Top takeaways from the Volvo Trucks Electromobility Summit
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Top takeaways from the Volvo Trucks Electromobility Summit

Jason Morgan is the content director of Fleet Equipment.

Volvo-Trucks-Electromobility-Summit-1400

At the Volvo Trucks Customer Center in Dublin, Va., Volvo Trucks North America hosted customers, dealers and trucking media to dive into the nitty gritty of electric truck acquisition and operation–going beyond the VNR Electric truck itself to also discuss financial support and services, infrastructure development and more. Here’s what we’ve learned during our day with Volvo Trucks.

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‘We talk about what we do; not what we’re going to do.’

Volvo-Trucks-President-Electromobility-Summit

Volvo Trucks North America President Peter Voorhoeve made it clear that Volvo’s electromobility expertise comes from lessons learned through its work with early adopting customers and the Volvo LIGHTS Project. (Hence the quote as the subhead above.) But before we plugged into electric truck talk, Voorhoeve kicked things off with an economic and trucking market update.

“We see a strong 2023,” Voorhoeve said. “We see the trucking and transportation sectors being less affected by any recession we may see. There is no panic. I think it will normalize the economy and relieve some pressure.”

Volvo-Trucks-Order-Demand

Voorhoeve noted that Volvo Trucks North America expects tractor orders in 2022 to fall somewhere between 270,000 and 275,000 in the U.S. and Canada for 2022.

Volvo-Trucks-Market-Outlook

As for 2023:

“We don’t see a slump in 2023. It will be at least as strong as 2022, and I think, stronger,” Voorhoeve said. “Trucks are getting older, maintenance is going up and so companies have to invest to get their maintenance costs under control.”

Volvo-Trucks-Current-Market

“Which is why they should buy a maintenance contract with us,” Voorhoeve joked, “but more on that later on.”

Volvo Trucks North America key priorities:

  • Customer Satisfaction;
  • Decarbonized transportation solutions;
  • Uptime and fleet efficiency; and
  • Market share.

Speaking of market share, here’s Volvo Trucks North America’s current position:

Volvo-Trucks-Market-Share

Voorhoeve spoke positively about the growth but noted that he expects to see even more going forward. Here’s the projected market share growth going into 2023:

Volvo-Trucks-Projected-Share

“It’s small steps, but it’s growing sustainably. We’re looking at the market, customer satisfaction, sustainability and we’re slowly growing and we will continue this growth,” Voorhoeve said. “Our focus on sustainability connects with people. They find it important. We started early and we’re going to accelerate the shift toward sustainability.”

Here’s how they’re going to do it.

Financial support and services

Sam Ellis, product manager, services and solution, Volvo Trucks North America, took us through the Volvo Gold Contract, Volvo Trucks’ service offering for the Volvo VNR Electric model. Here’s what’s covered:

Volvo-Trucks-Gold-Service

“We’re going to over-cover the truck,” Ellis said. “There are things we’re learning along with the customer. We also want to make sure that technicians are trained. It’s a 600-volt system. Since this is so new, we want to cover all bases and support our customers so that they don’t have to dig into the maintenance needs.”

Volvo-Trucks-Electric-Maintenance

Logan Andrew, electromobility market development manager, Volvo Financial Services, walked us through how you actually buy a Volvo VNR Electric truck:

Charging infrastructure

One of the biggest electric truck operational questions is: What is it going to cost to charge my truck Manuel Aguirre, head of charging and infrastructure solutions–North America, charging and infrastructure solutions, Volvo Energy, broke down what goes into the costs:

Volvo-Trucks-Charging-Costs

The graph shows the costs in black bars on the left and the incentives and rebates in the colored bars on the right. The goal is to offset a number of the upfront costs–charging infrastructure installation and construction; charger uptime and networking software–with government incentives, utility rebates and net LCFS Credits so that the energy cost from the utility (and potentially AC/DC conversion losses) are your cost variables.

Then there are the charging options:

Volvo-Trucks-Charging-Equipment-1400

“In a perfect world, you plug the charger into the truck and it charges, but that’s not always the cost, ” said Dan Freeze, product industry and trends analyst, product planning, Volvo Trucks North America, who noted Volvo’s recommended charging equipment. Volvo works with these partners on pricing and speeding up lead times for Volvo customers. “We don’t want the charging equipment to be a roadblock.”

That said, Volvo customers aren’t required to buy specific charging equipment. Volvo Trucks North America publishes a list of compatible chargers for the VNR Electric.

Volvo-Trucks-Recommended-Charging-Hardware

“Options are important and that’s what we’re trying to buy,” Freeze said, “You don’t want to have to buy more than you need when you’re first getting started.”

Volvo-Trucks-Charging-compatability

“One size does not fit all,” Aguirre noted, explaining that charger equipment selection depends on application and customer needs. A fleet might even have two different charger sizes and/or equipment to suit different duty cycles.

Volvo-Trucks-Heliox-Mobile-Charger-1400

Connected technology

One of the biggest differences with electric truck-connected technology is in route management. Alexis Clemons, electromobility sales manager–national accounts, Volvo Trucks North America, explained that route simulations predict how much energy is used along a route based on the truck spec and external temperature. Like so:

Volvo-Trucks-Electric-Route-Simulation

Clemons noted that the simulation is a tool to build range confidence–the simulation presents the data and displays a route map simulating the planned route provided by a fleet talking with Volvo Trucks, and then the Volvo team goes out and runs that route. To compare simulation apples to real-world apples.

“Beyond the exploration phase, we move into the implementation phase. This is when we see fleets that get a handful of trucks for a pilot location. We provide them connectivity for them to see the trucks in real time,” she explained. “We can set up alerts. Worst case scenario: A driver ran out of battery capacity.”

Volvo-Trucks-Notification-Electric-Truck

She related a story that a customer that allowed her visibility into their usage data ran a truck down to 22% and she received a notification. She called the customer, who reached out to the driver to find that someone forgot to charge the truck the night before. It was only at ~40% at the start of the day. Clemons said that the driver had experience with the Volvo VNR Electric and had the confidence the truck would run the route, and sure enough it did and made it back to base for charging. But it’s definitely a situation the fleet wants to have its arms around with high levels of communication. (For comparison sake, on the Volvo VNR Electric, 20% state of charge is the safety margin.)

Volvo-Trucks-Route-Simulation-Map

When you dive into the data and analyze electric truck efficiency, there are driver behavior differences between and electric trucks and diesel trucks. Consider regenerative braking–which can impact electric truck range anywhere from 5% to 15%. Regen braking would happen more often on stop-and-go routes, providing a potentially longer range compared to highway routes.

“We also don’t incentivize our electric truck drivers to use cruise control,” Clemons said. “We want them using the regen braking system.”

When it comes to the end of an electric truck’s lifecycle, Clemons outlined the possibilities:

Volvo-Trucks-Battery-Second-Life

Of course, the Volvo VNR Electric has only been commercially available for two years and projections are looking at an eight-year battery lifecycle. So, Volvo Power is consulting with customers as to what the second life options are when the time comes.

“We’ve had trucks on the road since 2020, we’re into the guts of reality right now,” Clemons said. “You can only predict so much, and we’re learning. So when that separation comes we’re going to have the tools to support our customers. It’s the evolution of the journey we’re on.”

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Electric trucks

Watch a Volvo VNR Electric walk-around hosted by Brett Pope, director of electric vehicles, Volvo Trucks North America:

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