Volvo Forges Ahead with Electric, Vocational Trucks

“We also found that the camera’s small size and high definition let the customer get a close look at components and installations that are not easily accessible,” said Rob Simpson, director, Volvo Trucks Customer Center. “So even with live customer visits, we will still use this technology to help them see more of our trucks.”

Electric Trucks, New Vocational Updates

The virtual walk-around are proving useful to help introduce fleets to the latest version of Volvo’s VHD vocational truck. The disruption of COVID-19 caused Volvo to cancel its participation at ConExpo, where it was scheduled to launch the VHD, so it highlighted the features of the updated model during the virtual press event. The VHD helps Volvo be well positioned ahead of a new highway bill likely for 2021 and housing being one of the brightest spots in current economic recovery number. (For more, see New VHD, VAH Models Complete Volvo’s Product Design Overhaul.)[5]

COVID-19 also affected the market for its VAH, a specialty auto hauler based on the VHD, as auto production shut down and is still not back up to full levels. Nevertheless, Volvo recently announced an overhaul[6] of the model.

Koeck emphasized that its electric-truck program is still moving forward. Just last month, Volvo Trucks North America deployed its first pilot VNR Electric truck[7] in Southern California as part of the Volvo LIGHTS (Low Impact Green Heavy Transport Solutions) project.

“In August, we will put the next two trucks in service,” Koeck said, noting that so far they have received “very positive feedback” from the dealers and drivers operating it. 

The potential impact of COVID-19 on the market for electric trucks cuts both ways, Koeck said. “The entire COVID situation all over the world has put more pressure on the environmental and sustainability questions. From that perspective you might could say that could accelerate the need or awareness of sustainable energy sources like battery-electric trucks,” he said. On the other hand, he said, some state and local governments, with less tax revenue coming in due to COVID, may not have the money needed to provide incentives for zero-emissions vehicles.

That hasn’t stopped 15 states and the District of Columbia from signing an agreement this week pledging to develop a plan to eliminate diesel emissions by 2050[8]. The National Zero-Emission Truck Coalition recently released its priority federal recommendations[9], calling for federal funding of more than $2 billion for point-of-sale incentives to jumpstart zero-emission truck production during the current economic downturn.

Koeck emphasized that total cost of ownership for the customer is an important factor at work in adoption of electric trucks. “The initial units, of course, will be significantly higher in terms of price. When volumes come up, especially on batteries… you get … better total cost of ownership calculations. If you can pair that up with incentives, that can definitely accelerate things.”

Nevertheless, Koeck said, “diesel will still be the main fuel for long haul operations” for a long time to come. Electric-truck adoption “starts with local distribution, then regional haul ­– that is why we’re putting the [electric] VNR out there early on – then it will come to long haul operations. But we are quite far from that.”

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