Achieving successful widescale deployment of commercial battery-electric trucks will require a complete paradigm shift that goes beyond delivering a quality vehicle and includes establishing a more holistic support network to help customers make the transition. Through the Volvo LIGHTS project, Volvo Trucks North America, South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD), and 12 other organizations designed and implemented a blueprint for the complete ecosystem needed to successfully deploy commercial battery-electric freight trucks.
In February 2020, Volvo Trucks North America introduced its zero-tailpipe emission Class 8 VNR Electric project trucks to a pair of Southern California fleets — NFI Industries (NFI) and Dependable Highway Express (DHE). The two fleets piloted the demonstration trucks in their daily routes and provided valuable real-world feedback to Volvo Trucks ahead of its commercial product launch. TEC Equipment Fontana, Volvo Trucks’ largest West Coast dealership, was trained and equipped to provide local maintenance and repair support for NFI and DHE’s demonstration trucks and provided access to high-power chargers as needed. TEC Equipment also helped Volvo Trucks build the framework for its EV Certified Dealership program and allowed local fleet customers to pilot Volvo’s VNR Electric trucks in real-world trials.
Shell Recharge Solutions (formerly Greenlots) supported DHE, NFI, and TEC Equipment with the installation of private networked charging stations for the trucks, as well as electric vehicle chargers for employees to utilize for their personal vehicles. The combination of average and high-powered DC fast chargers featured Greenlots SKY EV Charging Network Software, which integrated with Volvo’s truck telematics, to balance the needs of the vehicle, facility, and utility grid. Additionally, some locations installed onsite renewable energy production and storage systems to demonstrate the economic benefits of generating their own power. This was key, as both fleets also deployed battery-electric yard trucks and forklifts at their freight facilities. The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach also provided infrastructure planning support to help facilitate the early adoption of battery-electric trucks for port drayage, while Southern California Edison analyzed the impacts of charging on the grid.
The wide-scale electrification of the transportation system will require a highly skilled and specialized work force to support, maintain, and repair advanced electric drivetrains and their increasingly sophisticated technology. To assist with the region’s workforce development, Rio Hondo College and San Bernardino Valley College both launched heavy-duty electric truck technician training programs, which offered a blend of in-person and online coursework. Volvo Trucks provided the colleges with electric drivetrains and components from the Volvo VNR Electric, enabling the students to have valuable hands-on learning opportunities. In total, more than 45 students completed the programs at the two colleges in 2021 and 2022.
The Volvo LIGHTS team, Volvo Academy, and community outreach partner Reach Out worked with first responders to raise awareness about the high-voltage components on the Volvo VNR Electric and develop the first responder safety document that is now publicly available from the National Fire Protection Agency. Finally, the University of California, Riverside – Bourns College of Engineering Center for Environmental Research & Technology (UCR CE-CERT) used project data to develop algorithms to improve truck routing and reduce impacts on local communities.
Volvo Trucks is now replicating this partnership model with customers, infrastructure partners, dealerships, and communities across the country as it delivers trucks to more and more fleets. Whether you are talking about a partnership in the transportation world, or some other industry, Volvo Trucks has learned that the key to success is respecting the concerns and challenges raised by key stakeholders and working together to design mutually beneficial solutions.
Volvo LIGHTS – Lessons Learned and Key Insights
Hear from project partners about the insights gained by participating in the three-year Volvo LIGHTS project. Project partners interviewed include Volvo Trucks North America, South Coast Air Quality Management District, NFI Industries, Dependable Highway Express, Southern California Edison, and Reach Out.
Volvo LIGHTS (Low Impact Green Heavy Transport Solutions) was part of California Climate Investments, 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. The total project cost was $90 million, with a funding award of $44.8 million.
By coming together to identify problems and solutions, and tackling it together, we were able to overcome any hurdles along the way.Patricia KwonSouth Coast Air Quality Management District
Volvo LIGHTS is an extraordinary union of public and private stakeholders that have the expertise, capital, and commitment to propel battery electric freight movement beyond the ‘demonstration’ phase into a widespread reality.