Volvo invites SWT to test electric truck – The Southwest Times

Southwest Times writer William Paine stands beside Volvo’s Model VNR electric truck after taking a test drive at the company’s test track. Electric trucks, soon to be seen in the New River Valley, are recognizable by their distinctive green color, which is found exclusively on VNR Electric models.

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Volvo Truck factory in Dublin now produces electric trucks in addition to its traditional Class 8 diesel powered tractors.

Franky Marchand, Volvo vice president and factory manager at Volvo’s Dublin truck manufacturing plant, invited the Southwest Times to take a test drive of his brand new heavy hauler. The road test was to take place on the 1.1 mile test track which was built adjacent to the manufacturing facility in 2015. This closed track is used to allow customers to try out these large platforms without the need for a commercial driver’s license (CDL).

Business at the plant must be good because before I met Marchand, it was made clear to me that Volvo was looking to hire a lot more people.

Franky Marchand met me in the security room of Volvo’s futuristic customer center to talk about the company’s innovative new product.

“We are now building electric trucks,” Marchand said. “We build them on the same line as the others. It is a bet on the future.

In making the statement, Marchand revealed that the Dublin plant currently produces the full-size electric trucks on the same assembly line as the diesel trucks, which came as a surprise.

“It’s tempting to build these electric trucks in their own little shed,” Marchand said. “It’s almost easier to make them on a low volume line and grow from there. But if you do that and your customers love your product… guess what? You will have to evolve from the hangar to the real world.

“We regularly see new orders for these trucks,” continued Marchand. “So from the start we went the extra mile to make sure we built them on the main line. “

The trend towards producing electric vehicles is widespread, but Volvo Trucks may be the only truck maker to manufacture a full-size electric truck that is currently in daily service.

Most businesses are switching to electricity, ”said Marchand. “It’s fair to say that everyone wants to be in the race. I am proud of Volvo’s position in this race. It is not a prototype. It is a production tool. The world of transport, to fight against climate change, to respond to the Paris agreements, must go to zero emissions. “

Electric trucks currently produced at Volvo are powered by batteries, but another type of electric power source for vehicles, involving the use of hydrogen fuel, is also being developed by car manufacturers.

“We believe there is room for the pure battery and for hydrogen fuel cells,” Marchand explained. “The first step is the electric battery. With hydrogen, we’re all going to have to learn about this new technology. Halfway through this decade we’ll see hydrogen trucks from Volvo.

There are currently 30 Volvo electric trucks in service in the United States and plans are underway to deploy several more of these zero-emission trucks in the New River Valley. These electric trucks will soon be delivering parts from local suppliers to the factory.

“Local deliveries made by trucks that are built here,” Marchand said. “We’re going to be our own product customers here in the New River Valley.”

Factory deliveries by electric trucks are expected to begin before the end of this year. These deliveries will necessarily be confined to relatively short distances, as these vehicles only have a range of 150 miles before requiring recharging. According to Volvo, the batteries in these vehicles can be charged to 80% in 70 minutes.

“For now, we will choose our most suitable leads and applications,” said Marchand. “As future releases improve, we’ll grow from there. An electric truck is just as powerful as a diesel, so we’re not afraid of being in the mountains. Of course, they will evolve. This is just the start of the journey. “

With that, Marchand invited me to start my own journey by testing the new Volvo VNR Electric model truck. Usually, potential buyers visit the visitor center first, before being taken to the test track to try out Volvo Trucks’ latest incarnation of the Class 8 tractor. Driving one of these behemoths had to being a first for me, just like driving along the test track, which I had seen many times from Cougar Trail Road.

Volvo’s new battery-powered truck looks a lot like the familiar diesel trucks produced at the Dublin plant, with two differences. The first is a distinctive green color that is only used on Volvo’s VNR electric trucks.

The second notable difference is the absence of fuel tanks, which are normally visible under the rear part of the cabin. In their place are large black boxes containing the 264 kWh lithium-ion batteries that power the trucks.

The VNR electric truck was parked next to one of the two charging stations installed along the track.

To start the electric truck, you turn the key halfway, then look at an indicator in the dashboard to make sure all systems are working. Seeing that the battery is fully charged, press the brake and turn the key a little further to the right.

A technician named John Moore pulled me through it all. To drive a truck of this size, you must be accompanied by a person with a CDL, even on a closed track.

Once started, a compressor under the driver’s seat will hum but other than that there is no noise from the engine. This is because there is no engine. Instead, advanced electric batteries turn the wheels of the VNR.

Likewise, the gearing of an electric vehicle is completely different from that of an internal combustion engine, in that there are only two settings and the transition from low to high is barely noticeable.

Once we released the speedbrakes the VNR was ready to roll and we did… but very quietly.

Having never driven a Class 8 tractor and trailer, I have nothing to compare. That said, this huge transport vehicle was fairly easy to maneuver around corners of the test track. The acceleration was also impressive and for a moment I forgot that there was a large trailer attached to the back of the electric tractor I was navigating through the corners.

“Slow down here William,” John said as we approached the first curve of the course. I squeezed the brakes lightly and the truck reacted much the same as a large automobile would.

Although they are capable of going much faster, VNR Electric trucks all have a governor limiting their speed to 65 miles per hour. I passed 45 mph.

When you let go of the throttle, the truck’s gear engages, so that the vehicle’s momentum is used to charge the batteries, much like an alternator works in an internal combustion vehicle.

Although I could have happily continued driving, after the third loop around the Volvo test track my companion asked me to pull over in the same parking lot from which we started.

I pulled over next to the charging stations, re-engaged the air brake, and got out of my first big machine driving experience.

Will electric trucks like this predominate on our country’s highways for years to come? Time will tell us. In the meantime, check out the Southwest Times website to see the full video of this week’s electric truck test drive. Or, go to YouTube under Electric Truck Driving and watch the video.



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