First Volvo electric truck expected this year as part of a multi-partner effort in California

Southern California Edison working on charging infrastructure and NFI is negotiating a contract for Volvo VNR regional haul truck for drayage as part of electric ecosystem

Volvo Trucks North America is burnishing its image in climate change-conscious California. 

The Swedish truck maker is developing battery-electric versions of its VNR regional haul trucks for use in drayage from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to inland warehouses. 

The objective of the Volvo LIGHTS project is to improve freight and warehouse efficiencies and reduce emissions. Air quality is especially bad in neighborhoods where trucks often sit idling while waiting to enter and leave the ports.

“We hope that key stakeholders, along with the general public, recognize Volvo’s purpose-driven efforts to affect climate change,” said Volvo spokesman John Mies.

Like other truck makers running electric vehicle tests, Volvo knows the California Air Resources Board (CARB) will recommend limits on future diesel emissions. State Senate Bill 44 introduced in April included diesel emissions cuts of 40 percent in 2030 and 80 percent in 2050.

Separately, Volvo Trucks worked with CARB before announcing a $776 million charge in January to pay for a degrading emission-control component in its heavy-duty trucks.

LIGHTS partners  

Diesel power will be the primary fuel in Volvo Trucks for many years. But it plans to sell electric trucks in California as soon as next year. LIGHTS, which stands for Low Impact Green Heavy Transport Solutions, is an end-to-end demonstration of an electric ecosystem.

“From solar energy harvesting at our customer locations, to electric vehicle uptime services, to potential second uses for batteries, this project will provide invaluable experience and data for the whole value chain,” said Peter Voorhoeve, president of Volvo Trucks North America.

The 16 program participants are matching a $44.8 million CARB grant.

The CARB grant funds come from California Climate Investments, which uses cap-and-trade money from companies exceeding pollution limits to purchase unused corporate carbon credits. The South Coast Air Quality Management District administers the money.

First truck delivery

NFI, a third-party logistics hauler, expects the first Class 8 truck could join its fleet this year. Seven more heavy-duty trucks and 15 pre-commercial and commercial units would follow.

“We’re working out the contract terms,” said Bill Bliem, NFI senior vice president of fleet services. ”We have calls every two weeks to keep things moving.”

The trucks will use the engineering of the Volvo FE Electric being tested in Europe.  

“The Volvo VNR is ideal for applications like heavy urban distribution, drayage and other regional applications,” said Johan Agebrand, Volvo Trucks North America director of product marketing.

Utility-led infrastructure

Southern California Edison will assess charging equipment and suggest when and how the trucks should charge to use renewable energy and minimize electric grid impact.  

“Supporting a project that hasn’t been done to this level of technical integration will help us inform our grid-planning process and our transportation electrification infrastructure projects,” a utility spokesman said.

Volvo LIGHTS could apply for infrastructure funding through Southern California Edison’s five-year $356 million Charge Ready Transport program. The utility’s goal is to support 8,490 medium- and heavy-duty vehicles at 870 commercial charging sites.

California Climate Cup

In a separate activity, Volvo Construction Equipment sponsored the California Climate Cup for companies focused on carbon reduction.

About 100 businesses competed for a $25,000 prize awarded in June.

“Sponsoring the California Climate Cup will help create a cleaner, improved future for the transportation of people and freight,” said Dawn Fenton, director of public affairs for Volvo Group North America.

The FREIGHTWAVES TOP 500 For-Hire Carriers list includes NFI (No. 33).

Alan Adler

Alan Adler is a Detroit-based award-winning journalist who worked for The Associated Press, the Detroit Free Press and most recently as Detroit Bureau Chief for He also spent two decades in domestic and international media relations and executive communications with General Motors.