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FAQ about electric trucks 

 

Electromobility is an area still associated with several questions. For example, regarding environmental impact, charging and range. Below you find frequent questions and our answers to these, sorted into three categories.

 

Society/Sustainability

Product & Services

Business    

Society/Sustainability

Electromobility refers to vehicles – including cars, buses, trains and trucks – that are fully or partly powered by electricity, have a means of storing energy on board and are usually supplied via the grid. The main type of vehicle with an electric driveline is the BEV (battery electric vehicle), but there are also electric vehicles fuelled by hydrogen called fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs). Electromobility also includes the charging infrastructure and support services for range and route planning and other functions.

Many companies are formulating ambitious CO2 goals to comply with the Paris agreement, for example, and electric trucks are one means of achieving these goals. Stricter carbon emission regulations are certainly also driving this technology, as well as the desire for better air quality and less noise, especially in large urban areas. Another important driver is transport efficiency. Electric trucks can make deliveries at night and in off-peak periods and can access more locations than their diesel counterparts, including the inside of buildings.

A battery electric vehicle (BEV) uses energy stored in batteries charged with electricity from the grid. An electric vehicle using fuel cell technology (FCEV) is fuelled with hydrogen which is converted to electricity while the vehicle is being driven.

The environmental impact of an electric truck is very low when the truck is in use, but slightly higher during production. However, because trucks have high usage rates, it is possible to compensate for this quickly. Electric drivelines are more energy efficient and have the lowest environmental impact when they use electricity from renewable sources. 

An electric vehicle produces zero tailpipe emissions and considerably less noise than a combustion engine vehicle. However, emissions are released during production and while driving from tyres, brakes, road wear etc.

To answer this you need to look at the total life cycle of the vehicle including raw materials, production and usage. An electric truck emits more CO2 during production, but generally much less when being used. However, the local energy mix - the availability of coal versus wind or solar energy for example - has a significant effect on the overall impact of the vehicle. For more information and precise calculations, please see the Volvo Trucks environmental footprint calculator.

Yes, about 90% of the life cycle environmental impact of a traditional diesel truck comes from the usage. Trucks that run on electricity from renewable sources have a much lower usage impact. At Volvo we work hard to make sure that the raw materials are extracted using sustainable methods and that the batteries are produced with a minimal impact on the climate. 

We require all our suppliers and their suppliers to follow our values with regard to respect for human rights, the environment and business ethics. 

Lithium ion batteries contain certain scarce materials such as heavy metals and rare earth metals. Some of the scarce materials that can be found in lithium ion batteries and other electromobility components sometimes come from sources that benefit armed groups in the area of origin either directly or indirectly. Often these materials are referred to as conflict minerals. Volvo Trucks is assessing its entire supply chain to ensure that all the tantalum, tungsten, tellurium, gold and cobalt used in its truck batteries comes from non-conflict sources.

So far the numbers of end-of-life batteries have been fairly low, but as we ramp up our production of electrified trucks the need for recycling and reuse streams will increase. To be prepared for this, Volvo Trucks is working together with waste contractors and other actors to maximise the recycling rate of electric batteries. We are also looking into second use options for old batteries to find ways of prolonging their useful life in other applications, such as energy storage in buildings.B14

We take a holistic approach to the entire life cycle as well as the supply chain, including suppliers, materials, logistics, manufacturing and recycling. This includes both how the driveline and batteries are produced as well as which materials are being used.

This varies greatly from country to country. But in general the availability of energy from renewable sources is growing rapidly and this energy is often more cost-effective than fossil fuels. For more information regarding the EU energy mix, please see the Volvo Trucks environmental footprint calculator.

We believe that by 2030 50% of all Volvo trucks sold in Europe will be electric, using either battery or fuel cell technology.

From the industry's perspective, it is to develop knowledge about how to use the technology in the most efficient way, by optimising routes, battery energy usage, servicing schedules and the availability of the trucks. From society's perspective, the transition must be encouraged by means of incentives and by helping to provide the charging infrastructure and grid capacity to support a large number of vehicles. The main factor is the need for sustainable transport. This will remain the driving force behind the transition for the foreseeable future.

