Just six months ago, Volvo Trucks North America claimed its largest order of Class 8 electric trucks from Maersk Performance Team, the warehousing, distribution and transportation business of the ocean shipping giant. On Tuesday, Volvo said Maersk has placed an order nearly 10 times as large for Volvo VNR Electric daycabs.
The A.P. Moller-Maersk order of 110 VNR Electrics is the largest single order known among manufacturers of battery-electric trucks. It ordered 16 VNR Electric trucks last August.
Maersk last week said it would add 300 electric trucks equipped with Einide software to its North American network in the largest heavy-duty electric truck deployment to date.
Volvo last week announced an order of 50 VNR Electrics from truck-as-a-service startup WattEV, which is developing a network of fast chargers for trucks. It plans to charge a per-mile use fee to fleets.
New voucher money
The larger orders suggest the transition to zero-emission electric trucks is gaining momentum, but it also reflects the release of more than $200 million on Wednesday from California’s Hybrid and Zero-Emission Truck and Bus Voucher Incentive Project.
Most electric trucks being ordered will operate in the Golden State, which will require 5% of Class 8 trucks sold emit no pollution beginning in 2024, with requirements for manufacturers and fleet purchases rising annually through 2030. The vouchers can reduce the purchase of a Class 8 truck used in drayage by as much as $150,000.
“The vouchers, grants and incentives are all a big help,” Andy Brown, electromobility product marketing manager for Volvo Trucks North America, told FreightWaves. “With the recent launch of our next-generation VNR electric, customers are starting to see that our product is becoming a lot more robust.”
Volvo in January announced the option of six 1,200-pound battery packs instead of four, which increases the single charge range to 275 miles — more than most customers currently need. Yet, the six-pack version is more popular.
“One of the things our customers deal with is range anxiety,” Brown said. “What we’ve been finding is customers gravitate more toward having more capacity, more range, just in case.”
The longer-range VNR Electric trails only the Tre from startup Nikola Corp., which offers nine battery packs and gets more than 300 miles between charges.
Trade-offs and technology
But there are trade-offs. The six-pack version of the VNR Electric weighs in at 24,500 pounds, cutting into cargo-carry capacity by “a couple thousand pounds,” Brown said. The four-pack version tips the scales at 20,500 pounds. More battery packs could be added. An electronic axle is another possibility.
“When the technology is proven and developed, we’ll integrate it appropriately,” Brown said.
Even a 2,000-pound weight allowance available in certain states that increases total tractor-trailer weight to 82,000 pounds helps just “a little bit,” Brown said, adding that Volvo is in discussions to get a greater allowance.
“We’re really looking at every aspect that will just help to accelerate the adoption of electromobility,” he said. “A weight allowance is just one piece of the puzzle.”
Volvo recently announced an electric performance generator, a software tool that allows Volvo, the dealer and the customer to pick out the truck configuration and the load to best manage routing to make the most of the battery pack.
The VNR Electric is produced on the same line with diesel versions of the VNR and VNL at VTNA’s New River Valley assembly plant in Dublin, Virginia. The company has certified eight dealerships to advise customers on electric trucks as well as sell and service them. An additional 49 dealers are in the certification process, VTNA spokesman Fredrik Klevenfeldt said.
“We are determined to lead the electric transformation of the transport industry,” Roger Alm, president of Volvo Trucks, said in a press release Tuesday. “Volumes are still low, but we see rapidly growing interest in Europe, North America and other parts of the world.
In 2021 Volvo took orders, including letters of intent to buy, for more than 1,100 trucks in over 20 countries. Its current backlog in North America is 240 trucks, with more that have not been announced.