Electric Trucks: Volvo Increases Range 85%, Kenworth Triples Orders

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We get all wrapped up in electric car news here at CleanTechnica, but electric trucks are where it’s at when it comes to lowering atmospheric pollution. In southern California, the crud spewing out of the exhaust pipes of thousands of diesel-powered heavy trucks lugging shipping containers from ports to distribution centers has turned the air poisonous. Battery-electric trucks are the answer and they can’t come fast enough.

Volvo Trucks Increases Range 85%

Image courtesy of Volvo Trucks

Starting in the second quarter of 2022, the Volvo VNR Electric Class 8 heavy duty tractor from Volvo Trucks North America will feature an 85% range increase, faster charging, and more configurations to meet the needs of more customers. The trucks are manufactured at the company’s New River Valley manufacturing plant in Dublin, Virginia.

The company says improvements in battery design have increased the energy storage capacity of its batteries by as much as 40% while a dedicated Battery Thermal Management System has been added to manage and maintain ideal environmental temperatures. In addition, the company now offers a 565 kWh, 6-battery package that offers an operational range of up to 275 miles with a full load. Charging capacity has been increased to 250 kW, which enables an 80% recharge of the 6-battery package in 90 minutes or 60 minutes for the 4-battery package.

In addition to the Class 8 tractor, the VNR Electric model range now offers a 6×4 straight truck and a 6×4 tractor to go with the existing model lineup or a 4×2 tractor, 6×2 tractor, and single-axle straight truck. According to Green Car Congress, each configuration is designed to meet the needs for local and regional distribution by a variety of customers, including food and beverage, drayage, and pick-up and delivery services.

Kenworth Triples Electric Truck Orders

Kenworth Truck Company has tripled orders for its medium and heavy duty electric trucks in the past 90 days as fleet operators take advantage of incentives to offset the upfront cost and add zero-emission capacity ahead of coming sales quota regulations. Media attention and the fact that 5 other states have adopted California’s Advanced Clean Truck rules has created curiosity, which was followed by a sense of urgency when the sales quotes contained in those rules became public.

“We’ve quoted electric vehicles in 44 states,” Hank Johnson, Kenworth general sales manager for vocational and medium-duty trucks, tells industry news service FreightWaves. “We’ve taken orders from every region of the country and most of Canada. When we started this, we focused on the West Coast, where the significant grant money resided but to our surprise, there has definitely been a lot more activity outside of those states than we originally anticipated.”

The order numbers are still small — in the dozens — as fleets determine the best routes to run zero-emission trucks, how to account for chargers and the sometimes pricey infrastructure investment to get the power they need to their door. “What they are typically doing is [managing] the truck through different applications, through different routes,” Johnson said. “They’re going to try to figure out which one works better for them, and then it will become a permanent piece of their fleet, and the next truck, assuming the performance is good, will stay in the fleet.”

Though payback comes quickly in electric-versus-diesel fuel savings and maintenance costs project to be 30% lower, infrastructure expenses can be a wild card. “It literally could depend on what was the infrastructure underneath the ground to your site. Did you just put it in five years ago and it’s all up to code and there’s excess capacity for you to add a charger, then the investment on the infrastructure there could be low,” Johnson says.  “But if you’ve been somewhere down near a port for 70 years and nobody has [put] a new transformer in, that could be significant. It really does depend on what you come to the market with.”

Kenworth is working with infrastructure partners Schneider Electric and EnTech Solutions to offer advice to customers on charging infrastructure. Paccar Parts is providing charging stations. Kenworth is also offering grant-writing help to save customers money on the higher up-front cost of electric trucks.

Several states that offer grants to offset the cost of buying electric trucks require the purchaser to retire an older, dirtier truck to get the money. The grant writer can make suggestions to state regulators, such as allowing a single axle truck to be taken out of service instead of a tandem axle model. “What we’ve found with some customers is they have old trucks that they just haven’t disposed of that they’re not using,” Johnson says. “Those are easier to dispose of because you’re not taking a working asset off the road.” Right now, because of supply chain issues, the lead time to get delivery of an electric is about half that of a diesel-powered truck.

Electric trucks may not be for everyone. Just as with EV buyers, the cost of installing charging equipment can be an issue. Upgrading the electrical service in a home with a 60 amp breaker panel can cost a lot of money. Commercial charging equipment can also be costly to install. But lower fuel and maintenance costs can offset many of those upfront expenses and pay dividends as the years and the miles go by.

Truck manufacturers have been surprised by the interest in electric trucks just as automakers have been surprised by the interest in electric cars. CleanTechnica readers, on the other hand, have not been surprised. Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door.

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." You can follow him on Substack and LinkedIn but not on Fakebook or any social media platforms controlled by narcissistic yahoos.

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