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Volvo Sees Clear Road Ahead to Zero Tailpipe Emissions by 2050

With three tractors behind him — two powered by diesel, the third powered by batteries — Volvo Trucks North America President Peter Voorhoeve spelled out VTNA’s plans to offer a fleet of zero tailpipe emission trucks by 2050.

Speaking at a press conference at the Management Conference and Exhibition of the American Trucking Associations in Nashville, Tennessee, Voorhoeve, said the plan has three steps.

The first, he said, was to have 50% of Volvo’s vehicles be zero tailpipe emissions by 2030.  The second would be to have 100% of its fleet have zero tailpipe emissions by 2040. That would lead  to “fossil-free transport” by 2050 as Volvo “would have a fleet that does not produce emissions anymore from the tailpipe.”

The zero-carbon goals do not necessarily mean the end of the internal combustion engine at VTNA. Voorhoeve showed a graphic outlining a distribution among battery vehicles, hydrogen-powered fuel cells, and diesel engines powered by renewable fuels. The formula assumes a large and reliable supply of renewable diesel based on feedstocks such as biomass and food waste.  Such a supply is not always assured. 

Voorhoeve said VTNA   recently sold two new VNR Electric trucks to California-based Producers Dairy, which will use them in a 40-mile corridor in the state’s Central Valley. VNR Electric is the centerpiece of VTNA’s electrification strategy.

 Vooehoeve also said the company has an agreement with Fleetmaster Express, which will use VNR Electrics to service Ball Corp., a manufacturer of aluminum-based products. 

Closer to home, Voorhoeve expanded further on earlier news that its plant in the New River Valley of southwest Virginia would be serviced by two suppliers that were switching to VNR Electrics. Watsontown Trucking Co. and Camrett Logistics will both use VNR Electrics to service the plant. The identity of the suppliers had not been disclosed.

Brett Pope, Volvo’s director of electric vehicles, said the two companies’ facilities, which are located within 10 to 15 miles of the Virginia, plant will make eight runs per day.

Voorhoevet declined to provide a specific figure for the VNR Electrics on order.  But he said VTNA has 30 to 50 VNR Electrics “on the road really working, and that number will increase going forward” toward a goal of putting 500 electric trucks in service.

Volvo’s VNR electric vehicle at the ATA meeting

One step in implementing the company’s program is creating a network of maintenance facilities that can service electric vehicles as well as they have serviced diesel trucks. There are now electric truck service facilities in California, New York, and Idaho. Voorhoeve said the company expects to have 30 such facilities operating by the end of the year.

There is more to bringing on a new VNR customer than just selling them the truck and providing a network of maintenance facilities, Pope said.

“You’ve got to start early,” he said. “You have got to have some thought about how you want to introduce truck logistics. How do you want to charge it, and how often do you want to charge it?”

Part of that conversation needs to take place with the drivers. “We do spend a fair amount of time with the drivers,” Pope said. Those conversations can reveal much about how they drive the vehicles, which impacts battery range.

Voorhoeve was confident enough to declare that the company was on the way to reaching its goals through actions. Part of that optimism comes from what Voorhoeve said was the timetable of what has occurred so far, which he described as “a rather quick project.” 

A new product line normally can take five to seven years to come online, according to Voorhoeve. The VNR Electric project came in far quicker, noting that the decision to produce the vehicle in North America was reached in 2018. The VNR Electric is a retrofit of a diesel-powered VNR regional haul truck.

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