Volvo is rapidly moving toward its goal of only producing 100 per cent fossil fuel free trucks by 2040, with the announcement that series production of its latest battery electric heavy duty prime movers has commenced at its Tuve plant in Sweden this week.
Truck & Bus News was in Sweden as part of a media delegation invited to Sweden to drive the new FH and FM Electrics ahead of the IAA Hanover Truck Show which started today in Germany.
The battery electric heavy duty prime movers can be configured with a variety of battery packs and with up to 660 hp from three electric motors mated to a conventional Volvo I-Shift 12 speed AMT.
Volvo’s approach to the heavy duty electric prime movers is different to that of rival Daimler, which is using e-axles, axles with electric motors integrated into the housing and running through two speed hub gears. However it became apparent at the Hannover Show that the Volvo approach weas an interim solution, and that it was also developing its own integrated e-axles with electric motors and the transmission included in the one axle structure.
The Volvo e-axle is due in the next two years, and in the meantime it is pressing ahead with its current central motor and IShift architecture until the new concept is ready.
While the Volvo short term approach is fairly unique, our chance to drive both the FM and FH Electrics showed the mating of the IShift delivered a smooth and cohesive drive, with barely perceptible shifts and smooth delivery of power and torque.
We tested the trucks over a 50 km course on a variety of roads and conditions including suburban, motorway, narrow country roads and in a tight industrial complex near Volvo’s electric truck operations centre close to Gothenburg.
It was a very impressive demonstration of exactly how good an electric driveline can perform in a prime mover with around the maximum weight for a single trailer operation, in the vicinity of 40 tonnes. In fact the FH was grossing at 40 tonnes and its lighter FM sibling was at around 38 tonnes again with a single trailer in tow.
Several times at traffic lights we tested the take-off ability of the truck and it showed strong acceleration that would leave a conventional diesel powered rig struggling in its wake. While pure accelerative performance is not necessarily a good metric to judge a truck on, the fact is even when taking a more conservative approach, the Volvo’s pulled away smoothly, efficiently and above all quietly.
These trucks can operate at a total weight of up to 44 tonnes with three models which Volvo says represent around two thirds of its sales.
The new additions, mean that Volvo now has six electric truck models in series production globally which it claims is the broadest electric truck line up in the industry.
Volvo Truck’s president Roger Alm, said that the launch of the electric FM and FH is a milestone and proves that Volvo is leading the transformation of the industry.
“It’s less than two years ago since we showcased our heavy electric trucks for the very first time. Now we are ramping up volumes and will deliver these great trucks to customers all over Europe, and later on also to customers in Asia, Australia and Latin America,” said Alm.
While series production of Volvo’s heaviest electric trucks has now started in the Tuve factory in Gothenburg, this will be expanded to the company’s Ghent plant in Belgium next year.
The company is producing electric trucks on the same line as its conventional trucks, which it claims gives high production flexibility and efficiency gains. The batteries are built by Volvo at its new battery assembly plant at Ghent in Belgium.
Volvo said that the demand for electric trucks is rapidly increasing in many markets, adding that the driving force is the need for transport buyers to shift to fossil-free transports in order to meet their sustainability goals.
Volvo said its electric portfolio could cover around 45 per cent of all goods transported in Europe today.
“We have sold around 1,000 units of our heavy electric trucks and more than 2,600 of our electric trucks in total. And we expect volumes to increase significantly in the next few years. By 2030, at least 50 per cent of the trucks we sell globally should be electric,” comments Roger Alm.
Volvo says the electric line-up of six truck models will cover a wide range of applications such as city distribution and refuse handling, regional transport and construction work.