Electric vehicles require a large amount of energy when they are being charged. One way of managing this is to encourage users to charge their vehicles overnight and to spread and balance the demand over both large grids and local grids in smart ways. Major investments are now being made - and are urgently needed - in developing the infrastructure and creating more charging stations. Initially, most trucks will need to be charged at their home base. At Volvo we are stressing the need for governments to introduce incentives for the installation of public charging stations with a high capacity and enough space for trucks. 

We closely follow the development of recycling technologies and participate in several projects where electric vehicle (EV) batteries are being transferred to other applications, such as storage in solar energy systems, after they have reached their operational capacity limit. 

Products & Services

Because electric trucks produce no exhaust gases, they can also make deliveries in zero emission zones. In addition they are quieter, which means that they can operate in cities at night when other heavy vehicles are not allowed to. As a result, electric trucks can increase the efficiency of a business. The trucks can be on the road when there is less congestion and make deliveries more quickly and easily. They also improve productivity, because they can make more journeys during periods when there is less traffic and get even closer to the end delivery point because of their silent operation.

We are already supplying medium-duty electric trucks for distribution and refuse collection operations. These are the Volvo FL Electric and FE Electric in Europe and the Volvo VNR Electric in the USA. During 2021, we will start selling the electric heavy-duty Volvo FH, Volvo FM and Volvo FMX trucks, which will be used for regional transport and urban construction operations in Europe. 

We have advanced simulation tools that are based on our experience from several years of using electric vehicles in commercial operations. The figure for our heavy-duty trucks is based on a regional distribution driving cycle with a Volvo FH 4x2 tractor with an average GCW (gross combination weight) of 30 tonnes. Our heavy-duty trucks can have a gross combination weight of up to 44 tonnes. 

When we supply a truck, we assess the route carefully with the customer and calculate where charging will be needed to meet the transport requirements. Volvo is constantly investigating new options and collaborations relating to the charging of our vehicles.

Initially we believe that the majority of trucks will be charged at the customer’s home base overnight. As electric vehicles become more common, there will also be the need and the opportunity to charge them in many different places, such as loading bays, service workshops, truck stops and other places where trucks are parked.

Our heavy-duty trucks can be charged with an AC charger (for example a charging box) at up to 43 kW and with a DC system (stationary charging station) which has a capacity of 250 kW.

Using an AC charger it takes around 9 hours to fully charge the batteries. With a DC charger, the charging time is reduced to approximately 2 hours. The battery can be charged more quickly up to 80% capacity, in just the same way as a smartphone, because the charger slows down towards the end of the process to protect the battery cells.

At the moment, our electric trucks offer a range of up to 300 km. However, the range depends to a large extent on external conditions such as the weather and wind resistance, together with the weight of the truck and the driver’s driving style. The range and the service life can be extended by using economy drive modes, training the driver and carefully following the instructions for charging and managing the batteries. We look closely at each customer’s circumstances and draw up possible routes and charging strategies. Customers can use digital tools to track and plan the use of the truck so that the charging patterns can be improved over time. 

The fastest method is DC charging at up to 250 kW where the charging time from flat to fully charged is around 2 hours.

The driver can track the state of charge on the truck’s instrument cluster. It can also be monitored remotely via the Volvo Connect portal which shows the location of the truck and the current charging status in different views. Volvo’s MyTruck app also has a charge monitoring function and a series of other useful functions for electric trucks. 

The Volvo Connect portal has a Route & Range Planning function which allows customers to plan routes and share them with the driver via the truck’s instrument cluster. This makes it easy to calculate the range and gives the option of making more deliveries based on the charging status. 

The Volvo service contract for electric trucks includes monitoring the batteries to ensure that they maintain their capacity during their service life. The contract also guarantees the battery function beyond the two-year driveline guarantee that comes with the truck.

Volvo’s electric trucks meet the same high crash safety standards as our other trucks and offer the same safety systems as the diesel models. On top of that, specific crash scenarios have been added for the electric trucks to verify the crashworthiness of the battery installation and other electric components. Furthermore, we have made every effort to design the 600-volt electric system in the truck to be safe when the truck is in use and during servicing.

