Electric VNR Models to Hit Streets as VTNA, Partners Accelerate EV Program

VNR electric truck
One of Volvo Trucks North America's VNR electric models at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. (Joe Howard/Transport Topics)

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FONTANA, Calif. — Volvo Trucks North America provided the first rides in its forthcoming electric VNR model, and its partners in the Volvo LIGHTS project provided an update on efforts underway to accelerate adoption of electric trucks during a Feb. 11 media event. According to the manufacturer, the first trucks will reach California roads within weeks.

“There are many different alternative energies to fuel trucks with, but I personally believe, and Volvo Groups believes, that electric mobility is the way forward,” VNTA President Peter Voorhoeve said during a daylong event that featured presentations from some of the company’s partners in the multimillion-dollar Volvo LIGHTS project. LIGHTS stands for Low Impact Green Heavy Transport Solutions project.

Focused specifically on developing electric-power options for heavy-duty applications, the project — which received $44.8 million in funding from the California Air Resources Board in 2018 — is part of California Climate Investments. That initiative aims to invest billions to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, boost the state’s economy and improve public health and the environment. Volvo has contributed $36.7 million to the project, and the other 14 partners have made investments, as well. The project is valued at $90 million.


Volvo Group CEO Martin Lundstedt by Joe Howard/Transport Topics

Volvo Group CEO Martin Lundstedt praised the collaborative nature of the project during a portion of the event held at the TEC Equipment location here. The site is the largest Volvo dealership in North America, and TEC is a service partner in the LIGHTS initiative. The company has installed two charging stations in its service bay and is training technicians on how to service the trucks.

“Partnership is the new leadership,” Lundstedt said. “We will learn, all of us, how to move forward. Volvo as a company, and together with all of our partners, should drive prosperity through transport solutions.”

Specifically, Lundstedt noted that environmental efforts such as Volvo LIGHTS also can reap financial gains.

“We know that any society that has advanced transportation and infrastructure actually has a very clear correlation with the perspective that we all know about, which is measured as GDP,” he said. “This is a necessity, but it’s also a competitive edge.”

Volvo Group Chief Technology Officer Lars Stenqvist noted that the project is rolling out in applications areas where it makes business sense.

“We are moving into segments where it will be financially viable to embrace electrification,” he said.

Volvo will begin sales of the trucks late this year.


VTNA President Peter Voorhoeve by Joe Howard/Transport Topics

Voorhoeve told Transport Topics that the five trucks included in the ride-and-drive portion of the event — which took place at Auto Club Speedway — would be going into service with LIGHTS program partners within about two weeks. He added that the trucks will target a gross vehicle weight of 66,000 pounds and focus on a range of 75-175 miles during the initial phase of testing.

California-based logistics provider Dependable Supply Chain Services is one of the carriers that will conduct testing, and it is eager to learn how the trucks will perform, said Troy Musgrave, the company’s director of process improvement.

“We are excited to get these trucks on the road and prove their viability,” he said. “We are testing a fuel source. We are trying to find out if this fuel source will support what we do every day and help us serve our customers.”

Musgrave added, “We want to prove that [battery electric vehicles] can cover the routes we now do in diesel trucks.”

To help keep them in good running order, TEC is ramping up service capabilities in its Fontana shop, company President Dave Thompson said. “People are being trained, and we will be supporting about 15 of these vehicles. Anything we can be involved in that’s cutting edge is important to us.”

And it is new technologies that can help carry trucking forward, Stenqvist noted.

“Transportation cannot just continue to grow as it is today. We need to come up with other solutions, and for one simple reason: The planet cannot cope with an extrapolation of what we are doing today.”

CARB Director Barbara Reardon said the time for change is now.

“These are incredible times. We are going to have to change how we have been doing business for a very long time,” she said. “It’s an opportunity to make a difference.”

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