Volvo Makes Longest Ever All-Electric Truck Journey In Australia


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As previously reported on CleanTechnica, Australian states and territories are reviewing trucking regulations around the width and weight of prime movers and their “dogs.” Various trials are taking place around the country, to make sure that Australia is ready for electric trucks. Volvo is now pleased to announce that it has accomplished the longest all-electric heavy-duty truck journey in Australian history. The Volvo FH Electric traveled from Queensland to the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) for this milestone.

Photo supplied by Volvo

Early this month, the Volvo FH Electric travelled 1,185 km (about 760 miles) over 48 hours from Brisbane in Queensland to Canberra in the Australian Capital Territory. It was Australia’s longest ever journey in an electric truck, another demonstration of the possibilities of zero emissions interstate freight. The FH Electric can carry up to 44 tonnes over 300 km of range and is primarily aimed at urban distribution roles. While Volvo Trucks Australia is seeking to decarbonise as much of the metropolitan supply chain as possible, the opportunity to test and learn on an interstate route was a great opportunity to push the boundaries of what’s possible with the current Volvo BEV offering.

Volvo describes the FH Electric thus: “Three electric motors combined with an I-Shift gearbox adapted for electromobility provide a smooth and powerful driving experience. The massive power of up to 490 kW/666 hp is handled by a unique traction control system also developed to master slippery surfaces. Different drive modes are available to set the desired performance, comfort and energy usage levels. Six battery packs produce up to 540 kWh, ensuring sufficient range for many regional haul assignments.”

Photo supplied by Volvo

To complete the trip, the Volvo FH Electric had to be charged 8 times at an average of 1.5 hours of charging time. Basically, the trip was broken into 2 hours driving and then 1.5 hours of charging. To make sure the trip was compliant with legislated driving hours, Volvo used two drivers to complete the journey. To ensure the trip was as “green” as possible, the Volvo team used the Evie charging network, which runs solely on renewables. The other advantage from using the Evie network was the company’s 350 kWh DC chargers. However, the team wasn’t prepared for the load sharing across the multiple charger sites. As others were also using the sites to charge their cars, that 350 kWh was often shared across the chargers, slowing charging down. Max charging seen at these sites was 220 kWh, while some sites were as slow is 170 kWh.

Photo supplied by Volvo

Compared to a diesel truck loaded to the same 32.2-ton gross weight, Volvo estimates about 1200 kg of carbon were saved. The trip took about 22 hours in total, about 8 hours longer than a conventional diesel-powered Prime Mover would take. The Volvo FH Electric is capable of a range of up to 300 km and is one of the only OEM heavy-duty electric trucks available in Australia for regional work.

“At Volvo Group we are always trying to push the boundaries to decarbonise heavy transportation faster. Today we have set a new record for the longest electric truck journey in Australia. This is also the maiden voyage for the FH Electric which has only recently been able to get onto the road thanks to changes to width and weight restrictions,” Volvo Group Australia President Martin Merrick said. “Recently announced provisional changes to front-axle weight restrictions have enabled this journey and have shown what is possible in terms of zero emission intercity transportation, but we need to see permanent changes harmonised on front axle weight restrictions across every state and territory to accelerate next generation sustainable mobility and meet our climate targets.”

The arrival of the Volvo FH Electric BEV coincided with the delivery of Australia’s first zero-emissions logistics vehicle to Canberra for the ACT Emergency Services Agency. The FL Electric was first unveiled in August at the Brisbane Australasian Fire and Authorities Conference. The ACT ESA vehicle is an FL Electric and will be used for logistics tasks by the ACT ESA. It is expected to go into service early next year, after driver training and vehicle implementation processes. The FL can carry 16 tons for up to 450 km and is suitable for constrained city environments.

The ACT has the most ambitious net zero emissions target in Australia — net zero by 2045 (the federal government’s emissions target is net zero by 2050). This electric truck purchase is seen as a critical step in decarbonising the transport sector and achieving that goal.

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services is also ordering from Volvo. A Volvo 6×4 FMX heavy-duty electric Prime Mover (FMX Electric) is on order. It is expected to carry out logistical tasks for the QFES. The honourable Mark Ryan, Queensland’s minister for fire and emergency services, said: “QFES has a fleet of 500 heavy vehicles and the time is right to add electric trucks to the mix…. As well as reducing noise pollution and improving air quality, there’s also the financial befit to Queensland tax payers too, as electric trucks bring lower running costs.”

Logistics was identified as the best place to trial the electric prime mover. QFES Acting Commissioner Mike Wassing commented: “This is a momentous occasion and a tremendous opportunity for QFES and the fire fighters who can use these state-of-the-art vehicles.” A simultaneous trial of a Euro 6 biodiesel truck is also taking place. Volvo Connect telematics will allow for real-time performance review and facilitate end user feedback. Yes, Volvo is watching you.

In other news, Geodis, a global logistics provider, is trialling the first Volvo FE for freight forwarding in Australia. This is in response to long-term customers seeking sustainable delivery solutions. The trucks will be powered by solar, complemented by energy efficient charging systems.

“We recognize the growing importance of integrating both sustainable and innovative solutions into the supply chain ecosystem, especially as more of our customers look to us to transport their cargo in an ethical and sustainable manner,” said Stuart Asplet, Sub-Regional Managing Director, Pacific at GEODIS. Solar panels and charging infrastructure are being installed by Goodman Group across GEODIS’ facilities to create a robust electrical ecosystem. Clearly, this trial is the beginning of a move towards decarbonisation.

Photo supplied by Volvo

“The Volvo FE truck is powered by ABB’s state-of-the-art charging infrastructure, which not only accelerates charging but also enables the vehicle to draw power from existing solar infrastructure. As part of the pilot program, GEODIS will be assessing factors, including the driving range, the suitability for heavy loads of up to 7,500 kilograms to be transported across 200-kilometer ranges within metropolitan areas via FE trucks before committing to a larger-scale roll-out across its fleet in Australia.

“The full integration of these trucks into GEODIS’ Australian fleet is set to completely remove fine particles and nitrogen oxide, in addition to ensuring a 95 percent reduction in direct carbon emissions, compared to existing diesel vehicles performing the same function.”

Volvo tells us that the FE Electric will be transporting parts from GEODIS’s Matraville NSW headquarters to Volvo Group Australia’s Minto NSW Parts Distribution Centre on the southwestern outskirts of Sydney. Volvo is using its electric trucks within its own supply chain — a similar approach to the use of the Tesla Semi by Tesla. The truck can be charged by a 50 kWh AC charger at the depot.

“The FE Electric is fitted with four batteries on board and offers 266kWh capacity and is capable of hauling a 7-tonne payload. The truck also makes use of a 225-kW/850Nm dual-motor driveline and is also backed by a 2-speed automated transmission. Operational range is quoted at up to 220km depending on battery configuration and application. Energy usage for this route is in the vicinity of 69kWh. Utilising 50kWh chargers, total charge time from 0% to 100% battery is just over 3 hours.

“By opportunity charging while the truck is loading and unloading, the truck can be driven well in excess of its daily work demand.”

The route was identified as ideal for electrification by Wacol-based Volvo Group Regional Logistics Buyer Jennie Alfredsson. She said: “We are heavily focused on reducing CO2 emissions from our freight task by 30% per vehicle by 2025.” One route at a time, one truck at a time. Holistic route and road planning will lead to the most efficient use of electrical assets.

Volvo Group Australia has been manufacturing trucks in Australia for 50 years, and with enabling regulatory settings, it is committed to manufacturing its range of FM and FH heavy-duty electric vehicles at its Wacol production facility in Queensland as early as 2027.

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