Volvo has launched its first step in marketing electric heavy-duty trucks in the U.S, unveiling a program that will put more than 50 electric trucks in service in America

The company is working with California and regional air quality regulators, two commercial transport companies and a dealership group to grow interest in its VNR Electric regional haul truck.

Volvo has created with the group a program that it calls Low-Impact Green Heavy Transport Solutions, or LIGHTS.

The LIGHTS program is a $AUD 133million ($US 90 million) program funded by 15 partners.

Volvo is contributing $AUD54.5 million ($US36.7 million) and the California Air Resources Board $AUD66.6 million ( $US44.8 million).

Another $AUD13.3 million ($US9 million) will come from the other partners and the South Coast Air Quality Management District, which oversees air quality in Southern California, will manage the program.

“This project is unique in the sense of its scope, and that it takes into account the entire system from charging stations to yard haulers to solar panels to workforce development to heavy-duty trucks,” said Peter Voorhoeve, president of Volvo Trucks North America.

Transportation and population density are both continuing to grow globally, he said. Climate change, regulation and consumer demand will force the trucking industry to slash carbon emissions, other pollution and its noise footprint, he said.

The project includes the 23 battery-electric Volvo VNR heavy-duty trucks, along with 29 other electric vehicles including yard trucks and forklifts.

The Volvo trucks will run between the cities of Ontario, Chino and Fontana (in what is known as the Inland Empire in California) and the massive combined Long Beach and Los Angeles port complex with routes of  between 120km to 280km.

“This is what it takes to transform this critical freight-hauling sector,” said California Air Resources Board chair Mary  Nichols.

“This project will put more clean, zero-emission trucks on the roads and highways of communities like Fontana and Ontario that are heavily burdened with growing diesel truck traffic.”

The public/private partnership includes 58 public and private charging stations, two colleges developing electric truck maintenance programs and 1.8 kWh of solar energy generation.

Additionally, both of the big ports are providing infrastructure planning. TEC Equipment, while a private Volvo truck dealership group, will provide maintenance and leasing centers in Fontana and La Mirada.

Dependable Highway Express and NFI are the first customers. NFI also is participating in an early test of a Daimler Freightliner eCascadia heavy-duty trucks\.

Volvo says it is using the program to commercialise its electric trucks. It plans to launch sales of the vehicles in the USA later this year and ramp up production at its New River Valley plant in Virginia in 2021. The company is investing $AUD594 million in the factory, partly to allow production of electric trucks.

Volvo in the US is currently considering  how to market  electric trucks  with a possibility being to offer VNR Electric with a single monthly lease payment that will include maintenance and insurance. However the company says it it will also sell the vehicle if that’s what the customer wants.

In an interesting foot note the Volvo electric truck is eligible for various California incentives  that total up to $ AUD223,000  ($150,000),  with a lack of government incentives being cited locally for holding back the take up of electric vehicles in Australia.

Volvo is yet to reveal a price for the VNR electric, but a diesel VNR of similar spec to the electric version costs about $220,000 in the US, or the same as those incentives on offer.

Volvo says it also will provide consulting services to help customers manage an electric fleet and charging needs.

The Volvo electric VNR uses dual electric motors mated to a two-speed gearbox, with the motors being placed in the center of the truck, Volvo says will be more durable than putting a motor at each wheel, because of the high forces axles must endure

Volvo has located the electronics and controls in a modular power box under the bonnet where the diesel engine usually lives allowing easy access and service, while battery packs slide into shelves on each side in the chassis, where technicians can remove and service them without taking the body off the truck.