Volvo Trucks hands over first electric truck to SA customer

Volvo Trucks South Africa has officially launched its electric truck range in South Africa.

Volvo Trucks Electric Truck Handover KDG Logistics t

The company is offering its most popular extra heavy trucks in its electric line-up: the Volvo FH, the Volvo FM and the Volvo FMX. They will be available in truck tractor or rigid configurations, from 4x2 to 8x4, giving it the industry’s most extensive portfolio of zero exhaust emission trucks.

In total, the Swedish truck manufacturer has sold close to 5,000 electric trucks since 2019 in about 40 countries.

Volvo’s ambition in the field of sustainability from a customer and societal perspective is to reach, 100% safe, 100% fossil-free and 100% more productive solutions. These include reducing CO² emissions by 50% by 2030 and being completely fossil-free by 2050.

Waldemar Christensen, managing director of Volvo Trucks South Africa, said that the company was pleasantly surprised by the amount of local interest in its electric trucks and that the first movers in South Africa were companies that value their environmental impact and already have programmes to reduce emissions.

Locally, the first electric FM 4X2 Tractor was presented to valued Volvo customer, KDG Logistics on 6 June. The company will use the truck in its operations to move new passenger vehicles between factories/storage facilities and the Durban Port.

“Our move to electric trucks was driven by our objective to be more efficient in every aspect of our business,” said Abdool Kamdar, KDG Logistics’ manager of Decarbonisation and Net Zero. “We believe what sets us apart from our competitors is the fact that we focus on operational and environmental efficiencies in our business, which include steps to lessen our impact on the environment and enhance safety for all road users.”

The KDG Group has a longstanding relationship with Volvo Trucks and already has 175 diesel units in its fleet.

Eric Parry, Volvo Trucks SA’s sustainable solutions manager, said the trucks have been designed, developed and built to handle any major commercial operation that South African companies need to deal with.

“Our trucks are designed to handle high temperature ranges and a variety of operational conditions. With a driveline that has 490 kW of power and 2400 Nm of torque, it will not struggle on the hills,” explained Parry. “One of the main advantages of going electric is that it provides drivers with a silent and vibration-free ride while delivering smooth and massive power.”

Depending on the model, two or three electric motors combined with an I-Shift gearbox adapted for electromobility provide a smooth and powerful driving experience. The massive power of up to 490 kW/665 hp is handled by a unique traction control system also developed to master slippery surfaces. Different drive modes are available to set the desired performance, comfort and energy usage levels. When fitted with six battery packs, depending on the application, it has 378 kWh of power, ensuring sufficient range for most regional haul assignments.

Volvo’s electric trucks also meet the same high crash safety standards as the company’s other trucks and offer the same safety systems as the diesel models.

A Volvo electric truck will need to be serviced only once a year, so fleet downtime will be kept to a minimum. The company has also installed 120kW DC fast chargers at each of its main dealerships, primarily as a workshop tool, but also to support demo vehicles, if needed.

The batteries and the overall condition of the trucks are constantly monitored to allow any measures that need to be taken during the next service visit to be identified in good time.

The Volvo electric trucks’ range is up to 300 km, enough for most city and regional applications. However, the trucks can cover up to 500 km during a normal workday if a top-up charge is added, for example during the lunch break.

Volvo’s electric trucks can be charged with an AC charger (for example, a charging box) at up to 43 kW and with a DC system (stationary charging station) with a capacity of up to 250 kW. Using a 43 kW AC charger, it takes around nine hours to fully charge the batteries. With a 250 kW DC charger, the charging time is reduced to approximately two hours. The battery can be charged quicker up to 80% capacity, in just the same way as a smartphone, because the charger slows down towards the end of the process to protect the battery cells.

The electric trucks use lithium-ion batteries produced at the Volvo battery assembly plant in Ghent, Belgium. The extra heavy electric trucks will initially be offered with five or six battery packs. Each battery pack has total energy of 90 kWh, which means either 450 kWh or 540 kWh of total power. Each battery weighs approximately 500 kg.

The question on everybody’s mind in South Africa is a lack of a consistent supply of electricity and how operators can work around this challenge to efficiently operate electric trucks.

“In a way, we believe it is all down to planning,” said Parry. “Operators will have the necessary tools to plan their charging options according to their workload and routes, even though there is load-shedding. In addition, most of the first movers already have some sort of off-grid power solution and in a lot of cases, they can be upgraded to supplement grid charging.”

Parry explained that at this stage, the electric trucks were mostly aimed at regional distribution customers. In most of those cases, they return to a home base at some point during the day. This is usually the point where charging makes the most sense. So public charging is not as relevant for these operations. Having control of their own charging allows customers to fix their cost of energy.

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