermalm.

By analysing and collating a number of different factors, the project received data about the requirement specification for which the truck would be designed. A desired gross vehicle weight of 19 tonnes with a 5 tonne payload and a daily route ranging between 60 and 70 kilometres, with 128 stops for picking up refuse along the way – these were the parameters for calculating the vehicle’s expected energy consumption. Since this is a refuse truck, the body/compactor unit’s energy consumption also had to be taken into account.  

Once the energy needs and traffic conditions were charted, the development team took a closer look at various energy supply alternatives. Having a large number of batteries on board would give a long range, but it would also negatively impact the vehicle’s payload. Having fewer batteries would allow a bigger payload, but the vehicle would require more frequent charging. 

“Was there a need for quick-charging along the route, or would it be sufficient to charge the batteries overnight? We studied several alternatives before we took the final decision,” says Hayder Wokil, who has primary responsibility for Volvo Trucks’ participation. 

The solution is a vehicle with three batteries and an energy storage capacity totalling 150 kWh, which is sufficient for doing a complete shift without extra charging. And since refuse trucks are only used during the day, the decision was made to charge them at night via the standard power grid.  

In early summer 2017 the refuse truck was built on a Volvo FL chassis. The electric driveline was installed, and the chassis and cab were adapted to suit the new technology. After six months of development work and optimisation, the refuse truck was fitted with a body in early 2018. It will now undergo fine-tuning and certification along with training of drivers and mechanics, before it starts regular operation on the streets of Gothenburg with Renova’s drivers behind the wheel.