Volvo Vehicles launched their electric heavy duty truck program in California this week, nicknamed “Volvo LIGHTS.” Its centerpiece is the brand new Volvo VNR Electric heavy duty truck, which permits native and regional heavy responsibility cargo hauls. It will likely be utilized in a pilot program to haul cargo from the ports of Los Angeles to regional distribution hubs in Southern California’s Inland Empire.
As a part of the launch, Volvo invited us out to Fontana speedway for a fast drive of the VNR electrical, which dealt with higher than it has any proper to given its enormous dimension.
We wrote preliminary ideas concerning the launch in our story earlier this week, however this will probably be a dive into extra of the specs of the truck and the drive expertise.
Volvo had two configurations of their truck obtainable – the tractor-only 6 battery configuration, with 300kWh of storage, and the field truck with four battery configuration and 200kWh of storage. These are usable capacities, because the nominal storage of every battery is 66kWh – so Volvo is limiting entry to that power storage by rather a lot.
Volvo figures that the VNR electrical can deal with 75-175 mile routes comfortably for now, relying on numerous elements. That’s a lot for native distribution and regional distribution from ports to hubs, however not sufficient for something longer-range but.
These vans are able to being charged at 150kW DC or 11kW AC. Volvo has a 43kW AC charger approaching subsequent 12 months’s mannequin, which would require 480V three-phase electrical energy to feed.
The batteries are positioned under and behind the cab, alongside the perimeters of the truck. This could allow simple service, because the batteries will be accessed from the aspect of the car. Volvo has thought of battery swapping to get vans out and in of the depot extra shortly than charging, however hasn’t decided but.
To maneuver all that weight, there are two motors with a mixed 400kW (536hp) peak energy or 260kW (349hp) of steady energy, and as much as 23,600 pound-feet of torque to the bottom – about three,000 greater than the diesel model.
The motors have an fascinating gearing configuration, with one mated to a two-speed transmission and the opposite mated to a one-speed. The low gear on the two-speed will get the truck going, then the second gear and second motor get engaged at greater speeds.
Each motors are linked to a regular driveshaft. Volvo thinks this will probably be extra dependable than in the event that they went with particular person wheel or axle motors.
There are extra powertrain enhancements deliberate for the long run, and people might come as quickly as the tip of subsequent 12 months.
The truck does have disc brakes as an alternative of drum brakes, which use much less air and are lighter (plus it has regenerative braking), and the field truck configuration has a four,000lb electrical liftgate which may keep charged up by means of a photo voltaic array on the roof.
The truck as configured weighed 24,500lbs or about eight,000lbs greater than the diesel model. It nonetheless handles nice and has loads of energy, however that weight deficit does have an effect on cargo-hauling capability.
With an 82,000lb mixed weight restrict (electrics get an additional 2,000 lb allowance from the federal government), this implies the VNR electrical can’t haul as a lot because the diesel VNR, by about 6,000lbs. That’s about 1/seventh much less weight per load of cargo than the diesel. This isn’t an enormous deal for cargo that isn’t very dense, however for heavy stuff it means extra vans to do the identical quantity of labor.
Now we get to the enjoyable half. Volvo arrange a monitor on Fontana speedway’s infield and allow us to have a brief check drive round it.
The cab inside is a comparatively normal affair that must be acquainted to most truck drivers. It was similar to their normal diesel-powered VNR interior (fairly completely different from Tesla Semi’s futuristic two-screen setup).
The buttons are giant, the seat is mushy with air journey suspension, and there’s glorious visibility from the massive home windows.
However the drive is markedly completely different from what you count on out of such a big truck. Gone is the lurching, jerking really feel of drugs shifts – it simply will get up and goes.
It’s not going to beat sports activities vehicles off the road, after all, however the truck felt remarkably clean and succesful, effectively past my expectations. We didn’t get a Zero-60 time, however it will undoubtedly draw back from the diesel vans and even felt like it will be capable of sustain with a number of the slower vehicles on the street – and with out belching smoke or grinding by means of the gears on the best way there.
It took turns effectively too, significantly better than its weight would counsel. That mentioned, the field truck we drove was unloaded, so it will certainly be somewhat tougher with a full load. However, with extra torque and the moment energy supply of electrical motors, the truck must be far more nimble than the diesel model.
Gear shifts had been imperceptible, with energy being easily handed from one motor to the opposite. This made the journey a lot extra nice than one would count on of a truck – particularly with out the noise and scent of a diesel engine.
The VNR electrical also can use the complete 260kW of its motors for regenerative braking functions, which ends up in vital deceleration. Volvo had us flooring it on the again straight after which use the regen to decelerate for a flip, and we didn’t should faucet the brakes in any respect.
