Volta Trucks reveals purpose-built full-electric large commercial vehicle for inner city freight distribution: Volta Zero
Volta Trucks, a start-up electric vehicle manufacturer, has revealed the new Volta Zero—its first vehicle and the world’s first purpose-built full-electric 16-tonne commercial vehicle designed specifically for inner-city parcel and freight distribution.
The Volta Zero will start undertaking operator trials with some of Europe’s largest parcel delivery and logistics companies in H1-2021. 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.
At launch, Volta Trucks will be the first full-electric large commercial vehicle manufacturer in Europe to use an innovative e-Axle to drive the rear wheels, rather than the conventional electric motor and driveshaft set up used by the small number of other electric truck manufacturers.
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.
The Volta Zero will use 160 - 200 kWh of battery power, and Volta Trucks has selected to fit the vehicle with Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries instead of a Nickel Cobalt Manganese set up used in most passenger cars. The Lithium Iron Phosphate battery will be highly modular, enabling Volta Trucks to adapt the vehicle to an operator’s specific requirements.
The Lithium Iron Phosphate 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. Located between the chassis rails, the battery is as far away from an accident as possible.
Volta Trucks’ sustainability ambitions are also carried over into the battery technology and supply chain sourcing selection. Importantly, unlike the Nickel Cobalt Manganese battery, the Lithium Iron Phosphate battery contains no precious metals, eliminating the associated sourcing issues of those materials. And at the end of life of a Lithium Iron Phosphate battery, it can be recycled and reused as an energy storage device.
The Volta Zero has been designed to optimize its load-carrying capacity, thus minimizing the number of vehicles on an operator’s fleet, and the consequent congestion on city streets. The principle is that thanks to its overall design, the Volta Zero can operate in narrow city streets and undertake the role that three or four 3.5-tonne vehicles would ordinarily do.
The Volta Zero offers a payload of 8,600 kg (19,000 lbs), 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 9,460mm in length, 3,470mm high and 2,550mm wide, with a wheelbase of 4,800mm. It’s Gross Vehicle Weight is 16,000 kg and the vehicle is limited to a top speed of 90km/h (56mph).
When the Pilot fleet vehicles are driving on the streets of the world’s largest metropolitan cities during 2021, the Volta Zero will offer a pure-electric range of 150 - 200 km (95 – 125 miles).
The removal of the traditional internal combustion engine enabled the designers and engineers of the Volta Zero to rethink how a truck has always been designed. The driver of a Volta Zero has a wide 220-degrees of direct vision around the vehicle. 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.
The protection of vulnerable road users is also enhanced by the use of rear-view cameras that replace traditional mirrors, a 360-degree birds-eye camera showing the driver their complete surroundings, and blind-sport warning systems that detect objects down the sides of the vehicle.
The driver of a Volta Zero sits far lower than in a conventional truck, with their eye-line at around 1.8 meters. This mirrors the height of pedestrians and other road users nearby for easy visual communication between the driver and others around.
Safety and comfort for the driver have been optimized by minimizing cognitive overload. The design of the cabin is contemporary, spacious, and light, with intuitive user interfaces. The central display conveys critical information while touch screens on each side are used for lights, climate control, navigation and trip planning, communication, and in-cab media.
To aid ingress and egress, the removal of the internal combustion means the driver sits in a central driving position with a swivel seat. The driver has easy access through fast opening sliding doors on either side of the cabin to enter or exit either side of the vehicle into the busy or narrow streets.
The Volta Zero will offer Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) 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.
The Volta Zero will be the first road vehicle to use a sustainably sourced natural Flax material and biodegradable resin in the construction of exterior body panels, with the cab’s dark body panels and many interior trims constructed from the natural material. The high-tech Flax weave was developed by Volta’s world-leading supplier, Bcomp of Switzerland, in collaboration with the European Space Agency, and is currently used in 16 of the world’s most competitive motor racing series.
The Flax weave is reinforced with Bcomp’s patented powerRibs grid technology. The result is a fully natural, extremely lightweight, high-performance fibre matting that is almost CO2 neutral over its lifecycle. It also matches the stiffness and weight of carbon fibre but uses 75% less CO2 to produce. The Flax matting is combined with a biodegradable resin by world-class composites manufacturer, Bamd in the UK, to produce the body panels for the Volta Zero. The fully bio-based resin, derived from Rape Seed oil, creates a naturally brown coloured matting and a black natural pigment dye is added to complete its darker, technical appearance.
At the end of their useful life, the Flax composite parts can be burnt within the standard waste management system and used for thermal energy recovery, unlike alternative composite materials that are usually sent to landfill.
This world-first natural composite is not just sustainable but is also safer for vehicles operating in inner-city environments. Should an accident occur, the Flax composite bends, reshapes and ultimately snaps, offering a flexible fracture behavior without sharp edges. This reduces the risk of sharp debris that can injure people or cause further accidents through punctures.
Should an incident occur, due to the cab’s inner metal spaceframe structure, simulations have shown that this pioneering hybrid use of composite body panels has the same crash and safety performance as conventional steel material.
Manufacturing the Volta Zero.
To design and develop the Volta Zero launch vehicle, Volta Trucks worked with a number of world-leading design and engineering consultancies, with Prodrive and Astheimer in the UK working together to produce the launch vehicle.
In H1-2021, Volta Trucks will embark on the next stage of development, being the production of 12 pilot fleet vehicles. These vehicles will be built in the UK and used for testing and evaluation with a number of Europe’s leading logistics companies to provide operator input and feedback on the final production specification.
Production of the Volta Zero is due to commence in 2022 and investigations are ongoing to secure a contract manufacturing partner to assist with production. Production is anticipated to be in the UK. By the end of 2022, Volta Trucks aims to have built around 500 customer-specification vehicles, rising to 5,000 vehicles a year by 2025, and increasing thereafter.
Volta Trucks was formed in Sweden by co-founders, Carl-Magnus Norden and Kjell Walöen. It retains its head office in Stockholm, Sweden but most of its business operations are undertaken in the UK, where its Chief Executive Officer, Rob Fowler, and management team is based.
As a start-up that is supported by a number of out-sourced partners and consultants, Volta Trucks currently has a core management and operating team of 16 in Sweden and the UK. During 2021, Volta Trucks will develop a UK Head Office and aftersales facility in a West London location to service the vehicles that will operate in the pilot trials in London. By the end of 2021, it is anticipated that the Volta Trucks will have created about 130 skilled automotive and engineering jobs, with its headcount risen to around 150 people.