Volta Trucks reveals the Volta Zero – the first purpose-built full-electric large commercial vehicle for inner city freight distribution

11 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineSeptember 4, 2020

After months of teaser images and information, Volta Trucks has launched the Volta Zero, the world‘s first purpose-built full-electric 16-tonne vehicle designed for inner-city freight distribution. The first 12 pilot test vehicles are due to start evaluation with some of Europe‘s largest parcel delivery and logistics companies in quarter 1 of 2021. 

Orders have already been taken from companies wanting to secure the first customer-specification vehicles, which are due to be delivered when production starts in 2022. By the end of 2022, Volta Trucks aims to have built around 500 customer-specification vehicles, rising to 5000 vehicles a year by 2025.

Volta Trucks is a start-up full-electric goods vehicle manufacturer and services company. Volta Trucks has offices in the UK and Sweden and has partnered with a number of industry-leading design and engineering companies to develop the Zero, including Prodrive, Astheimer and Magtec.

Volta says the Zero has been designed to optimise its load-carrying capacity, thus minimising the number of vehicles in an operator‘s fleet, and the consequent congestion on city streets. Its overall design allows the Volta Zero to be operated in narrow city streets, undertaking the role that three or four 3.5-tonne vehicles would ordinarily do. 

The Volta Zero offers a payload of 8600kg, with an overall volume of 37.7m3, and is designed to accommodate 16 Euro pallets. A refrigerated cargo box will also be available, without reducing overall volume as a result of the vehicle design. Volta Trucks is integrating the use of the vehicle‘s battery for the cooling and refrigeration unit of the cargo box that’s normally diesel-powered, thus further reducing CO2 or particulate emissions from commercial vehicle operations. 

The Volta Zero is 9460mm in length, 3470mm high and 2550mm wide, with a wheelbase of 4800mm. Its gross vehicle weight is 16,000kg. It is limited to a top speed of 90kph. The Volta Zero will offer a pure-electric range of 150 to 200km, ideal for daily use as a ‘last-mile‘ delivery vehicle, validated using simulations with a fall payload, says Volta.

At launch, Volta Trucks will be the first full-electric large commercial vehicle manufacturer in Europe to use an e-Axle to drive the rear wheels. The single electric motor, transmission, and axle of the Volta Zero are contained in a lightweight and compact e-Axle unit that‘s lighter and more efficient, delivering an increased range as a result. It also provides packaging benefits by freeing up space between the chassis rails. This is where Volta Trucks fits the battery of the vehicle – the safest possible location.

The Volta Zero will use 160 to 200kWh of battery power, and Volta Trucks has selected to fit the vehicle with lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries instead of a nickel cobalt manganese (NCM) setup used in most passenger cars. The LFP battery is highly modular, enabling Volta Trucks to adapt the vehicle to an operator‘s specific requirements.

Volta Trucks says LFP battery technology is well suited to large commercial vehicle use. It delivers a long cycle life, robust cell design, and good thermal stability, enhancing safety. Should the vehicle be involved in a significant accident that punctures a battery cell, the LFP battery is very stable and does not ignite.

Volta Trucks‘ sustainability ambitions are also carried over into the battery technology and supply chain sourcing selection. Importantly, unlike the NCM battery, the LFP battery contains no precious metals, eliminating the associated sourcing issues of those materials. And at the end of life of an LFP battery, it can be recycled and reused as an energy storage device. 

“For Volta Trucks, electrification is the means to the end. The end of the internal combustion engine. The end of CO2 being emitted into our atmosphere and the end of harmful pollutants affecting the health of today‘s, and the future, generations,” said Volta Trucks founder Carl-Magnus Norden.

Since it has no internal combustion engine, the driver of a Volta Zero sits centrally and has a wide 220-degrees of direct vision around the vehicle. They also sit lower than in a conventional truck, with their eye-line at around 1.8 metres This panoramic view of the surroundings through a glasshouse-style cab is designed to deliver a Transport for London five-star Direct Vision Standard rating for optimum visibility and the reduction of blind spots. 

Rear-view cameras replace traditional mirrors, a 360-degree bird‘s-eye camera showing the driver their complete surroundings, and blind-spot warning systems that detect objects down the sides of the vehicle.

With the Zero, Volta Trucks has set out to change the experience and workspace for drivers, offering them an environment more akin to a premium car than today‘s perception of a traditional commercial vehicle. The design of the cabin is contemporary, spacious, and light, with intuitive user interfaces. The central display conveys critical information, while touchscreens on each side are used for lights, climate control, navigation and trip planning, communication, and in-cab media. A natural palette of colours, materials, and finishes give a comfortable yet elegant interior that will appeal to a wide demographic of potential drivers. They have easy access through fast-opening sliding doors on either side of the cabin.

“By removing the traditional internal combustion engine that has always sat high in the front of a truck, we had a clean sheet of paper to design the commercial vehicle suitable for the 21st century, rethinking the layout and design the truck and its cab. We had three main priorities for the design of the cab. We wanted it to be best in class for safety, ease and efficiency of ingress and egress, and the best driver environment of any truck on the market. With the Volta Zero, I can comfortably say that we have achieved that goal,” says Carsten Astheimer, managing director of Astheimer Design and lead designer of the Volta Zero.

The Volta Zero will offer the latest advanced driver assistance systems, such as active steering, road sign assist, and reversing assistant with reversing camera. While on the move, lane change assist and lane departure warning systems ensure that the truck operates as safely as possible. The vehicle‘s operator also benefits from a technical status monitoring system, based on artificial intelligence, that avoids breakdowns and maximises the uptime of the vehicle.

With the Volta Zero, Volta Trucks will introduce its innovative Truck as a Service offering that is set to revolutionise the finance and servicing of commercial vehicle fleets. Truck as a Service offers fleet managers a frictionless and hassle-free way to electrify their fleet of vehicles, and also provides a ‘helping hand‘ to smaller operators with fewer vehicles who know they need to migrate to electric commercial vehicles, but might be daunted by the challenge. Truck as a Service will help them by offering a single, affordable, monthly fee that provides access to a full-electric Volta Zero vehicle, and all of its servicing, maintenance, insurance and training requirements. It will even provide a replacement Volta Zero when needed.

“With the launch of the Volta Zero, we are changing the face of road transport. Volta Trucks is redefining the perception of the large commercial vehicle, and how it operates in and integrates with, the zero-emission towns and cities of the future. This is made possible by the three pillars that define both Volta Trucks as a business and the Volta Zero – safety, sustainability, and electrification. Add to that our unique Truck as a Service proposition that reimagines a fleet manager‘s business model. At Volta Trucks, we are directly contributing to society‘s migration towards an electrified future,” said Volta Trucks CEO Rob Fowler.