Volvo has hosted many of the worlds heavy transport media to an unveiling of some of the company’s electric truck technology in Sweden. However while at least one Australian truck journalist attended as a guest of Volvo, the company did not see it important enough to invite the bulk of the Australian transport media including Truck and Bus News.
However we have gleaned key facts about the launch from web based news repoirts and in a bid to keep our readers abreast of what is happening with one of the world’s largest commercial vehicles company and its plans for zero emission vehicles we have put together this report.
According to Volvo the fact that 60 per cent of the world’s population is expected to live in cities by 2030 the electrification of its vehicles is a potential solution to combat congestion and pollution.
Volvo showcased a new electric FL model at a press event during the Volvo Ocean Race’s stop inGothenburg on 20 June.
According to the company’s product manager for electromobility, Anna Thorden the company believes that with new electric truck it unveiled in Gothenburg that it is , not just launching a new truck model but an opportunity to address global challenges.
The truck apparently showed during drives along a short route a whisper-quiet ride and instantaneous throttle response while retardation from the electric driveline enhanced braking with little to no brake pedal input required, while regenerating the batteries in the process.
The truck used a two-speed transmission apparently seamlessly shifting from first to second gear while in some cases the truck can start in second gear, eliminating shifting altogether.
Volvo showed two trucks – a garbage truck and a refrigerator bodied rigid.
“We have done a lot to reduce noise levels,” said Thorden.
Thorden pointed to the use of an electric air compressor and medical industry technologies from the which Volvo has adapted to the truck environment as some of the ways the company has reduced noise and improved energy efficiency.
Volvo has more than 4000 electric buses already in use around the world and the company says its electric trucks will share the driveline technologies from its bus programs, meaning this electric driveline has already been in real-world use since 2015.
The company’s product manager for alternative drivelines, Tobias Bergman, said the electric driveline is proving to be more reliable and requires less maintenance than a traditional diesel powertrain.
Depending on model the system consists of one or two electric motors, a two-speed transmission, and a battery pack with up to six batteries.
The smaller FL driveline with one electric motor produces 185 kW while the larger FE driveline uses two motors producing 370 kW or around 500 hp.
Using a similar design ethos to the recently announced Australian Isuzu electric truck program, the Volvo driveline sits in the middle of the chassis with a modular power box containing the 24-volt batteries, onboard charger and electronics packaged in the shape of a diesel engine and located where the engine would normally be under the cab.
Volvo says it’s vital to work with customers to determine precisely how many batteries they require, to minimize the impact on payload because Each 50 kW hour battery pack weights 520 kgs, so weight will be critical.
Volvo claims the smaller FL has a range of up to 300 kms while the bigger FE offers a range of up to 200 kms, assuming the maximum number of battery banks are installed.
“But range is affected by many different parameters,” said Thorden.
The company claims the FE refuse truck can make two runs collecting around 9 tonnes of garbage on a single charge.
“There is much more to consider than range when investing in an electric truck,” Thorden acknowledged.
“Volvo doesn’t want our customers to install more batteries than they need for their specific application,” she added.
Installing four batteries takes away 900kg of payload compared to a diesel.
With the exception of range, the Volvo FL is just as capable as its diesel sibling, with up to 200 horsepower and 424 Nmof torque. It has a gross vehicle weight of 13 tonnes=. It takes about 1.5 hours to fully juice up the batteries with DC fast charging. Where rivals such as Freightliner and Tesla are placing motors at the wheels of their electric trucks, Volvo has taken a different approach. The FL has a single powertrain with one electric motor.
Concerns about battery requirements are not only due to payload limitations, but also because of the environmental impact, according to Thorden.
Volvo says the production of the batteries is the largest economic impact contributed by an electric truck and that batteries remain expensive so payback can be achieved quicker if less batteries are required.
“This is why we have a very flexible energy storage system,” Thorden explained.
“On the FL you are able to choose from two batteries for 100 kW hours to six batteries for 300 kW hours…We have had many years of experience from the bus business to optimize the electromobility solution and we can give advice on what charging system to use, how many batteries and so on,” she said.
In some applications, trucks can be charged mid-day, for example during the driver’s lunch break.
“We will build together a customer charging station and the driver will get lunch coupons and during lunch we will fast-charge the truck so it can cover a full day of driving,” Thorden said. “We have gained quite a lot of payload by only installing three batteries.”
In refuse applications, the truck can put in a full day’s work and be charged overnight. The charging infrastructure is being expanded, both in Europe and in North America, but at a faster pace overseas. There are 290 charging sites planned in the U.S. by the end of 2019, while in Europe there will be 400 public charging stations by that time, with an average of six charge points per site.
Volvo’s electric trucks will debut commercially in Europe next year, and will be rolled out “segment by segment,” according to Thorden.
Launch dates have yet to be announced fro North American or Australia.
In addition to the advantages seen by fleets, such as improved uptime and lower fuel costs, the world at large will also benefit for the adoption of electric trucks. Cities with poor air quality should see improvements, noted Bergman.
He noted a single four-megawatt wind power plant produces enough energy to power 200 electric Volvo FE trucks. Each full turn of the windmill rotor can move a truck 1.5 kms.
Bergman said electric trucks are three to five times more energy efficient than equivalent diesel-powered trucks. He also said sustainable electricity comes at the lowest price of any alternative.
“Clean energy is not the most common, but it’s the cheapest on the market,” he said, citing global spot market prices.
Thorden added electric trucks have significantly lower climate impact than diesel equivalents over their entire life-cycle.
90 per cent of a diesel truck’s climate impact occurs during use, while the climate impact contributed by an electric truck comes almost entirely during its production.
Volvo is looking to further improve this by finding secondary lives for its batteries once they’re no longer effective on the truck.
“We have several projects involved for the second life usage of the battery,” said Thorden, noting 80 per cent of the battery’s energy storage capacity remains when performance in trucking applications begins to deteriorate to the point it must be replaced.
In Gothenburg, the batteries are being used to store solar power at a new housing complex once they’re removed from the vehicle.
An electric FL produces 69 dB of noise compared to a diesel truck that creates 79 dB. To the human ear, that’s half the noise level. Volvo is hopeful the noise reduction will also allow its customers to operate trucks overnight and in early mornings, in cities where truck traffic is currently restricted at such times.
“By doing that, there are some pilot projects in Stockholm that show we could reduce daytime driving of trucks and distribution by 70 per cent. It helps decrease congestion if you allow for nighttime deliveries,” said Bergman.