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Volvo Trucks North America today announced an important milestone in the path to the wide-scale electrification of medium- and heavy-duty trucks via the expansion of public charging options for fleet operators. Working in collaboration with its Volvo LIGHTS (Low Impact Green Heavy Transport Solutions) project partners—CALSTART, Trillium, and Greenlots—and other industry organizations, Volvo Trucks has helped facilitate the modification of California utility rules to give private entities the ability to sell electricity as a motor fuel at publicly accessible charging stations for medium- and heavy-duty electric vehicles (EVs).
Prior to this modification, California utilities were guided by a California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) decision established in 2010 that exempted light-duty vehicle charging station providers from being regulated as a utility but did not explicitly exempt medium- and heavy-duty charging station providers. Volvo LIGHTS partners, led by CALSTART and joined by ChargePoint and other industry organizations, filed a motion in July that sought to clarify the CPUC’s position. Upon review of the motion, the CPUC issued a decision extending that exemption to medium- and heavy-duty charging station providers and directed Southern California Edison (SCE) and Pacific Gas & Electric to modify their respective Electric Rule 18 tariffs to allow this resale of electricity as a motor fuel for EVs. The decision also applies to charging service providers for off-road EVs or off-road electric equipment. San Diego Gas & Electric’s Electric Rule 18 already provided a clear exemption and did not require modification.
“CALSTART brought together a group of industry stakeholders to modify CPUC rules so that California can meet our ambitious goals and attract the needed infrastructure investments for medium-and heavy-duty electrification,” said Bill Van Amburg, executive vice president of CALSTART. “For California to achieve its ambitious zero-emission truck and bus deployment targets, the state will need to rapidly increase charging infrastructure, and heavy-duty trucks will need both innovative depot and public charging stations. Early infrastructure development and public investments in California were primarily focused on light-duty EVs.”
For the past two years, Volvo Trucks has been collaborating with the South Coast Air Quality Management District (South Coast AQMD) and 13 other organizations on the Volvo LIGHTS project to develop a blueprint to successfully introduce battery-electric Class 8 trucks and equipment into the market at scale. The project, taking place in Southern California, is demonstrating a range of strategies to provide flexible and cost-effective charging options to commercial fleet operators. This includes providing increased access to charging stations to allow customers to extend their daily routes.
“As the industry works to grow the EV market, and Volvo Trucks travels further along the path to commercialization of our VNR Electric model, we are continually uncovering new challenges and opportunities. We appreciate the responsiveness from the CPUC on this modification request, as well as the support provided by the California Air Resources Board, utilities companies, air districts, and other key stakeholders in California,” said Keith Brandis, vice president, partnerships and strategic solutions for Volvo Group. “The partnerships we have established through the Volvo LIGHTS project have enabled our team to quickly and proactively respond to challenges as they arise and make a tangible impact on the forward success of commercial transportation electrification.”
With the modified language to SCE’s Electric Rule 18, Volvo LIGHTS partner Trillium can move forward with building one of the nation’s first publicly accessible fast-charging, heavy-duty truck stations located on the border of Placentia and Anaheim, California. The station, scheduled to open in Q4 2021, will enable fleet operators to recharge as needed while out on routes.
“Building out public access charging along well-traveled corridors will enable fleet operators to pilot battery-powered trucks without having to commit significant upfront resources to construct and install charging infrastructure,” said Kim Okafor, zero emissions solutions manager for Trillium.
Volvo LIGHTS partner TEC Equipment, one of Volvo Trucks’ largest West Coast dealerships, will play a key role in facilitating battery-electric truck demonstrations with a variety of Southern California fleet operators. Through the project, TEC Equipment will offer 15 Volvo Class 8 trucks to lease for real-world trials. In addition to providing full maintenance and repair services, TEC Equipment will provide fleets the ability to charge their leased VNR Electric trucks from their Southern California dealerships, located in Fontana and La Mirada.
All of the electric truck chargers deployed through the Volvo LIGHTS project feature Greenlots’ cloud software, which integrates with the Volvo VNR Electric’s telematics to balance the needs of the vehicle, facility, and utility grid. The software helps ensure that electric truck charging stations can be deployed and managed in a safe and efficient manner, particularly as infrastructure scales.
“Greenlots applauds the CPUC for its decision to exempt public medium- and heavy-duty EV charging stations from unnecessary regulation,” said Tom Ashley, vice president of policy and market development for Greenlots. “This is a needed step as we collectively work to expand the required infrastructure for large scale medium- and heavy-duty electrification. We’re proud of our work with Volvo LIGHTS to work towards this goal.”
“We support the CPUC’s effort to remove barriers to transportation electrification,” said Katie Sloan, SCE’s director of eMobility and Building Electrification. “As a Volvo LIGHTS project partner, SCE is the utility for the region where Volvo’s pilot VNR Electric trucks will be demonstrated by local fleet operators over the next several months. SCE is also making it easier for fleet operators who want to realize the benefits of going electric through Charge Ready Transport, our charging infrastructure program for medium- and heavy-duty EVs.”
The Volvo LIGHTS project was made possible by an award to South Coast AQMD of $44.8 million from the California Air Resources Board 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.