Volvo Trucks is one of the early truck manufacturers to embrace battery power, electrifying its entire truck range from 16.7 to 44 tonnes, and declaring itself the industry leader in zero tailpipe emissions commercial vehicles in the process, PowerTorque’s European Correspondent, Will Shiers, investigates.
To begin with, the trucks will be offered with a choice of five or six 90kWh batteries. When the rigids are launched, they can be specified with anything from two to six batteries, depending on application and wheelbase.
The lithium ion batteries, which are Volvo Group’s own design, feature Samsung cells. They weigh 500kg each, and are being built at Volvo’s Ghent, Belgium factory. Meanwhile the FL and FE Electric trucks will continue to use batteries bought in from an external supplier.
Sverker Åsemyr, Electromobility Customer Application Manager, Product Management at Volvo Trucks, tells me battery technology has improved considerably since it produced its first electric trucks in 2018. “We have doubled the amount of energy in the same space in four years, increasing from 44kW to 90kW,” he explains.
Volvo offers two charging alternatives, AC at up to 43kW and DC up to 250kW. Overnight AC charging takes between nine and 10 hours, whereas DC rapid charging takes just two hours from empty to full.
Volvo says the range is dependent on a number of different factors, including tyres, topography, traffic conditions, weather, battery ageing and driving style, but is confident that a 4×2 FM Electric with a 30-tonne GCW, will typically manage 300km on a single charge. Sverker is confident that this range is sufficient for many applications, estimating that 60 per cent of Swedish trucks travel less than this every day.
Volvo’s entire line-up of electric trucks can be ordered today in Europe, with delivery times ranging from late 2022 for prime movers, to March 2023 for all rigids. However demand will vary considerably from country to country, and will depend on numerous factors including local financial incentives (because at roughly three times the cost of a diesel-engined truck they certainly aren’t cheap) and taxes on fossil fuels. What’s more, Volvo is keen to point out that electric trucks are better suited to some markets from an environmental point of view.
Sverker explains that manufacturing a zero tailpipe emissions truck will produce more than 60 tonnes of CO2, which is double the amount produced while making an equivalent diesel truck.
However, he says this can be counteracted within the first year (100,000km) on the road, but only in countries that produce a high proportion of their electricity from renewable sources (wind/hydro/solar). At the other end of the scale, if a country burns lots of coal to make electricity, it will never catch up. In other words, while there will be a reduction in air pollution at a local level, it’s a different story from a climate perspective.
“So if you’re in a market that relies heavily on coal, like Indonesia for example, that probably isn’t the best market to buy battery electric vehicles, because it would actually be worse for the climate,” clarifies Tobias Bergman, Press Test Director at Volvo Trucks.
A quick search on Google tells me that in 2020, just 24 per cent of total electricity generation in Australia was from renewable energy sources. To put this into perspective, Norway, which is embracing zero tailpipe emissions vehicles, is currently at 98.4 per cent according to the Global Energy Statistical Yearbook.
With this in mind, Volvo Trucks believes internal combustion engines will have a future to 2050 and beyond (most likely running on biogas), their popularity varying from market to market.
“All three technologies – battery electric, internal combustion and hydrogen fuel cell will happen,” adds Sverker. “The question is, how big will their various shares be?”
Photo credit: Volvo Trucks