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Volvo completes California electric truck pilot with key findings to help the heavy-duty EV rollout

After a successful three-year project, Volvo Trucks is wrapping up its LIGHTS program. The pilot program ran from 2019 to 2022, studying class 8 Volvo VNR electric trucks traveling in California’s South Coast Air Basin, one of the United States’ largest cargo gateways.

Volvo’s “Low Impact Green Heavy Transport Solutions” or LIGHTS is a project that was started to determine what is needed to support the rollout of battery electric freight trucks.

The transportation sector contributes the most toxic emissions of any area of the economy, with 27% in 2020, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. But, without truckers hauling freight, the economy would come to a halt.

Therefore, companies like Volvo and BYD are creating battery electric freight trucks to help solve the solution. However, it takes a significant amount of resources to accomplish this.

For this reason, Volvo and California’s South Coast Air Quality Management District partnered with 14 public and private partners to start the LIGHTs project in 2019.

Volvo’s VNR trucks (which the Electrek team tested – check out the experience here) were deployed and analyzed to see how the partners can effectively roll out a national electric freight truck fleet.

During the pilot program, Volvo connected with each partner to develop a blueprint of best practices to help commercialize battery electric freight trucks. Here’s what they came up with.

Two Volvo VNR electric trucks outside of AT&T stadium Source: Volvo Trucks

Volvo’s findings to support a national battery electric freight truck rollout

Volvo completed its three-year LIGHTs pilot today, noting a few critical issues that need to be addressed for a widespread heavy-duty EV rollout.

Speaking of the potential of battery electric trucks, Craig Segall, executive officer for California Air Resources Board (CABR), said:

Zero emission trucks work – as this project shows – and we need strong rules, in many states and federally, promoting them. This project shows that this technology can serve business and deliver protections that will benefit the health of our communities that need it the most.

Here are a few of the best practices Volvo and its partners found during the program:

  1. Route efficiency – Several factors can impact the range of a large, battery-operated trucks, such as hills, traffic, weather, and driving patterns. Volvo is introducing an Electric Performance Generator (EPG) based on information pulled from the study to find the most efficient routes.
  2. Charging station availability – To make long-range hauling possible, reliable and cost-effective charging must be available. Several partners worked with Shell Recharge Solutions to install 58 EV chargers.
  3. Training and support – Volvo worked with dealerships to support customers buying Volvo VNR electric trucks. The Trucking company also launched a technician training program, so workers can learn how to fix and work on heavy-duty electric trucks.

In addition, Volvo Trucks worked with a local organization, Reach Out, to create training materials for first responders. The training covers high voltage EV components and how to handle them safely.

Volvo trucking also released a guidebook with lessons it learned from its electric truck pilot, which can be found here.

Electrek’s Take

Volvo Trucks is helping solve some of the most significant issues facing heavy-duty EVs through its electric truck program.

The information Volvo and its partners pulled from the program can help with a national rollout, which is badly needed. Several companies (including Tesla, BYD, and Nikola) are working to build a fully electric truck capable of hauling goods long distances.

We should continue seeing progress with battery electric freight trucks as EV batteries advance and charging networks develop.

One of the biggest takeaways from the study is that combining resources works. I would like to see more companies coming together to help cut emissions out of the transportation sector.

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Avatar for Peter Johnson Peter Johnson

Peter Johnson is covering the auto industry’s step-by-step transformation to electric vehicles. He is an experienced investor, financial writer, and EV enthusiast. His enthusiasm for electric vehicles, primarily Tesla, is a significant reason he pursued a career in investments. If he isn’t telling you about his latest 10K findings, you can find him enjoying the outdoors or exercising