Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Trucks: The Volvo FL Electric Has Been Launched - Volvo Trucks First All-Electric Truck For Commercial Use

Volvo Trucks have introduced the Volvo FL Electric for sale over in Europe. This is the truck manufacturer's first all-electric truck for commercial use and could be the first manufacturer offering a zero emissions commercial vehicle that can easily be bought and run. The FL Electric is based on the Volvo FL series of trucks and its main applications in urban distribution as well as refuse operations. The FL Electric which will start sales and series production in Europe next year and Volvo Trucks will be at the forefront in coming up with solutions for electrified goods transport in cities with this offering.

As I type, Volvo Trucks have stated that the first trucks in the Volvo FL Electric range are now entering regular operation with customers in and around Gothenburg, Sweden, which is the home of Volvo Trucks. The first two Volvo FL Electric trucks will be operated by refuse collection and recycling company Renova and haulage firm TGM. 

With better air quality and less noise in the city, it is possible to plan for housing and infrastructure more freely than at present. An electric truck without any exhaust emissions can be used in indoor terminals and environmental zones. Their low noise level creates opportunities for doing more work at night, thus reducing the burden on the roads during the day. With the companies like Renova and TGM who prefer off peak hours to conduct transportation and delivery, the all electric FL makes proper business sense due to its lack of noise and emissions.

The Volvo FL Electric is a fully electrically-powered truck for distribution, refuse collection and other applications in urban conditions and it has a gross vehicle weight (GVW) of 16 tonnes. In place of the regular diesel powered engines of the regular FL is a 185 kW electric motor which generates a max power/130 kW continuous output and sends the power via a two speed transmission through a propeller shaft to the rear axle. Maximum torque which the electric motor 425 Nm and the maximum torque of the rear axle is 16 kNm.

In terms of its power supply or energy storage, it has 2 to 6 lithium-ion batteries, totalling 100 to 300 kWh which allows the FL a range of up to 300 km. Charging the FL Electric is by AC charging via the mains grid (22 kW) or DC fast charge via CCS/Combo2 for up to 150 kW. Volvo claims that recharging from empty to fully charged batteries via a fast charge takes between 1-2 hours (DC charging) whilst night charging takes up to 10 hours (AC charging) with maximum battery capacity of 300 kWh.

“We’re immensely proud to introduce the first in a range of fully electrically-powered Volvo trucks ready for regular traffic. With this model we are making it possible for cities that aim for sustainable urban development to benefit from the advantages of electrified truck transports,” says Claes Nilsson, President Volvo Trucks.

Many companies over in Europe and also around the wolrd have an interest in electric trucks. Many potential customers have questions about the opportunities generated by the new technology and how it can impact their operations. Sometimes, it is the customer of their customers which are very eco-savvy and they actually ask for more sustainable means of transport and then, these transporters have to deliver. Of course, this moment is where there is somewhat of a switchover point between two different types of engine propulsion and vehicle manufacturers need to ensure that the switch is smooth.

“In order to make the transition secure and smooth, we will offer holistic solutions based on each customer’s individual needs regarding driving cycles, load capacity, uptime, range and other parameters. Such a solution may encompass everything from route analysis and battery optimisation to servicing and financing. Volvo Trucks works closely with several suppliers of charging equipment. The aim as always is to offer customers high uptime and productivity”, says Jonas Odermalm, head of product strategy Volvo FL and Volvo FE at Volvo Trucks.

All of these new technology doesn't just appear out of nowhere. Volvo Group has accumulated expertise in electrified transport solutions especially via Volvo Buses, which have sold more than 4000 electrified buses since 2010. It means that the technology used for propulsion and energy storage in the Volvo FL Electric has been tried and tested from the start and is supported by Volvo Trucks’ far-reaching network for sales, service and parts supply for added peace of mind to its customers.

Volvo Trucks believes that it is essential to take a holistic view of electrification of the transport sector to handle the ongoing challenges in areas such as electricity generation and batteries. This is an important issue as there could be issues of the batteries themselves as to the disposal of them at the end-of-life and to the charging infrastructure itself.

“From experience we know how important it is that cities, energy suppliers and vehicle manufacturers cooperate in order for large-scale electrification to become a reality. With attractive incentives, agreed standards and a long-term strategy for urban planning and expansion of the charging infrastructure, the process can go much faster,” explains Jonas Odermalm.

“For instance, in order to ensure that raw materials for the batteries are extracted in a responsible way, the Volvo Group works with the Drive Sustainably network, which has a special function that monitors this issue. The Volvo Group is also involved in various projects where batteries from heavy electric vehicles get a second lease of life, reused for energy storage. All the questions about handling of batteries have not yet been solved, but we are working actively both within the Group and together with other actors to drive development and create the necessary solutions,” continues Odermalm.

In terms of the Malaysian perspective about the new FL Electric Truck, Mats Nilsson, Managing Director of Volvo Malaysia Sdn Bhd said, “One of our core values here at Volvo is environmental care. We want to make trucks that are not only safe and of a high quality, but also trucks that are going to ensure a greener world for future generations. We believe that innovation does not need to come at the cost of the environment. Volvo’s FL Electric truck is a shining example of the harmony between innovation and love for the environment.”

Of course, he did not answer a nagging question we may have which is - when will such a truck go on sale in Malaysia? Are we ready for the switch to an electric truck for our short haul routes? More news to come when I get to sit down with people who are currently at the forefront of electrification. 

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