Volvo Trucks North America spent a week bringing customers, partners, and media out to its customer center in Dublin, Virginia as part of its 2022 Electromobility Summit to showcase the work it has done to lead the electrification of the heavy trucking space. The flagship of Volvo Trucks’ efforts in North America is the Volvo VNR, a Class 8 semi truck that carries forward the same look and feel of its predecessors to make it easy for drivers to hop into, but with a power-packed fully electric powertrain and battery system under the hood.
CleanTechnica attended and spent some time behind the wheel of the VNR, talked to Volvo’s experts, and learned about the path forward for Volvo’s exciting line of heavy duty trucks. The Volvo VNR is already in production at Volvo Trucks’ New River Valley factory with numerous vehicles in the hands of customers across North America. A key piece of the journey to convert fleets from largely diesel-powered to fully electric is education. To ensure its customers were set up for success, Volvo Trucks overhauled its sales process to integrate a ton of education and additional services, transforming its sales team into a full blown electric transformation consultation and financing shop.
Disclaimer: Volvo Trucks paid for the author’s travel and accommodations to attend this event.
Education, Sales, & Services
It makes tons of sense when you think about it. Swapping out the powertrain of a massive heavy duty class 8 truck for a pair of electric motors and a battery changes just about everything in their business. Maintenance cycles are drastically reduced as regularly scheduled brake changes, exhaust system maintenance, and engine tuning are all but eliminated. The variable price of diesel fuel and the truck stops providing it is replaced with an electric grid and a new, ever-expanding network of public EV fast chargers. Fuel tanks are replaced with banks of batteries. Familiar diesel trucks and variable fuel bills are flipped on their heads with electric trucks carrying steeper price tags up front, all the while promising lower ongoing fuel and maintenance costs.
It’s a lot to take in and having built and serviced vehicles for their customers for nearly a hundred years, Volvo understands that switching to a fully electric fleet can be a lot to take in for fleet managers. To ease the challenge of the transition, Volvo developed a comprehensive sales solution that’s heavily biased towards providing customers with the foundational education needed to get up to speed with a fully electric fleet.
Integrating these processes into the sales consultation not only makes it easier for customers to Volvo Trucks to be a one-stop shop to electrify their fleets, but it also represents multiple new vertical profit centers for Volvo Trucks. Expanding into providing insurance, financing, charging station consultation, charging station recommendations, and other ancillary services is helpful for customers and lets Volvo Trucks take a slice of the financial pie at each step of the way. It’s a win-win.
These new services stack on top of Volvo’s existing service networks which are being upgraded and qualified for Volvo’s new electric vehicles. Today, Volvo has 18 service centers qualified for electric vehicles in North America with another 55 in the process of being qualified. Volvo shared that dealers are eager to make the move to electric and the numbers reflect this reality.
A Custom Range Estimator
The foundation of Volvo Trucks’ new sales process is a new range estimator that helps fleet managers see into the future with a virtual route simulator for electric trucks. Fleet mangers know what distance their drivers are traveling each day and how fuel consumption fluctuates throughout the seasons, but how does that translate to the world of fully electric trucks? Volvo Trucks built a highly detailed route simulator to estimate battery consumption on real routes with the ability to adjust temperature, load, average speed, and more.
The Electric Performance Generator is but one part of a holistic approach to helping customers transition their fleets to electric to help potential customers better understand how the cost of fuel will change, when charging should take place, and how the state of health of the battery will evolve as they look to a world of fully electric transportation. Walking through real world scenarios using routes their drivers run on a daily basis and painting a picture for what that would look like in an electric truck has proved to be helpful in bridging the gap.
Volvo Trucks conservatively estimates the VNR to consume around 2kWh per mile for a fully loaded truck but obviously this depends on the weather, geography, and how full the truck actually is. Using conservative values in the range estimator ensures fleet managers won’t be surprised when the rubber hits the road in the real world. Volvo Trucks has run hundreds of detailed simulations with real world data and continues to refine the tool based on customer feedback.
Traction With Key Customers
Many of the early adopters of Volvo’s fully electric trucks started out with a pilot of around 10 or 20 trucks. Now, Volvo is now seeing many of those early customers dive in with orders in the hundreds as they look to expand their fully electric fleets, plugging directly into the latest and greatest fully electric offerings from Volvo. The increase in range that came with the second generation VNR trucks also expanded the number of routes that could be served.
Orders from established logistics suppliers like QCD, Producers Dairy, and Penske as well as truck-as-a-service upstart WattEV demonstrates the utility of Volvo’s full electric, heavy trucks in North America. These orders build on Volvo’s long history in the heavy trucking space and make it clear that a lot of their customers want to get on board for the ride.
Volvo Trucks has done a ton of work on the VNR to ensure it delivers a like-for-like experience in the cabin when it comes to the driver experience. Steering, shifting, air conditioning, and the layout of the interior cabin is all nearly identical to its combustion-fired counterpart. Looking beyond North America, Amazon just dropped an order for 20 of Volvo’s fully electric FH cab-over truck in Germany, making it clear that upgrading fleets to fully electric heavy trucks isn’t just a North America phenomenon.
It’s clearly still early days for heavy duty electric trucks, but that’s not stopping Volvo Trucks from going all in on building competitive fully electric trucks today. Volvo is committed to a future of zero accidents and zero emissions and the trucks we saw, the people at Volvo Trucks we talked with, and the customer orders make a compelling case for Volvo Trucks’ leadership role in taking us there.
The future is electric.
Thanks to Volvo Trucks, the zero emission future is ready for fleet managers to order today and they’re being built right here in America.
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