Volvo Group Australia plans to build electric trucks in Brisbane by 2025.
While the current offering is centred on smaller 16-26t electric vehicles (EV), the manufacturer is adding heavier 44t GCM EV trucks.
“The enquiry rate is growing week by week and is difficult to keep up with,” Vice President Emerging Technology Business Development Paul Illmer said.
“Fleets, Government, smaller customers – everyone wants to know when they can have an alternative fuel-powered truck.”
Volvo kicked off its EV project in Australia in 2019.
“That was working with Linfox to have the very first electric trucks in Australia,” Mr Illmer said.
“We’ve got two trucks running around Melbourne with them right now. Linfox has been a brilliant partner to work with.
“That was the test and learn phase, to look at our global electric truck offer and see how they work in our market. They have been fantastic and have exceeded expectations.
“We have started a nationwide rollout of EV-certified dealers, focused on offering the same superior level of service provided today for diesel trucks.”
Volvo has had a factory in Wacol, in Brisbane’s south west, since 1972.
“It was always our desire to have these electric trucks built in Australia, so that they are Australian-made,” Mr Illmer said.
“The trucks we have with Linfox are Phase 1 of the rollout, with the long-term objective to eventually add heavier electric trucks to our product line-up.”
There are several hurdles Volvo needs to overcome to reach its goal.
“We need mass exemption considerations from the Government,” Mr Illmer said.
“The batteries in our trucks weigh about half a tonne, which means EV trucks are heavier than diesel ones.
"EV trucks are currently also more expensive to buy, owing to the new technology involved in making them.
"Implementation will require TCO (total cost of ownership) support to establish a meaningful market in the short term.
“This is the biggest technology shift in the history of the transport industry. If governments are serious about net zero, they really need to support us to lift this off the ground.
"The development of the market will then create jobs and the need for charging infrastructure, which will create more jobs.”
Volvo Group is committed to halving its CO2 emissions by 2030.
“We’re committed to our agreements from COP26,” Mr Illmer said.
“If you look at the emissions from our trucks, we break it into three buckets: production of the vehicle, in use (out of the tailpipe) and disposal.
“Eighty per cent of our emissions are ‘in use’ so to meet our sustainability targets, we have to convert a significant amount of our sales to electric.
“There’s no way we can meet the ambitions without it. So, for us, speed to market is critical.”
Driving an EV truck is a novel experience, Mr Illmer said.
“It’s completely different,” he added
“It’s probably more noticeable in a truck than a car because a truck has so many gear changes; it’s 12-speed transmission in a diesel truck.
“The EVs are silent and with the two-speed transmission, the acceleration is seamless.”
Mr Illmer said the focus on EV trucks had brought much excitement to Volvo Group Australia internally, as well as the wider industry.
“Employees are learning new skills as they’re being exposed to different aspects of EV technology,” he said.
“It’s huge. For some employees, it feels like they’ve got a different job in the same company. Working in this space, you feel like you are part of a start-up within a well-established company.
Volvo Group Australia has been a member of Ai Group for 50 years.
"Volvo Group Australia is proud to be part of Ai Group. And, for me, personally, I have gained enormous value from the business environment insights, networking opportunities, government representative access and support across various areas of Ai Group’s membership support services.
"We look forward to continuing our involvement with Ai Group again in 2022." — Paul Illmer, Vice President Emerging Technology Business Development, Volvo Group Australia
Wendy Larter is the Senior Content Writer at Ai Group. She is a journalist with more than 20 years’ experience as a reporter, features writer, contributor and sub-editor for newspapers and magazines including The Courier-Mail in Brisbane and Metro, News of the World, The Times and Elle in the UK.