The Volvo Low Impact Green Heavy Transport Solutions (LIGHTS) Innovation Showcase, held at Volvo Trucks’ TEC Equipment dealership’s Fontana, CA, location, revealed the progress that has been achieved since the announcement of the Volvo LIGHTS project in late 2018. Guests experienced the fully electric trucks firsthand for the first time, and learned more about electromobility and its role in freight movement solutions.
The Volvo LIGHTS project is a collaboration between 15 public and private partners to demonstrate the viability of all-electric freight hauling in high-density traffic and urban areas and represents the project’s innovative and holistic approach to ensuring commercial readiness in all aspects. The Volvo LIGHTS project’s transformative impact on fleet operations is designed to be scalable and replicable to reduce emissions throughout the freight eco-system.
“We’re excited to share the milestones reached and lessons learned in the development of a battery-electric transport eco-system,” says Peter Voorhoeve, President of Volvo Trucks North America. “This project is unique in the sense of its scope, and that it takes into account the entire system from charging stations to yard haulers to solar panels to workforce development to heavy-duty trucks. We are putting trucks on the road and fully testing them in real-world commercial applications, proving out this innovative approach to learn and prepare for commercial operations for zero-emission freight hauling.”
Partnerships and shared R&D aid development
Officials from California Air Resources Board (CARB) and South Coast Air Quality Management District (South Coast AQMD) were also present, along with representatives from each of the project partners. The Volvo LIGHTS project was made possible by an award to South Coast AQMD of $44.8 million from CARB as part of California Climate Investments (CCI). CCI is a statewide initiative that puts billions of Cap-and-Trade dollars to work reducing greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening the economy and improving public health and the environment – particularly in disadvantaged communities.
"This forward-thinking coalition has developed both a zero-emission truck and the whole eco-system that supports these state-of-the-art vehicles, from charging to maintenance and repair. This is what it takes to transform this critical freight-hauling sector,” says California Air Resources Board chair Mary D. Nichols. “This project will put more ultra-clean, zero-emission trucks on the roads and highways of communities like Fontana and Ontario that are heavily burdened with growing diesel truck traffic. Volvo Trucks’ vision is helping to clean the air in the communities that need it most.”
Volvo Group contributed $36.7 million for the project total of $90 million, and South Coast AQMD contributed $4 million from the Clean Fuels Fund, administers the grant and oversees the Volvo LIGHTS project.
“Our partnership with Volvo Group began with efforts to develop a prototype of a hybrid-electric diesel truck, something that was novel in the industry at the time. Now, we have reached a huge milestone that lays a path for the commercialization of fully electric truck technologies,” says Wayne Nastri, Executive Officer for the South Coast AQMD. “These battery-electric trucks showcased today will have positive air quality impacts in local communities across our region, but especially in disadvantaged communities that need it most.”
The Volvo VNR Electric project trucks will be put into real-world commercial operations with two of California’s leading freight companies, Dependable Supply Chain Services and NFI. Volvo Trucks engineers and project managers will closely monitor and evaluate the vehicles’ performance, driving cycles, load capacity, uptime, range and other parameters in these real-world applications over the next several months. The company will take those learnings into the final stages of product development and begin the first phase of serial production and commercial offering of the Volvo VNR Electric in late 2020.
Technology transfer within the Volvo Group helped Volvo Trucks North America develop and deliver all-electric, heavy-duty trucks in just one calendar year. “Volvo Trucks is leading the way in electric transport globally,” says Keith Brandis, Vice President of Partnerships and Strategic Solutions, Volvo Group. “We relied a great deal on the technological know-how of our sister company Volvo Buses, which has already built over 5,000 hybrid and electric vehicles, and on Volvo Trucks’ production of all-electric, medium-duty vehicles in Europe.”
In North America, the Volvo VNR Electric will become the ideal truck model for short- and regional-haul applications like heavy urban distribution, drayage and other applications where electric trucks will first have the greatest impact. By utilizing existing electromobility technology within the Volvo Group, Volvo Trucks North America was able to easily integrate those technologies into the existing VNR model, committing to and meeting a very tight project timeline and delivering the pilot trucks ahead of schedule.
Volvo LIGHTS project partner TEC Equipment will serve as a fully certified maintenance hub for the Volvo VNR Electric project trucks in the South Coast Air Basin. The dealership group is an established sales and service network that has partnered with local Rio Hondo College and San Bernardino Valley College to create electric vehicle repair and service technician programs to ensure fully trained and skilled technicians to support these new technologies. The company will also lease 15 battery-electric Volvo VNR Electric trucks to interested customers for real-world trials as part of the overall project scope, and offers a critical uptime support team for assistance with parts and service on these new electric vehicles.
“The Volvo LIGHTS project demonstrates that for the entire endeavor to come together, it takes more than just the truck. It’s the delivery of the complete eco-system for zero-emission, heavy-duty transport, and taking responsibility for that ecosystem,” said Voorhoeve. “You can only achieve this by having a common goal, fully integrated collaboration amongst all stakeholders, and agreeing to be pioneers together.”
Greenlots, a member of the Shell Group and leader in electric vehicle (EV) charging and energy management solutions, will handle installation of charging infrastructure for the project. The heavy-duty fleet charging stations are the first of four installations by Greenlots at warehouses across Southern California.
The fast charging stations were developed by ABB, which has been working with the Volvo Group to provide chargers for other projects, as well, such as for electric buses in Sweden.
"Heavy-duty fleets have unique charging characteristics and needs," says Harmeet Singh, Chief Technology Officer at Greenlots. "Greenlots' SKY platform is built for scale and designed to deliver a charging solution that meets Volvo Trucks' electric fleet's unique requirements and is optimized for cost and power. The open standards-based charging approach built into Greenlots' platform enables Volvo to future-proof its investments in the charging infrastructure."
"We're excited to be part of the development of a battery-electric transport eco-system along with our Volvo LIGHTS project partners," says Voorhoeve. "This project is unique in the sense of its scope, and that it takes into account the entire system, with the charging infrastructure provided by Greenlots being one of the key components to this transport solution."
Greenlots installed two fully operational 50 kW DC fast chargers at the Fontana site and has plans to install an additional 150 kW DC fast charger in the next month. All of the charging equipment for the project is connected to Greenlots' SKY EV Charging Network Software, which enables seamless management of Volvo's fleet and charging stations while balancing grid demand.
Greenlots' range of software solutions safely and cost-effectively balances the power demands of electric fleet vehicles, warehouse facilities, and the electric grid. Its software provides fleet owners the lowest total cost of ownership by managing energy usage to prevent high utility bills, while also supplying grid operators with the tools needed to safely integrate EVs and renewables onto the grid.