Volvo Trucks' VNR Series regional-haul tractor Volvo Trucks North America
Volvo Trucks' VNR Series regional-haul tractors could be part of the coming Volvo LIGHTS demonstration project in California.

Here they come: First North American Volvo trucks to go electric

Volvo Trucks today announced that its first North American model heavy trucks—a total of 23 of them—will get the company's all-electric drivetrains in a special demonstration project in California. The trucks are to be tested out next year and will be commercialized in 2020, Volvo said.

The California Air Resources Board has preliminarily awarded $44.8 million for the project. The demonstration, dubbed Volvo LIGHTS for "Low-Impact Green Heavy Transport Solutions," is a partnership between Volvo Group, California's South Coast Air Quality Management District, and "industry leaders in transportation and electrical charging infrastructure."

In that vein, Volvo also detailed that the project will involve 16 partners and will "transform freight operations at the facilities of two of the United States' top trucking fleets." Claes Nilsson, president of Volvo Trucks, said the company is "convinced that electrified truck transport will be a key driver of sustainable transports."

Notably, this is not only going to include heavy truck technology—indicating Volvo and the parties involved are exploring how to work big electric trucks into the broader electric vehicle infrastructure. The Volvo LIGHTS project will work in some non-truck battery-electric equipment, non-proprietary (i.e., not Volvo-specific) chargers, and solar energy production equipment.

"This is an excellent opportunity to show the end-to-end potential of electrification," said Peter Voorhoeve, president of Volvo Trucks North America. "From solar energy harvesting at our customer locations to electric vehicle uptime services to potential second uses for batteries, this project will provide invaluable experience and data for the whole value chain."

Which N.A. Volvo trucks?

What trucks will this involve? Volvo officials are not yet ready to discuss which specifically, but did release some helpful details.

First, the North American trucks in this project will get the battery-electric drivetrain used in Volvo Trucks' FE Electric cabover unveiled in Europe earlier this year and slated to go on sale next year. It's the equivalent of a light Class 8 truck by U.S. standards with a gross vehicle weight (GVW) rating of about 59,525 lbs.

The FE Electric has a dual electric motor capable of 496 hp. maximum/ 349 hp. continuous and 627 lbs.-ft. of torque, with up to a huge 20,652 lbs-ft. max torque at the rear axle. The electric drivetrain provides a range of up to 124 miles and can be DC fast-charged in 1.5 hours or regular low-power AC charged in about 10 hours.

Volvo Trucks

Volvo Trucks FE Electric drivetrain featuring dual electric motors.

With the Volvo LIGHTS project, Volvo said it will deploy eight multi-configuration battery-electric Class 8 electric demonstration units capable of GVW plus 15 tons. An additional 15 precommercial and commercial units will be put to use throughout California's South Coast Air Basin, which includes Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties.

Given the range of the electric drivetrain and the location they'll be tested, the North American trucks for the project could well come from Volvo's new VNR regional-haul lineup, for instance, rather than Volvo's bread-and-butter North American VNL Series designed for long-haul operations.

Volvo further noted that the project will include a variety of technologies such as remote diagnostics, geofencing, and the company's web-based service management platform to monitor truck performance and maximize vehicle uptime. The project is estimated to eliminate 3.57 tons of air pollutants and 3,020 tons of greenhouse gases annually, according to Volvo. 

Separately, Volvo also recently showed off a fully autonomous, electric concept tractor system called Vera (see below). Read more on Volvo's philosophy and insight regarding electric trucks at www.volvotrucks.com/electromobility.

 

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