August 16, 2022
Enlarge / Volta Trucks’ Zero has been designed from the ground up as a battery electric logistics vehicle. The driver can enter or exit from either side and sits in a central driving position with eyes at the right height to spot cyclists and other vulnerable road users.

Volta | Getty Images | Aurich Lawson

If you live in Los Angeles, you might start seeing some of Volta Trucks’ distinctive-looking electric vehicles driving around, as the Swedish startup plans to deploy a pilot fleet of Class 7 trucks in the city next year. After initially focusing on Europe, Volta Trucks revealed on Thursday that, like Prince Akeem, it’s coming to America.

The Volta Zero was designed from the ground up to be an electric heavy-duty truck rather than being adapted from an existing internal combustion platform. There’s a central driving position with the driver at an appropriate height to spot vulnerable road users like cyclists with a minimum of blind spots. Range is a route-appropriate 95-125 miles (152-201 km)—the Zero is meant for urban logistics, not long hauls.

But don’t think of Volta Trucks as a research project. The batteries and motors are both sourced from leaders in the field, and rather than set up a new factory with plans for world domination, the trucks are being contract-manufactured at the former MAN plant in Steyr, Austria.

“If you want to come to the market, you want to lower the risk of components and so on,” said Carl-Magnus Norden, who launched the company in 2019. “And that’s why Proterra [which supplies the batteries]—you know, they have more experience than most when it comes to commercial battery-driven vehicles. Meritor [which supplies the eAxle] obviously is a big player, so when we source, we want the latest technology—but proven technology. And then it’s also for pace and supply,” Norden explained to Ars.

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The trucks were originally built to Europe’s 16-tonne (35,273-lb) standard, but in April, the company also announced smaller 7.5-tonne (16,534-lb) and 12-tonne (26,455-lb) variants. For the US, Norden plans to follow a similar strategy, starting with a Class 7 variant (equivalent to the 16-tonne EU model), with smaller Classes 5 and 6 variants following. The first US-destined Volta Zeros will be built in Steyr, but Volta Trucks is in talks with US contract manufacturers for local production, which should happen by 2025 if all goes to plan.

To begin with, Volta Trucks will bring 100 Zeros to the US for customers to evaluate. Currently, it has 24 design verification prototypes in testing in Europe, but it says that by next year, it will have built more than 1,500 16-tonne Zeros for European customers.

Commercial vehicles are working assets, and downtime must be minimized if it can’t be avoided. So Volta Trucks will have to build out a series of “truck as a service” hubs in the US, to be modeled after the ones it’s in the process of setting up in Europe. The company wants to cater to all its customers’ needs, from setting up charging infrastructure to servicing and maintenance, making it as easy as possible to electrify a fleet.

“The thing with this market is there is nobody who really has done it before. So you have a bit of trial and error. We opened our first hub in Paris a month ago. Now we’re getting in the machinery. So when we come to the US—trucks on the road in a little more than a year’s time in Los Angeles—we should have a lot of experience. By then, I suppose we’ll have 15 to 20 cities in Europe, and we’ll be much more experienced, so I’m trying to transfer that as quickly as possible to the US,” Norden told us.

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