The first electric trucks from Volvo Trucks South Africa have officially hit the road with KDG Logistics, which is responsible for much of the car carrier transport locally, getting the keys to an FM 4x2 Tractor.
Volvo is offering its most popular extra heavy trucks in its electric line-up – the Volvo FH, the Volvo FM, and the Volvo FMX. They will be available in truck tractor or rigid configurations, from 4x2 to 8x4, giving it the industry’s most extensive portfolio of zero exhaust emission trucks.
“Volvo Trucks has been committed to social, environmental, and economic responsibility since the start of our company,” says Waldemar Christensen, managing director of Volvo Trucks South Africa.
“Now, protecting the environment is the biggest challenge we face. The Volvo Group is a leading force in the shift towards the electrification of the transportation, mobility, and equipment sectors, making a real impact on our customers’ efforts to reduce their carbon footprint.”
In total, the Swedish truck manufacturer has sold almost 5 000 electric trucks since 2019 in about 40 countries.
Christensen said the company was pleasantly surprised by the amount of local interest in its electric trucks, and that the first movers in South Africa are companies that value their environmental impact and already have programs to reduce emissions.
“The size of the company is largely irrelevant. Transporters can see that electric drivelines are going to play a bigger role in our near future, and many want to get early exposure on how the technology works in real operations, so they are positioned well for the shift,” he says.
“There is also no single silver bullet transport solution that can address all the fleet owner's requirements. Therefore, Volvo Trucks offers gas-fuelled trucks, electric trucks and fuel cell trucks under its three-pronged approach. We believe electrification will happen segment by segment and region by region.”
“Our move to electric trucks was driven by our objective to be more efficient in every aspect of our business,” says Abdool Kamdar, KDG Logistics’ manager of Decarbonization and Net Zero.
“We believe what sets us apart from our competitors is the fact that we focus on operational and environmental efficiencies in our business, which includes steps to lessen our impact on the environment and enhance safety for all road users.”
The KDG Group has a long standing relationship with Volvo Trucks and has 175 diesel units in its fleet already.
Eric Parry, Volvo Trucks SA’s sustainable solutions manager, said the trucks have been designed, developed and built to handle any major commercial operation that South African companies need to deal with.
“Our trucks are designed to handle high temperature ranges and a variety of operational conditions. With a driveline that has 490 kW or power and 2 400 Nm of torque, it will not struggle on the hills,” says Parry.
“One of the main advantages of going electric is it provides drivers with a silent and vibration-free ride while delivering smooth and massive power.”
Depending on the model, two or three electric motors combined with an I-Shift gearbox adapted for electromobility provide the drive.
The power is handled by a traction control system also developed to master slippery surfaces. Different drive modes are available to set the desired performance, comfort and energy usage levels.
When fitted with six battery packs, depending on the application, it has 378 kWh of energy, ensuring sufficient range for most regional haul assignments.
Volvo’s electric trucks also meet the same high crash safety standards as the company’s other trucks and offer the same safety systems as the diesel models.
A Volvo electric truck will need to be serviced only once a year, so fleet downtime will be kept to a minimum. The company has also installed 120 kW DC fast chargers at each of its main dealerships, primarily as a workshop tool, but also to support demo vehicles if needed.
The Volvo electric truck’ range is up to 300 km, enough for most city and regional applications. However, the trucks can cover up to 500 km during a normal workday if a top-up charge is added, for example during the lunch break.
Volvo’s electric trucks can be charged with an AC charger (for example a charging box) at up to 43 kW and with a DC system (stationary charging station) with a capacity of up to 250 kW.
Using a 43 kW AC charger, it takes around nine hours to fully charge the batteries. With a 250 kW DC charger, the charging time is reduced to approximately two hours. The battery can be charged more quickly up to 80% capacity, in just the same way as a smartphone, because the charger slows down towards the end of the process to protect the battery cells.
The question on everybody’s minds in South Africa is a lack of a consistent supply of electricity and how operators can work around this challenge to efficiently operate electric trucks.
“In a way, we believe it is all down to planning,” said Parry. “Operators will have the necessary tools to plan their charging options according to their workload and routes, even though there is load shedding.
“In addition, most of the first movers already have some sort of off-grid power solution and in a lot of cases, they can be upgraded to supplement grid charging.”
Parry explained at this stage, the electric trucks are mostly aimed at regional distribution customers. In most of those cases, they return to a home base at some point in the day. This is usually the point where charging makes the most sense. So public charging is not as relevant for these operations. Having control of their own charging allows customers to fix their costs of energy.”
Read the full article