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Volvo Group looking to build on longest-ever electric truck journey

Volvo says it hopes that its latest achievement in the zero-emissions arena inspires Australia to continue towards the decarbonisation path

It’s been two weeks since Volvo Group completed the longest ever electric truck journey in Australia.

Driving between Brisbane and Canberra for a total of 1,185km, the FH Electric truck was delivered to the ACT Emergency Service Agency (ESA), making it the first zero-emissions logistics vehicle for emergency services in Australia.

Volvo Group’s emerging technology vice president Paul Illmer says that with trials taking place in Australia and in Europe for the truck, Volvo didn’t have many doubts that the truck wouldn’t make the journey.

“They’ve been driving similar distances and carrying similar payloads in Europe and the US, so we were confident that the truck would perform,” Illmer told ATN.

“We did have some pre-concerns about the charging infrastructure for the trip, as there is still a way to go in terms of charging facilities in Australia, but we had no issues with this and the whole trip was very successful.”

The infrastructure used during the trip was the Evie charging network. By mapping out the route, Illmer says that it allowed the Volvo team to charge during rest stops to make the trip easier.

Some charging points did present issues, with drivers forced to remove the trailer before driving in due to the smaller size of passenger car charging bays.

“In the future, drive-through truck charging bays will be required to negate this, as well as truck driver facilities such as restrooms and showers,” Illmer says.

The FH Electric model was launched in May this year but hasn’t been allowed to leave the showroom until now due to legislative changes in width and weight restrictions. Along with the FL Electric, it is a part of the electric truck range of Volvo Group in Australia.

 The FH and FL Electric are two of many trucks in Volvo’s electric truck range in Australia

While the truck is able to drive between Brisbane and Canberra, it’s still unable to drive in all states and territories without a permit.

With the FL Electric set to become a part of the ACT Emergency Service Agency, Illmer says that due to the truck being ready quicker than expected, plus the recent legislation changes, now was the perfect time to deliver it.

“The ACT ESA truck is expected to go into operational service in early 2024 and was ready to be delivered quicker than we anticipated, so we thought now that we had the jurisdiction to get the FH on the roads, why not take it interstate and deliver the FL Electric,” Illmer says.

Unlike its counterpart, the FL Electric can drive up to 450km on a full battery and provides a smoother driving experience. Customers also get constant truck monitoring and route planning through the Volvo Connect portal and app.

Co-designing the vehicle with the ACT ESA resulted in the incorporation of zero-emission technology into the critical design requirements, which Illmer says makes it the perfect model for urban transportation tasks.

To go with those benefits, Illmer says that due to the model being significantly quieter and more modern that current diesel trucks, it’ll lessen the likelihood of driver fatigue.

“The FL Electric is a solid and nimble truck designed for urban environments, making it the perfect vehicle for the ACT Fire and Rescue Teams,” Illmer says.

“This model is designed not only to improve the environmental footprint of the ACT ESA, but also to prioritise safety over existing vehicles.”

Having begun in August 2022, the partnership between Volvo and the ACT ESA continues to grow. The ACT ESA has also ordered the delivery of six additional electric vehicles from Volvo as it aims to meet the ACT’s target of net-zero emissions by 2045.

Illmer says he hopes that Volvo’s partnership with the ACT ESA encourages other states to decarbonise the entire emergency services sector in Australia quicker while also creating local jobs through electric truck manufacturing.

“This journey has shown that zero emissions interstate freight is possible, but we need state and federal governments to approve changes to allow more low-emission heavy vehicles, including the FH Electric, on all roads in Australia to meet our climate targets,” Illmer says.

With a full range of electric trucks available in Australia, Illmer says Volvo isn’t planning to fully expand its electric truck range in Australia in the short term.

However, Volvo recently unveiled a full makeover of its FL and FE Electric trucks. With more safety features and a range of up to 450km, the trucks will be available on the Australian market in coming months.

Along with this, Illmer says that the FH Electric, despite its range of 300kms, isn’t primarily targeting the interstate freight sector.

“We are concentrating on key regional freight routes such as Geelong to Melbourne or Sydney to Wollongong, where the truck can be charged while being loaded or unloaded and make this journey several times in one day,” Illmer says.

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