INCOMING CARGO – A NEW DIRECTION IN TRUCK DESIGN

In Incoming Cargo7 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineSeptember 28, 2020

Heard of Volta Trucks? No? Well, this start-up manufacturer is on a mission to become the world‘s most sustainable commercial vehicle manufacturer.


Photo: DPD will test the Zero within London‘s Ultra Low Emission Zone.

Volta Trucks, a Swedish start-up full-electric goods vehicle manufacturer and services company, has launched the Volta Zero – what the company says is the first purpose-built, fullelectric 16-tonne commercial vehicle designed for inner city deliveries. With it, Volta Trucks has adopted a holistic and comprehensive approach to sustainability, going far beyond just tailpipe emissions. In developing the Zero, Volta Trucks has partnered with a number of industry-leading design and engineering companies, including Prodrive, Astheimer and Magtec. The first prototype Volta Zero is currently being built, and will be launched later in 2020, with the first pilot test vehicles due to start evaluation with customers early in 2021. Among the companies trialling the Zero is DPD, the UK‘s leading parcel delivery service, which will test it within London‘s Ultra Low Emission Zone in quarter one of 2021. “The Zero is an ideal fit for our Urban Logistics strategy; and the fact that it will be the most sustainable commercial vehicle is a fantastic achievement too,” says Olly Craughan, CSR general manager of DPD Group UK.

The Volta Zero was designed for electric propulsion from the outset, which facilitates a stepchange in vehicle and pedestrian safety, Volta says. That‘s because, thanks to the removal of the internal combustion engine, the operator of a Volta Zero sits in a central driving position with a much lower seat height than a conventional truck. This combination, plus a glasshouse-style cab design, gives the driver a wide 220° field of visibility, minimising dangerous blind spots. As well as being the most sustainable, Volta Trucks has the ambition of being the safest large commercial vehicle manufacturer. Volta Trucks aims to mitigate the environmental impact of logistics and freight deliveries that forms the commercial lifeblood of large metropolitan cities. Thanks to its full-electric drivetrain and 160-200KWh of battery power, the Volta Zero will operate for 150 to 200km. The company says that by 2025 operators of Volta Trucks will eliminate around 180,000 tonnes of CO2 per year – the equivalent annual CO2 usage of 24,000 houses.

“Sustainability is at the very core of our business. Volta Trucks wants to spearhead the rapid change in large commercial vehicles, from outdated diesel to clean and safe technological solutions,” says Carl-Magnus Norden, founder of Volta Trucks. In its quest for ultimate sustainability, Volta Trucks has designed the Volta Zero to be the first road vehicle to use a sustainably sourced natural flax material (a sustainably farmed crop where the entire plant is used) and biodegradable resins in the construction of its exterior body panels. The cab‘s dark body panels and many interior trim pieces will also be constructed from the natural material. The high-tech flax weave was developed in collaboration with the European Space Agency and is used in 16 of the world‘s most competitive motor racing series. Volta‘s supplier, Bcomp of Switzerland, uses the harvested flax fibre to create its ampliTex technical fabric – a natural and fully sustainable technical fabric. The flax fibre‘s quality, yarn thickness and twist are all highly engineered, and the weave is reinforced by Bcomp‘s patented powerRibs grid technology, inspired by the principles of leaf veins. The result is a fully natural, extremely lightweight, high-performance fibre reinforcement that is almost CO2-neutral over its lifecycle. The panels made with powerRibs can match the stiffness and weight of carbon fibre but there is 75% less CO2 in the production process.


Photo: The Volta Zero presents an entire new way of thinking when it comes to medium-duty truck design.

The flax matting is then combined with a biodegradable resin by composites manufacturer BAMD in the UK to produce the body panels for the Volta Zero. The fully bio-based resin, derived from rapeseed oil, creates a naturally brown-coloured matting. A black natural pigment dye is added to complete its darker, technical appearance. BAMD‘s revolutionary manufacturing processes aims for total recyclability of all tooling materials, including solventfree, water-based sealers and release agents. The natural flax composite offers a number of benefits when compared with carbon fibre or other similar lightweight manmade materials. Unlike the conductive nature of carbon fibre, the flax composite is non-conductive, lessening any issues of a short circuit in the event of a vehicle accident. It also offers up to three times better vibration damping. Should an accident occur, the flax composite bends, reshapes and ultimately snaps (unlike carbon fibre, which shatters), offering a flexible fracture behaviour without sharp edges. This makes the powerRibs and ampliTex composite body panels particularly suited for urban mobility, reducing the risk of sharp debris that can injure people or cause further accidents through punctures. At the end of their useful life, flax composite parts can be burnt within the standard waste management system and used for thermal energy recovery, unlike alternative composite materials that are usually sent to landfills. “We will continue to strain every sinew to ensure we deliver on our mission of becoming the world‘s most sustainable commercial vehicle manufacturer,” says Volta Trucks CEO Rob Fowler.