Users normally learn how the truck works and feel comfortable with the range very quickly. If the battery charge drops to zero while the truck is being driven, there is a certain reserve energy capacity available that will help the driver to get to a safe place.

We use lithium ion batteries. The heavy-duty electric trucks will initially be offered with 5 or 6 battery packs. Each battery pack has a total energy of 90 kWh , which means either 450 kWh or 540 kWh of total energy. Each battery weighs 505 kg. 

The battery packs are assembled in our own factories to ensure that they are of the highest quality and have been fully tested. The total service life can vary and will depend on different factors such as the amount of use, the driving cycles, the charging etc. Volvo constantly monitors the batteries and offers a service contract which guarantees their function.

Volvo is investigating and offering remanufacturing, recycling and second life solutions where the batteries can be used for quite different purposes.

The maintenance intervals are roughly the same, but the servicing is different from a traditional driveline. The consumption of spare parts depends on the transport application, the region where the truck is in operation and many other factors. The trucks are connected and can report on the condition of different components which means that servicing and maintenance can be organised to increase their uptime.

All the dealers that sell electric trucks are ready to take full responsibility for the technical systems and functions of the trucks. Many of the service workshops have extensive experience of servicing electric buses.

The performance curve of electric trucks is different from that of trucks with combustion engines. For example, the power kicks in as soon as you put your foot on the accelerator. The fact that electric trucks have fewer gears also makes for a different driving experience.

Electric trucks produce less vibration and make less noise, which results in a comfortable and relaxing driving experience.

Contact your local Volvo dealer and register your interest.

The ecosystem is made up of all the hardware, services and people, for example, responsible for monitoring and safeguarding the function and range of the truck and ensuring that customers can make their deliveries reliably. This includes areas such as charging, service planning and remote diagnostics for the truck and software services for optimising the routes and the range.

We delivered the first fully electric trucks to customers in 2018, but we began selling hybrid trucks that run on a combination of electricity and other fuels well before that. Other parts of the Volvo Group, in particular Volvo Buses, have extensive experience of electric vehicles.

Our electric trucks share a platform with our other drivelines and meet the same high standards of quality. Volvo’s highly trained staff will help customers to configure their trucks to meet their specific requirements and will provide expert support while the truck is in operation. The batteries and the overall condition of the trucks are constantly monitored to allow any measures that need to be taken during the next service visit to be identified in good time.

Efficient charging solutions are the key to being able to use an electric truck in the most effective possible way. We will support our customers by providing expertise, guidance and complete solutions. More details of the different offers will be presented in 2021.

DC charging using CCS2 up to 250 kW (600-750V) and AC charging using type 2 up to 43 kW.

Business

Low levels of CO2, particle emissions and noise make it possible to transport goods in zero emission zones and at times when trucks with traditional drivelines could not normally be used. This can allow for more and faster deliveries in one shift. Combined with the lack of exhaust fumes, this leads to better working conditions for drivers and a lower environmental impact. In addition, goods can be delivered inside buildings. The experience of driving electric trucks is also more positive because of the lower levels of vibration and faster acceleration response.

Fully electric trucks are ideal for transporting goods in and around cities on pre-defined routes which include a return to the home base at the end of the working day for charging. 

Distribution, urban construction and refuse collection (often for city and municipal authorities) are examples of segments that have been early adopters of electric trucks. But the capacity of Volvo’s heavy-duty trucks now also allows goods to be transported between cities.

Electrification, in the form of battery electric and fuel cell vehicles, will become possible in more and more segments. At the moment, the main exceptions are long-haul transport, due to a lack of charging infrastructure, and heavy-duty transport applications in the timber, construction and mining industries.

Initially electric trucks will involve a higher investment than the equivalent diesel models. However, we are in a transition phase between fossil fuels and long-term sustainable transport solutions and the cost of new technology is expected to fall over time due to improved economies of scale. 

Large haulage companies in particular are starting to feel the pressure from their transport buyers and from end consumers to offer sustainable transport solutions. More and more businesses want to reduce their CO2 emissions and contribute to a more sustainable society. New business opportunities are becoming available for companies that want to be able to transport goods to locations and at times that are not possible with fossil-fuel trucks. A growing number of cities are introducing zero emission zones where only electric vehicles are permitted. Taxes are also being discussed which will support the transition to a more CO2-neutral society.

