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The truck of the future with Volta

From autonomous platooning to alternative fuels and everything in between, technology is changing the trucking sector. What does that mean for the vehicle itself?

Volta Trucks can answer that question. As a leading manufac­turer of electric commercial trucks, Volta operates at the cutting edge, where it’s out to solve three challenges for urban distribution fleets. This post describes those challenges while also introducing you further to Volta.

Challenge 1: Achieve net zero

The end of the internal combustion engine is near, and the electric transport revolution is upon us. While electric passenger cars have been making a lot of headlines, the road to zero emissions also leads to decarbonising commercial vehicles. How to decarbonise trucks for a sustainable future is one of the transport industry’s biggest challenges.

Achieving net zero in trucks requires tackling a unique set of issues, particularly where cost and infrastructure are concerned. Road freight accounts for 8% of emissions globally, and governments have been devising strategies and regulations around decarbonising commercial transport. So, there are timeline pressures too.

In the UK, all non-zero emission HGVs weighing up to 26 tonnes will be phased out by 2035; by 2040, all new HGVs in the UK will be zero emission. The European Commission adopted emissions standards for new HGVs in the EU, under Regulation (EU) 2019/1242. From 2025, new HGVs must emit 15% fewer C02s; as of 2030, the amount will increase to 30%.

Congested cities like London and Amsterdam have introduced low-emission zones (LEZ). In London, a fee applies to trucks that don’t meet LEZ criteria. As far as Amsterdam goes, HGVs in category N2 and N3 weighing more than 3,500 kg with emissions standard Euro 0 to Euro 5 diesel engines may not enter the city centre. HGV violations in Amsterdam result in €250 fines.

HGVs play a crucial role in delivering goods within urban areas. Volta aims to provide an easy path to electrification for last-mile, mid-duty heavy trucks. That’s where the Volta Zero, a 16-tonne electric truck comes in. The company plans a 2023 launch for the Zero in Paris, London, Madrid, Milan and in the Rhine-Ruhr area of Germany. We’ll go into more detail about the Zero below, but for now, here’s a glimpse of it:

Challenge 2: Resolve the driver shortage

According to a new survey from the International Road Transport Union (IRU), the truck driver shortage could jump significantly this year—by as much as 40%. The IRU survey points to a lack of diversity as an underlying cause. Drivers under the age of 25 are marginal, with the average age hovering at 50. Women make up just 3% of truck drivers in most countries. In France, where there’s a shortage of 55,000 drivers, women represent 2% of the trucking workforce.

For Volta, innovative truck design is an aspect of resolving the driver shortage. The Zero features a spacious and modern-looking cab, with seats designed for maximum comfort. From the outside, it’s clear that the Zero is breaking with the traditional boxy shape and standard windows. What do women and younger drivers say about the Volta electric truck?

Alice Girault of Webfleet took a tour of the Volta cab. “I could see myself as a woman driving this type of vehicle professionally,” she reports. “It’s comfortable and well-designed.”

Sidou, a 29-year-old TikTok star and professional driver for La Poste in France, also toured the Volta cab. His thoughts on the truck of the future? “I am already in 2095!” he says, calling the Zero a “magnificent machine.” 

“I think it’s going to revolutionise the road world,” Sidou adds even more enthusiastically. “The truck is beautiful, so it catches the eye right away.”

Volta believes that by appealing to women and younger drivers, the Zero can help fleet operators hire and retain qualified team members. Younger workers in particular want to work for companies that demonstrate action around climate change. Going electric would benefit recruitment efforts.

As an electric truck, the Zero is a “vehicle for change”. The load-carrying capacity is optimised, so one Zero truck can accomplish what it would normally take up to five small vans to do. That’s a win for the planet and the bottom line.

Challenge 3: Improve road safety 

With no combustion engine or gear box at the front of the vehicle, Volta’s designers could re-think cabin comfort as well as safety.

In urban areas, drivers step in and out of their cabs 20 to 30 times a day. Volta’s sliding door minimises the risk of accidents and driver injuries. Drivers just open the door and take a single step down to the pavement while standing upright and facing forward. They never have to back out of the cab or step into traffic and bike lanes.

There’s also the issue of visibility. A traditional cab sits high up from the road, making it hard for drivers to see cyclists, pedestrians or other road users (and vice versa). The Volta cab is 1.8 meters off the ground. Drivers sit in a low central position and can make eye contact with road users through the large front window.

With 220 degrees of direct vision around the vehicle, there are no blind spots inside the cabin. The electric truck’s eight cameras, radars and sensors give drivers a 360-degree awareness of what’s happening around the vehicle. The truck’s batteries sit in the back end of the chassis rather than the side of the vehicle. They provide a better load from the back and are safer for urban distribution.

Decarbonising fleets at scale

Decarbonising commercial transport ushers in new fleet management challenges, from training drivers on vehicle technologies to figuring out infrastructure and insurance needs. Volta strives to simplify the transition to electrification. Its Truck-as-a-Service model, or TaaS, provides fleets with everything they need to go electric efficiently and at scale: maintenance, servicing, insurance, charging infrastructure and driver training on the Volta truck.

Want to know more about zero-emissions trucking or TaaS? Carla Detrieux, Director of Business Development for Volta Trucks, spoke with us at the Webfleet Mobility Conference 2022. Sign up for the free replay of our conversation with her, which includes on-demand access to all conference videos.

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