Volvo Trucks South Africa Takes Its First Extra Heavy Electric Truck On A 600km Road Trip From Durban To Johannesburg

One of the leaders in the electric heavy truck industry is Volvo Trucks. Volvo Trucks has now sold more than 4300 electric trucks globally in more than 38 countries since 2019, when production of these units commenced. Volvo Trucks recently announced that it will start delivering heavy electric trucks to its customers in South Africa from May 2023.

In South Africa, these heavy electric trucks fall within the extra heavy commercial vehicle segment. This classification comprises trucks with gross vehicle weight ratings (GVM) exceeding 16.5 tonnes. Volvo Trucks South Africa will also be bringing extra heavy electric trucks that enable customers in the construction segment to shift to more sustainable transport. Conventional trucks with single chassis and built-on applications for a wide range of superstructures — such as tippers, mixers, and cranes — are now offered in electric versions. Heavy vehicles for applications such as construction sites or in campus-based sectors such as in mining environments usually have to drive for short distances at well-known intervals. Vehicles in this sector are perfect for electrification. Managing the fleet for things like charging and installation of charging stations at depots or onsite in campus-based environments also becomes quite straightforward.

In order to showcase the capabilities of heavy electric trucks on long road trips, Volvo Trucks South Africa recently took its first electric FM truck tractor on a road trip to see what it is like driving on local roads. Currently, they are busy with the homologation of these extra-heavy electric truck units and will start with some local testing after this has been concluded. Plans are to present the first of these vehicles to a local customer, KDG Logistics, within the next two months, once all statutory procedures have been adhered to.

Eric Parry, Volvo Trucks SA’s sustainable solutions manager, took the Volvo FM 4×2 truck-tractor through its paces on a trip from the company’s dealer in Durban to its facilities in Johannesburg — a 600 km journey, with only one stop for charging! Although the tractor was not pulling any trailer, it still quite impressive to see it do the 600 km trip and only needing one stop for charging. There are now several fast charging stations along South Africa’s major highways, including on this Durban-to-Johannesburg route, operated by companies such as GridCars.

“We aimed to prove that an extra heavy electric truck like this, can drive long distances. Even though we didn’t carry any payload, it still gave us a good indication of just what this truck is capable of,” said Parry. “Generally, battery electric trucks are used in regional distribution, operating in and around cities, running from distribution centres to stores, etc. But with proper planning, customers will be able to do so much more.”

Volvo Trucks South Africa is bringing in its complete extra-heavy electric truck range, which includes FH, FM, and FMX models in truck-tractor and rigid configurations. Axle combinations will also include 4×2 through to 8×4 models. The full load on the first FM units will be 44 tonnes GCM (Gross Combination Mass). With a drive line with 490 kW of power and 2400 Nm of torque, it will definitely not struggle to get the job done. It’s really great to see that Volvo Trucks is bringing its full range to South Africa, presenting fleet operators in the country with an opportunity to pick whichever configuration of electric trucks from the Volvo range fits best with their requirements. By using electric trucks, companies can now meet the increasing demand for vehicles with lower noise levels and zero exhaust emissions. Their own electric transport is also increasing, given the emphasis on zero-emission zones in cities for example, and the need for companies to meet climate goals as part of their broader ESG targets.

“Locally, there has been a lot of activity and interest around electromobility, a lot quicker than we anticipated, and the enthusiasm and opportunities in South Africa are there,” said Sally Rutter, Volvo Trucks South Africa’s sales director. “Irrespective of local challenges when it comes to loadshedding and infrastructure, a lot of customers are looking at setting up their own charging infrastructures to accommodate electromobility and their own sustainability goals.”

“These trucks can run meaningful kilometres in a day and if you have your charging set-up optimised, you can extend that range quite comfortably and match your operations to it,” said Parry. “Within regional operations, public charging is not really relevant for these types of fleets and having control of their own charging will allow customers to fix their costs of energy.”

Volvo Trucks electric trucks are designed to operate in a wide range of climates and environments. This includes higher altitudes and warmer conditions typically found in South Africa. “These electric trucks will be working commercial vehicles, and are designed to be treated and driven as such,” said Parry. “We are excited about Volvo Trucks’ electromobility future in South Africa.”

Here is a YouTube video from Volvo Trucks South Africa showing a summary of the electric Volvo FM truck’s trip from its dealership in Durban, KZN, up to Volvo’s dealership in Johannesburg, Gauteng:

That’s almost 600 km with the need for only one stop for charging, from start to finish.

This is another awesome development in the heavy electric truck sector on the continent. Recently, Volvo Trucks has delivered its first heavy-duty electric truck to Morocco, marking a major milestone in the development of electric vehicles in Africa. The truck was delivered to Arma, the Moroccan refuse collection company, and is the first battery-electric truck from a global manufacturer to be put into commercial operation on the continent. Volvo said this was an important step for Volvo Trucks as it looks to expand its electric vehicle offering into new markets. Volvo Trucks also says it plans to continue delivering heavy battery-electric trucks worldwide to support cities and businesses in their efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution associated with transportation.

Featured image courtesy of Volvo


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