There are a number of ranges of regen selectable by the driving force. This must be helpful for various street situations – stop-and-go in a metropolis or in visitors, driving down lengthy grades, and so on.
That latter scenario is an actual profit of electrical. Not solely does it get rid of the noise of a jake brake, however it additionally provides power again into the batteries, making lengthy downward grades a great way to regain a couple of miles of vary.
Volvo additionally had us strive backing up the truck on the monitor in a parking simulation train to exhibit how simple exact throttle software is with an electrical motor. Between the good visibility, backup digital camera, lack of drugs shifts, and exact throttle management, the VNR electrical must be simple to drive in tight areas.
Upkeep & Manufacturing Plans
Aside from the electrical powertrain, Volvo makes use of numerous normal switches, air compressors and so forth.
The choice to make use of normal components suits higher into Volvo’s present manufacturing capabilities, permitting them to suit it extra simply into their present car strains. It additionally permits purchasers to suit the truck into their fleet extra simply, since they don’t have to construct up a complete new components bin only for a trial truck.
Volvo centered quite a bit on this “blended fleet” technique, anticipating that fleet house owners would favor to fit just some vans into their yard to see how they work earlier than going all-in. The upkeep schedule for the VNR electrical hasn’t but been printed, however Volvo says it will likely be roughly the identical as their diesel vans, with comparable 98-99% uptime. Volvo thinks this might result in extra predictable downtime for mixed-fleet operators than having staggered upkeep schedules for various automobiles.
It is a little unlucky since theoretically an electrical truck must be extra dependable than a diesel-powered one, and thus ought to require much less upkeep (e.g. oil modifications, brake service because of regenerative braking). We requested Volvo if the choice to do a retrofit concerned any design compromises, they usually reiterated their level about normal upkeep schedules.
Had they constructed it from the bottom up, they probably might have re-engineered the engine compartment for higher aerodynamics (thus extra vary and extra money saved for fleet operators) or higher packaging (lowering the size of the truck or including more room for the driving force).
So the retrofit nature of this truck does loom over it as a doable draw back. Typically, purpose-built electrical automobiles that begin with a “clear sheet” method to their design are in a position to higher leverage the strengths of an electrical powertrain. This results in higher automobiles total, but in addition takes extra growth and tooling time.
Volvo advised us they’ve solely been engaged on their VNR electrical truck for a few 12 months, and plan to start out promoting them to clients on the finish of this 12 months, in order that wouldn’t be almost sufficient time for a ground-up method.
The challenge was already fairly spectacular for less than having a 12 months’s work, however it was nonetheless fairly clearly incomplete.
Past simply the journey and drive portion of the day, Volvo ran us by means of a lot of big-picture seminars speaking about infrastructure growth (with utilities and charging installers), group engagement (with regulators and native communities), service coaching (with native faculties) and so forth. It’s clear they’ve put numerous thought into this challenge and aren’t simply blindly tossing a half-baked concept out into the world.
They deserve kudos for that, particularly having put all of this collectively on such a brief timeline and getting a number of spectacular, working prototypes onto the street hauling items already.
However the challenge remains to be incomplete. Regardless of inviting many fleet consumers to their occasion, Volvo couldn’t give us a worth, or perhaps a ballpark. The VNR electrical will price greater than the diesel-powered truck, and certain fairly much more. Although working prices will probably be a lot decrease and there will probably be incentives concerned, as these vans will probably be a big boon for air high quality.
A variety of different questions obtained normal big-picture solutions which didn’t fulfill us on the specifics. Even all the way down to the specs of the truck we got numerous broad ranges and a few conflicting solutions relying on who we requested.
These solutions are a part of the rationale their pilot program exists, as they’re nonetheless gathering information on how these vans will probably be used. Each prototype is provided with a big information assortment unit that Volvo will use to tell their choices because the truck will get nearer to completion.
And regardless of a couple of hand-wavey solutions, there was nonetheless loads of pleasure within the room. One consultant from a meals distributor was nothing however smiles when he obtained out of the truck, regardless of expressing some skepticism on the bus journey over to the monitor. One other logistics supervisor was contemplating canceling his Tesla Semi order to get the VNR electrical as an alternative. And Troy Musgrave, a director from Reliable Provide Chain who Volvo partnered with for this challenge, was simply excited to get these electrical vans on the street and begin saving cash as shortly as doable.
We’re excited too, particularly if it means we don’t should hearken to or breathe the exhaust of these noisy, soiled diesel vans anymore.
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