As electric semi-trucks await their mainstream debut—and as Rivian gets ready to arrive at your doorstep with your Amazon impulse buys—there is yet another electric delivery truck maker that hasn’t gotten as much attention as Tesla, Arrival, or Daimler. London-based Volta Trucks, founded in 2019, is currently on a European tour with its own entry into the last-mile delivery business, showcasing its 16-ton electric truck.
Dubbed the Volta Zero, this electric truck is bit larger than the prototypes we’ve seen from Rivian, for example, and it also has a higher payload capacity of 18,960 pounds. The truck aims to be green in more than just its powertrain: The body of the truck is made from carbon-neutral flax fiber, while the batteries are composed of lithium iron phosphates, so they do not rely on rare earth metals like other types of EV batteries. The design of the truck itself was not adapted from a diesel-engined truck type, instead is a clean-sheet design with a low, central seating area for the driver, tall plexiglass windows for better visibility, planetary doors that swing open in a parallel manner, and a low entry floor for the cargo compartment as well. Instead of mirrors, the truck relies on the 360-degree cameras positioned on the A-pillars inside the cabin, giving it a little extra room on the outside to maneuver in traffic.
Speaking of maneuvering in traffic, the Volta Zero is 31 feet long and 8.3 feet wide, while also being relatively tall with a height of 11.3 feet. The interior of the cargo area inside is 6.9 meters or 22.6 feet long.
When it comes to the powertrain, Volta plans to offer batteries ranging from 160- to 200-kWh capacities, giving the trucks a range of 90 to 125 miles, and a top speed of 56 mph. Since these are intended to be last-mile delivery vehicles in urban or suburban areas, that’s really all the range and speed that they need, given the fact that many vehicles of this type only work a limited number of hours and can recharge overnight at their base.
The company now has several offices in Europe, where upcoming bans on gas and diesel vehicles and trucks in a number of cities and countries over the next decade is driving a rush toward electric vehicles.
“For example, diesel engine commercial vehicles will be banned from operating in Paris from 2024 as all French cities of more than 150,000 residents adopt new Low Emissions Zones,” the company says. “Volta Trucks’ own independent research suggests that the total global addressable market for full-electric trucks in the 7.5 to 19 (metric) ton category will exceed $100 billion by the end of 2025. With speed to market at the heart of the strategy, Volta Trucks will offer a wide range of full-electric commercial vehicles at a time of scarce supply of comparable full electric vehicles from new start-ups and the established vehicle manufacturers.”
The EV start-up has plans beyond the Volta Zero, anticipating demand from fleet operators and small businesses alike for a variety of electric trucks, and plans to launch three different versions of the Zero with 7.5-, 12-, and 19-ton weight categories, in addition to the 16-ton debut version of the truck.
Speaking of that debut version of the truck, Volta plans to launch pilot series production of the 16-ton version for customer testing by the end of this year, while series production is expected to start in late 2022. The 12- and 19-ton versions are expected to follow in 2023, while the smallest of the group is expected to enter production in late 2024. The debut version of the Zero truck already has 1000 orders from Petit Forestier, which is Europe largest refrigerated commercial rental fleet, the company points out.
There is something else besides the truck itself that Volta plans to offer in order to differentiate itself from other EV truck developers: trucks as a service.
“For a single monthly fee, customers will have access to the vehicle, charging infrastructure, and all of its servicing, maintenance, insurance, and training requirements,” the company promises.
Volta isn’t planning to neglect North America in the long term, but is focused on a Europe-first strategy. The start-up plans to show the Zero in Milan, Italy, during the second week of June, after displaying it in France earlier this year, and is then heading to Germany from June 14 through the 25, planning to show its trucks in Frankfurt and Munich.
“I’m delighted at the customer reception that the Volta Zero has received across Europe. Its zero-emission full-electric powertrain supports customer’s decarbonization and sustainability ambitions, and our ground-up approach to design without the legacy constraints of the internal combustion engine helps us deliver a safer and more comfortable working environment for drivers,” said Carla Detrieux, business development director of Volta Trucks. “When combined with our Truck as a Service offer, fleet operators can deliver safety, sustainability, and profitability in their operations. I’m looking forward to introducing the Volta Zero to our German customers and showing them how it can seamlessly integrate into their operations.”
It could be a few years before we see the company’s trucks on the roads in North America, but with European countries’ plans to phase out gas and diesel-engined vehicles in just a few years, it’s clear where the greenest pastures are when it comes to sales.
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