All our existing payment solutions will be available for our electric vehicles: cash payment, leasing and hiring. These will be adapted to the needs of each individual customer. 

The medium-duty Volvo FL and FE electric trucks and the North American Volvo VNR are available to order. Please contact your local Volvo Trucks representative for more information. Our European heavy-duty electric trucks will be offered from 2021. If you have an enquiry about these products, please follow this link.

The start of production of the European heavy-duty Volvo FM, FMX and FH trucks is planned for 2022. The medium-duty Volvo FL and FE electric trucks and the North American Volvo VNR are already in volume production. Please contact your Volvo Trucks representative for more information. 

The payback time is highly dependent on the segment and the market. Electric trucks can also open up new business opportunities. Their economic viability will increase over time with economies of scale and as different segments mature. For example, incentives and legislation are making the use of electric trucks for inner city distribution and refuse collection much more attractive. The low variable costs will lead to greater profitability the more the truck is used. Once the high initial investment has been paid off, the low variable costs of electric trucks will have a positive impact on profitability.

Profitability is highly dependent on the type of transport. Electric trucks come with a higher initial cost but also offer new opportunities for haulage companies to improve productivity and open up new areas of business. For example, they can operate at off-peak times and meet the needs of city authorities and other customers more effectively than their competitors. The low variable costs will lead to greater profitability the more the truck is used. Once the high initial investment has been paid off, electric trucks have low variable costs which also has a positive impact on profitability.

Please contact your local energy provider to learn more about the options available.

Electric trucks should ideally be charged overnight at your home base to keep energy costs to a minimum. In addition, you should plan the routes carefully to make best use of the available energy capacity. Otherwise the same considerations apply as for other types of trucks. You should make sure that the vehicle is configured for the job and also drive economically and set up a maintenance plan to ensure the best possible performance and availability.

The medium-duty Volvo FL and FE electric trucks and the North American Volvo VNR are available to order. Please contact your local Volvo Trucks representative for more information. Our European heavy-duty electric trucks will be offered from 2021. For inquiries regarding these products, please follow this link.

Most EU countries offer some kind of incentive to promote the use of more environmentally friendly technology, such as electric trucks. Please contact your local Volvo Trucks representative in your country for more information. 

Energy costs vary greatly between different countries. It is usually cheaper to charge a truck overnight and at your home base. Please contact your local energy supplier to find the best solution from both a financial and an environmental perspective.

BEVs – battery electric vehicles – are likely to provide a large proportion of urban and regional transport in the future, because of their financial and environmental advantages. It is safe to say that electric mobility is here to stay. The technology is well-proven in buses, cars and other machinery. The widely held view in the transport industry is that battery electric trucks and hydrogen electric trucks for longer distances will play a vital role in the transition to a fossil-free future.

Yes, we will continue to offer a range of different drivelines and will suggest the most suitable solution for each individual customer and geographic location. We will supply a mix of increasingly fuel-efficient combustion engine trucks, gas-powered trucks and fully electric and fuel cell trucks. 

We offer our electric trucks with Gold Service contracts, which means that the cost of maintenance will be included in the total cost of ownership. We will make sure that the total cost of ownership is competitive.

This depends on the application and vehicle specification. The batteries add extra weight and to help compensate for that the EU is allowing an extra GCW of up to 1 tonne. The decision and the implementation are up to each individual land.

In general, to be able make the comparison it is necessary to look at the total cost of ownership. Electric trucks often also offer new business opportunities as they are able to transport goods to locations and at times that are not possible with fossil-fuel trucks. A growing number of cities are introducing zero emission zones where only electric vehicles are permitted. The shift to electric trucks means a higher initial investment for the transport company, followed by considerably lower running costs. The suitability of the solution must be analysed together with the local customers. Also, we believe the initial investment will start to fall as the volumes increase and the cost of batteries decreases over time. 

We started production of the Volvo FL Electric and Volvo FE Electric in Europe in 2019 and sales of the Volvo VNR in North America in late 2020. Sales of the European heavy-duty models will begin in 2021 and volume production will start in 2022. 

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