Volta Truck’s Electric “Zero” Promises Increased Efficiency, Safety, Logistics Ability – Forbes

Electric Volta Zero, with central driving position

Volta Trucks

Sweden’s Volta Trucks is launching what it called the world’s first purpose-built electric 16-tonne commercial vehicle, and analysts expect it to be well-received in the market-place. The Volta Zero will be launched later in 2020, start trials with logistics operators in the first half of 2021, and go into production in 2022. Volta Trucks, a start-up which carries out most of its business in Britain, expects to sell 500 Zeros in 2022, rising to 5,000 in 2025.

The Zero has an operating range of between 95 and 125 miles (150 to 200 kilometres). The driver is located in the centre of the cab. “The operator of a Volta Zero sits in a central driving position, with a much lower seat height than a conventional truck.

This combination, plus a glass house-style cab design, gives the driver a wide, 220-degrees of visibility, minimizing dangerous blind spots,” Volta Trucks CEO Rob Fowler said in an interview.

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The Zero will use a 160 to 200 kWh battery using lithium iron phosphate. “The lithium iron phosphate battery technology is well suited to large commercial vehicle use. It delivers a long cycle life, robust cell design, and good thermal stability, enhancing safety,” Volta Trucks said.  

The offered range of the Zero might not sound much to electric car drivers, but according to Frost & Sullivan analyst Kevin Kelly it’s fine for its planned role. “The range doesn’t sound much but the hub and spoke delivery philosophy means it is perfect for the role Volta is aiming at. Electric trucks like this will take goods from huge, centralized hubs and deliver into cities using predictable routes and return to the same charging point,” Kelly said.

Kelly said the focus has been on smaller sub 3-1/2 tonne vehicles for delivery door to door to serve “e” commerce. The Zero was designed to be very efficient at bringing goods into cities from hubs to stores. Volta will offer telematics facilities so the operators can keep a close watch on where their vehicles are, and bypass logistics operators.

“Volta is first into the higher weight category of electric delivery vehicles and the Zero is the first to purpose-build a platform to maximize the advantages electric power can bring. It has also been designed to make operation easy for the driver who can access the goods from inside the cab. The Zero will also help to remove toxic emissions from cities,” Kelly said.

Currently in Europe most vans and trucks are diesel powered, but many cities have been drawing up plans to ban diesels from city centers, with Paris and London among the first to accomplish this. Volta said one Zero can operate in narrow city streets and do the work of three or four current 3.5 tonne vehicles.   Volta described itself as a start-up electric goods vehicle maker and services company.

It didn’t reveal any financial details of its plans, or the anticipated price of the Zero. The spurt in online purchasing pushed by the ramifications of the coronavirus crisis, and the outlawing of diesels, will boost demand for electric trucks, except perhaps for the biggest ones which deliver huge loads across the European transport network. Experts say these heavy trucks are more likely, longer-term, to select the fuel cell option, although Tesla has, bravely, entered the market for battery-driven heavy trucks.

GlobalData analyst David Leggett agrees. “We’re certainly seeing growth of interest in electric powertrain solutions for commercial vehicles – in both light duty and heavier duty applications. There’s a particular focus on urban delivery where zero emissions in use is emerging as a rising benefit for operators.

Plenty of new product is coming, too, especially in electric light vans that can help meet the boom in online shopping and need for last mile delivery with low emissions,” Leggett said. “In terms of heavier freight distribution, start-up manufacturer Volta has produced a radical electric truck design. Established manufacturers such as DAF are also investing in electric trucks.

DAF’s heavy duty CF Electric starts European deliveries in 2021 and it is claimed it will manage 500 kms (312 miles) a day on a full charge supplemented by a second charge.

That’s pretty good going on the surface, although operators will obviously be looking to see how total costs pan out and compare with conventional tech,” Leggett said.

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