Heavy-duty: 2023 HDAW event theme is ‘Shift. Adapt. Grow.’
You got the high-level view of Volvo’s decarbonization efforts, both diesel and electric, in our exclusive executive interview story with Peter Voorhoeve, president of Volvo Trucks North America. But Peter and I spent much of our time together in the weeds, talking about the nitty-gritty details of early electric truck adopters, the EV service and ownership models, and Volvo and Daimler’s unique joint venture, cellcentric, among other topics. I couldn’t fit all of that into the first story. Instead, I compiled all of the outtakes.
So here’s Voorhoeve on…
Buying and servicing electric trucks.
“We see an enormous amount of interest with customers [considering electric trucks], but we also see that the decision to purchase an electric truck is slower than with the conventional diesel,” Voorhoeve said. “It’s new, there are many stakeholders involved, and it’s a completely different setup. A lot of companies are going through a whole process of: Is it really where we want to go? If so, how do we do it?”
Before electric truck orders opened, there was talk across the industry about how the new powertrain could impact the ownership model, but Voorhoeve was steadfast.
“The customer still buys the truck,” he said firmly, “but there is a higher level of cooperation to get it started, then to make it happen and then maintain it. We have regular phone calls with the customers.”
The long-term service needs of an electric truck are still a question mark, but some fleets are expecting much longer life cycles compared to diesel trucks. Speaking to the ongoing support that Voorhoeve noted, Volvo’s VNR Electric comes with its Gold Contract service offering that includes scheduled and preventative maintenance, towing and vehicle repair—including the vehicle’s lithium-ion batteries and the complete electromobility system.
“It’s a six-year contract,” Voorhoeve said when asked about expected electric truck lifecycles. Volvo Trucks is committed to standing by its customers, as Voorhoeve pointed to the immense investments that are going into the company’s dealerships in order to provide a high level of service for its VNR Electric trucks.
“The dealer plays a very important role,” Voorhoeve stressed. “You cannot just start doing maintenance on electric trucks. You need to be certified for that. Our dealers will be certified to be able to sell and maintain electric trucks. A Volvo Electric Vehicle Certified Dealership means that your sales staff and your technicians are trained and certified in all of the health and safety regulations that we have because they’re dealing with high voltage batteries.”
What the Daimler, Volvo joint venture, cellcentric, means to Volvo Trucks North America.
“It’s a separate company, in a separate building, with separate management, separate ownership,” Voorhoeve explained. “What they do is they develop fuel-cell technology. That fuel-cell technology then, later on, is being used by Daimler in their products and by Volvo in our products. We do that our way, and they do it their way.”
Voorhoeve likened it to similar supplier components that are integrated into different OEM nameplate diesel trucks.
“Then the electric driveline, let’s not forget, makes a difference,” he said. “You have a fuel cell that generates electricity, that goes into a battery, and then from the battery it goes into the driveline.”
How will this influence Volvo Trucks North America?
“Within the Volvo Group, we’re a global company. We develop technology that’s used all over the globe in all of our brands,” Voorhoeve said. “For instance, the driveline that we have in our VNR Electric is a driveline that we started to develop here, and then it was further developed in Europe and then it came back here. And that will be the same thing with fuel-cell electric development. It will be developed in a joint venture company that will be used by the different brands.”
Meeting fleet needs while managing uncertainty.
“What I always want to do, and I don’t think this has changed over the many, many years that I have in the industry, is exceed customer expectations. This may sound boring,” he said with a good-natured laugh, “but I want my customers to be excited about the products that we deliver and the service that we deliver. Which, by the way, in the last 18 months have become only more important; with all the supply chain struggles that we have, it becomes more important.
“Two years ago, there were a lot of things that were certain that are not certain anymore because of the very specific situation the whole industry and the whole world finds itself in. So ultimately, I go every day to my work and say, ‘What can I do so that my customers have the feeling that we’re taking care of them and we’re exceeding that expectation?’ And that is regardless of the technology and all that.”