Volvo Trucks will roll out an all-electric tractor cab for pilot use in California next year and begin full commercial sales of the VNR Electric in North America in 2020, supported by a $44.8 million grant from the state intended to improve air quality by reducing fossil fuel emissions.
The move offers a challenge to fellow California-based electric semi manufacturer Tesla, as fleets continue to search for ways to cut fuel costs and boost reliability in a market squeezed by capacity constraints and driver shortages.
Gothenburg, Sweden-based Volvo Trucks will introduce its VNR Electric for demonstration pilots next year in regional operations such as distribution and drayage, the company said Wednesday.
The company did not disclose performance statistics like range or charging time. But Volvo is positioning its latest vehicle for short-range runs that could offer a solution for crowded cities seeking green development strategies and for freight fleets performing regional hauling deliveries.
Palo Alto, Calif.-based Tesla says its Tesla Semi will offer a driving range of up to 500 miles when production begins in 2019.Competing manufacturers such as Daimler Trucks North America LLC, Nissan, Cummins, Thor Trucks Inc., and Nikola Motor Co. are also racing to develop electric or hydrogen-electric vehicles to fulfill that promise.
Volvo says its VNR Electric demonstration units are based on the proven propulsion and energy storage technology currently being used in the Volvo FE Electric, and builds on the parent company's experience in electrified transport solutions such as the battery powered vehicles produced by sister company Volvo Buses.
"Cities prioritizing sustainable urban development can leverage electrified transport solutions to help improve air quality and reduce traffic noise," Peter Voorhoeve, president of Volvo Trucks North America, said in a release. "Cleaner, quieter, fully-electric commercial transport also creates opportunities for expanded morning and late-night operations, helping cut traffic congestion during peak hours."
The state of California is supporting Volvo's electric truck launch through a $44.8 million grant from the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD). Those funds are dedicated to supporting Low Impact Green Heavy Transport Solutions (LIGHTS), a partnership between SCAQMD, the Volvo Group, and industry leaders in transportation and electrical charging infrastructure.
In turn, LIGHTS is part of California Climate Investments, a statewide initiative that puts billions of Cap-and-Trade dollars to work reducing greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening the economy and improving public health and the environment - particularly in disadvantaged communities.
According to Volvo, the LIGHTS project will involve 16 partners, and will transform freight operations at the facilities of two of the country's top trucking fleets.
None of the partners specified which fleets would be involved.
"The LIGHTS project is a truly unique opportunity to showcase a holistic approach to electrification of the freight transport industry as we handle ongoing challenges including electricity generation and battery optimization," Voorhoeve said in a release. "We appreciate that the CARB and the SCAQMD have recognized our leadership and trusted us to oversee this project that will ultimately result in the commercialization of fully-electric heavy-duty trucks. In addition to introducing the VNR Electric, through LIGHTS we will bring a complete sustainable freight solution with end-to-end electrification coordination with our many partners."