Volvo Trucks North America has unveiled an electric version of its VNR prime mover at the companies key North Amrerican plant  where the electric zero-emissions truck a will be built.

The electtric bonneted Volvo is part of the company’s broad initiative to commercialize electric trucks starting which will start with on highway road tests later this year and which will see volume production and sales starting in 2020.

Volvo has annunced it is investing more than $US400 million into its New River Valley, plant in Virginia to support assembly of the new line of VNR Electric heavy-duty trucks.

The company’s North American director of electric vehicles, Brett Pope says that  battery electric vehicles address environmental concerns and cuustomers are asking for that and there is a sense of urgency that Volvo needs to address these environmental issues.

“There are now consumers and businesses that want goods and products delivered in an environmentally-friendly way with zero-emissions vehicles,” Pope said.

Volvo says it will market the VNR Electric with a single monthly lease payment that will include maintenance and insurance as well as charging installations and infrastructure improvements for customers. It has also said it will provide consulting services to help customers manage its electric fleet and charging needs.

Volvo is also apparently exploring the possibility of providing energy services such as fixed, negotiated electricity rates and onsite solar generation as well as looking at the potential for recycling depleted batteries into secondary services such as onsite energy storage.

Volvo plans todeploy 23 battery-electric VNRs in Southern California running between the the cities of Ontario, Chino and Fontana and the combined Long Beach and Los Angeles port complex.

The first five will go into service this year with the remainder hitting thge road next year.

The diesel VNR is Volvo’s regional haul, heavy-duty prime mover model  and Volvo says that a regional haul truck works best for early deployment of electric trucks. 

“That’s because they travel on set routes and can return to a central depot for charging. That reduces the investment in charging infrastructure needed to deploy an electric truck,” said Brett Pope.

Typically they drive routes of 200miles(320km) or less, which fits within an electric truck’s range. However Volvo has not yet annouced the VNR Electric’s range.

“We arewaiting to see how the vehicle performs in real-world tests hauling goods,” Pope said.

At this stage it is also holding off on announcing pricing for the  vehicles saying that is waiting closer to commercial launch before annoucing the price for the trucks.

The electric VNR has dual electric motors mated to a two-speed gearbox. Volvo located the motors in the centre of the truck rather than at each wheel because of the high forces axles have to  withstand. 

Some truck manufacturers are placing motors at each wheel, but Volvo believes its design will be more durable.

The electronics and controls in a modular power box is located under the bonnet, where the diesel power plant would normally sit  while the battery packs slide into shelves on each side in the chassis. 

Technicians will be able to remove and service the batteries without lifting the body off the truck.

Volvo claims the batteries can be charged from 50 per cent to full in about 30 minutes and from empty in about 65 minutes.