Volvo leads the way – electric trucks for Australia
Last Friday I was able to speak with Matt Wood, Volvo Australia’s Director of Public Relations and Media, about Volvo’s plans for electric trucks. I’ve been inspired by several news reports about changes to state and federal regulations that will allow wider and heavier transport vehicles on Australian roads. You can read about that here. Volvo is clearly leading the way in Australia.
Like my conversations with Alex at Scania Australia, I was pleasantly surprised by Volvo’s forward-thinking and positive attitude towards battery electric HGVs. Matt told me that Volvo has a battery-electric vehicle alternative for every diesel truck it offers, from the 5-ton payload medium truck to the flagship Prime Mover. The Volvo Group includes Volvo Trucks, Mack Trucks, Volvo Penta and Volvo Buses – and it’s no wonder it’s Australia’s largest car manufacturer. Volvo builds its vehicles at Wacol in Queensland, a location close enough for us to visit in the near future, I hope. Matt told me that by the end of 2027 “Volvo will be building an electric semi in Wacol. We are aiming to use as much Australian content as possible. However, initially we expect there will be a lot of imported components. I can’t wait to see that take off.” Assembly line.
Two years ago, Volvo introduced medium-duty BEV trucks. Early this year, it launched Quasi. Volvo has two semi-automatic models, each with a range of 300 kilometers (186 miles). It also has a variety of electric options for last-mile delivery. Volvo is a part owner of Swiss technology company Designworke (DW), which produces the BEV technology for heavy vehicles used in the semi-finals. The DW features a high-cab Prime Mover that can haul 50 tons and has a range of 760 kilometers (472 miles). With Australia’s recent changes to its truck supply, half of Europe’s battery-powered vehicles will be able to be used on Australian roads. Lots of good things on its way.
“Volvo is not going 100% electric anytime soon,” Matt told me. “We have a goal to get to 50% electric by 2030. We are in a transition but still have to burn fuel. Volvo has a zero emissions goal but not a battery electric goal Although he sees the adoption of electric trucks accelerating faster than the adoption of electric cars, he believes the truck market is now where the electric car market was when the Tesla Model 3 was launched. “The new offerings are a generation to come. “It’s like going from a Nissan Kangoo to a Tesla 3.” Matt will know his daily driver is a Model 3.
There are some speed bumps that still need to be ironed out. He believes shifts in state and federal regulations will help. The establishment of charging centers will also pave the way for the introduction of more electric trucks. He cites the freight hub being built in western Sydney by Team Global Express and co-funded by ARENA as a good example. “We need chargers for semi trucks and for the record number of electric medium trucks entering the market, such as Daimler Fuso eCanters and Volvo FL Electrics.”
Some drivers resist switching to electric. However, bums on seats fix that! Volvo recently invited drivers to a Drive event at the Mt Cotton Driving Center south of Brisbane. “They were blown away by the driving experience,” Matt says. Once they drive an electric car, they are impressed. This reflects a similar experience in Norway. Drivers took vehicles from one depot to another. “Everyone will complain until they drive it, and then you won’t be able to get them out of it.” They were trialling a heavy-duty truck with 660 horsepower and a gross weight of 44 tons. In Sweden, Volvo is trialling 74-tonne battery-electric prime movers above the Arctic Circle for Kaunis Iron.
Volvo aims to have a 100% fossil fuel-free supply chain by 2040. It uses BEV trucks, charged with renewable energy, to power its heavy-duty truck plant outside Gothenburg, Sweden. Some of these trucks are manufactured using fossil fuel-free steel. “We firmly believe in leading by example, and starting to use zero-emission trucks in our internal freight flow is an important part of our strategy to create a world-class sustainable transport system. I am very proud to have DFDS as a partner,” explains Roger Alm, President of Volvo Trucks. On this trip.”
Meanwhile, back in Australia, Volvo is participating in trials that will iron out regulatory speed bumps. Victoria has permanently opened more than 22,000 kilometers of road to Volvo Trucks, reducing the maximum front axle weight from 6.5 to 7.5 tons. There will be ongoing assessments by governments of infrastructure capabilities. Structures such as bridges and viaducts will need protection. The Queensland Transport and Main Roads Authority has also awarded Volvo a trial allowing zero-emission vehicles with a front axle weight of 7.5 tonnes over the next two years.
South Australia and New South Wales are trialling zero-emission vehicles from all truck makers.
In another innovative experience, Volvo is teaming up with JJ’s Waste and Recycling to trial ‘Oscar’, the Volvo FE electric trash eater. ‘Oscar’ appeared at Volvo Group Australia’s stand at the 2023 Brisbane Truck Show. “The truck is equipped with a rear loader; a 16 cubic meter dump body is ideally suited for urban operations. The three-month trial will be conducted on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast and will provide Insight into the impact of PTO use on range and productivity.
The dual-motor Oscar uses four second-generation 265 kWh batteries, offering a potential range of up to 220 kilometers and a payload of up to 7 tons.
“Electric mobility and waste management go hand in hand,” says Gary Bone, Vice President, Volvo Trucks Australia. “The stop-and-start nature of this application in densely populated urban areas should prove to be a promising zero-emissions solution for our cities. I look forward to seeing the results of this trial which will prove invaluable as we continue our decarbonisation journey.”
“This is the perfect opportunity for us to understand how we can decarbonize our fleet over time,” enthuses Joe Branagan, COO of JJ’s Waste and Recycling division. “Obviously we can’t switch to electric overnight, so partnerships like the one we have with Volvo Trucks are vital to see what applications we can power electric trucks in now as well as what the future of zero emissions waste management could look like. “.
“I will be watching the result of this exercise with great interest!”
Australia’s trucking industry is ripe for disruption. Many existing vehicles on the roads are scheduled to be replaced. Volvo is leading the way toward a quieter, cleaner trucking experience. Volvo is strengthening the emergency response niche market by introducing the first vehicle equipped with breathing apparatus to support firefighters in emergency services in the Australian Capital Territory. Just in time for Australia’s summer fire season. “You have to start where you can, as long as you start!” says Matt.
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