Decarbonization of heavy goods transport: “There is not THE one solution”

Volvo Truck has overtaken the competition in the Electric Truck category with the Volvo FH Electric and won the eMove360° Award in the “Electric Truck” category. For the current issue of eMove360° magazine in german language (free download PDF), Sabine Metzger spoke to Manfred Nelles, Manager Media Relations Volvo Truck Central Europe, about Volvo Trucks’ pioneering role in the development and introduction of alternative drive systems and the challenges for e-trucks in heavy goods transport, among other things.

Mr. Nelles, last October you were on stage as the winner in the “Electric Trucks” category at the eMove360° Awards ceremony. I hope you have fond memories of the evening and that the trophy has found a fine place on your shelf. We always ask our winners after a while how the winning product has developed. Was the jury right in its decision?

Manfred Nelles: The jury was absolutely right in its decision to honor Volvo Trucks here. In the meantime, the Volvo FH Electric has been voted “International Truck of the Year”. This makes it the first electric truck ever to receive this award. This shows the quality of the evaluation by the eMove360° jury and that they are not alone in their decision to honor the Volvo FH Electric as an innovative truck with an award.

The award jury was unanimous at the time: the Volvo FH Electric makes an important contribution to the decarbonization of heavy goods transport. Please briefly outline the advantages of the FH Electric.

Nelles: The Volvo FH Electric is not only low-emission and quiet in operation, but care is also taken to work with recycled materials during production. In addition, fossil-free steel is used. As far as operation is concerned, the Volvo FH Electric is around twice as efficient as its diesel counterpart in terms of energy yield. With up to 666 electric horsepower, it is also particularly powerful and versatile.

Volvo Trucks recently announced record sales for 2023? How are the electric trucks performing?

Nelles: We are proud to say that we were the market leader for electric trucks in Europe in 2023. Currently, in the first quarter of 2024, we were even able to further expand our market share to over 50%. More than 600 Volvo e-trucks are in use on German roads and the number is growing every day.

Is Volvo Trucks playing a kind of pioneering role in the production of e-trucks for heavy-duty transport?

Nelles: We at Volvo Trucks clearly see ourselves as pioneers in the development and introduction of alternative drive systems – including electric trucks. We are also developing fuel cell technology very intensively. We have also been offering LNG/bio-LNG trucks since 2017, as the combustion engine with alternative and synthetic fuels as well as hydrogen will continue to be part of our so-called THREE WAYS STRATEGY for a long time to come.

Volvo Trucks has recently expanded its range of electrically powered vehicles with two new models: the new Volvo FH Aero Electric and the Volvo FM Low Entry. Could you briefly introduce them?

Nelles: Both vehicles complement our existing range. The Volvo FH Aero is even more economical in all drive variants, particularly thanks to its improved aerodynamics. The Volvo FM Low Entry was specially developed for urban use and is the first truck from Volvo Trucks to be available only as an electric vehicle. All truck models have also been further improved in terms of safety and now feature the latest generation of CMS, a camera monitoring system, including infrared technology for night-time use.

A solid network of charging stations is an important milestone in promoting sustainable heavy goods transport. Volvo is building its own charging infrastructure with Milence, a joint venture with Daimler Truck and the Traton Group. Please briefly explain what is behind this and how far the project has come?

Nelles: You would have to ask Milence about this, but I have noticed that the first large parking lots with charging stations and an infrastructure that is convenient for truck drivers are being connected to the network. In total, the joint venture wants to set up around 1,700 charging points in Europe.

Where do you see heavy goods vehicles in ten years’ time?

Nelles: We expect that more than 50% of the trucks sold by Volvo Truck will be powered by alternative drives or fuels. A large proportion of these will be used in urban centers in the form of electric trucks. Especially for waste disposal, construction and local transportation.

What are the biggest challenges for electric trucks in heavy goods transportation?

Nelles: Currently, the biggest challenge is the lack of planning security for our customers, but also for us. The very abrupt abolition of the subsidy program has led to great confusion and the belief in this important new technology is in danger of losing its depth. However, we are trying to counteract this with persuasion and good products. There is also a lack of quick approvals for the depot charging infrastructure once our customers have opted for an e-truck. I don’t even want to talk about a rapid expansion of the charging infrastructure overall at this point.

Do you see pure battery-electric solutions or also hydrogen/fuel cell solutions?

Nelles: At Volvo Truck, we have always worked in all technological directions. The fuel cell also plays an important role here. The tests are going well and we will soon start customer trials. Fuel cell electric trucks (FCEV) are suitable for long distances and heavy, energy-intensive operations and complement battery electric trucks (BEV). FCEVs could also be an option when charging time is short and in countries where battery charging facilities are limited. The fuel cell electric trucks will have a range comparable to many diesel trucks – up to 1000 km – and a refueling time of less than 15 minutes. Fuel cell technology is still at an early stage of development and there are challenges ahead. One of these is the supply of green hydrogen. Another is the fact that the refueling infrastructure for heavy vehicles still needs to be developed. Basically, we see a justification for every drive system globally, which is why we don’t believe there will be THE one solution.

Thank you very much for the interview.

24.06.2024   |  

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