Volta Trucks reveals full-electric Zero 16-tonner for inner-city freight operations

by Autocar Pro News Desk , 03 Sep 2020


Volta Trucks, the 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. From launch, the Volta Zero will be a significant contributor to the future vision of zero-emission cities all over the world.

The Volta Zero is 9,460mm in length, 3,470mm high and 2,550mm wide, with a wheelbase of 4,800mm. Its Gross Vehicle Weight is 16,000kg and the vehicle is limited to a top speed of 90kph (56mph).

The Volta Zero will offer a pure-electric range of 150 – 200km (95 – 125 miles). This is more than sufficient for the daily use of a ‘last-mile’ delivery vehicle and has been validated using simulations with a full payload.

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.

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.

The Volta Zero has been designed to optimise its load-carrying capacity, thus minimising 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.

Innovative electric powertrain
Due to its innovative electric powertrain, the Volta Zero has 90% less mechanical parts than an equivalent internal combustion engine vehicle. As a result, Volta Trucks is targetting the same Total Cost of Ownership as equivalent diesel-powered vehicles, providing a further incentive towards the migration to electric vehicles.

The removal of the traditional internal combustion engine enabled the designers and engineers of the Volta Zero to completely rethink how a truck has always been designed. The driver of a Volta Zero has 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 metres. This mirrors the height of pedestrians and other road users nearby for easy visual communication between the driver and others around.

Focus on safety and driver comfort
“Commercial vehicles form the lifeblood of commerce and livelihoods in cities, but today’s large trucks dangerously impose themselves on our streets and dominate their surroundings. With the launch of the Volta Zero, we are changing the face of road transport. Volta Trucks is redefining the perception of the large commercial vehicle, and how it operates in and integrates with, the zero-emission towns and cities of the future. This is made possible by the three pillars that define both Volta Trucks as a business and the Volta Zero – safety, sustainability, and electrification. Add to that our unique Truck as a Service proposition that reimagines a fleet manager’s business model. At Volta Trucks, we are directly contributing to society’s migration towards an electrified future,” said Rob Fowler, Chief Executive Officer of Volta Trucks.

“Safety is at the heart of the Volta brand for one simple reason. In London, as an example, 23% of pedestrian fatalities and 58% of cyclist deaths involve an HGV, yet large trucks only account for 4% of road miles. This is clearly unacceptable and must change. The Volta Zero completely re-imagines the commercial vehicle, ensuring it can operate safely with all road users and become a friend of the zero-emission city,” said Carl-Magnus Norden, founder of Volta Trucks.

Safety and comfort for the driver have been optimised by minimising 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. A natural pallet of colours, materials, and finishes give a comfortable yet elegant interior that will appeal to a wide demographic of potential drivers. With the Volta Zero, Volta Trucks is changing the experience and workspace for drivers, offering them an environment more akin to a premium car than today’s perception of a traditional commercial vehicle.

To aid ingress and egress, the removal of the internal combustion engine means the driver sits in a central driving position with a swivel seat. They have 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.

“By removing the traditional internal combustion engine that has always sat high in the front of a truck, we had a clean sheet of paper to design the commercial vehicle suitable for the 21st century, rethinking the layout and design the truck and its cab. We had three main priorities for the design of the cab. We wanted it to be best in class for safety, ease and efficiency of ingress and egress, and the best driver environment of any truck on the market. With the Volta Zero, I can comfortably say that we have achieved that goal, said Carsten Astheimer, Managing Director of Astheimer Design and lead-designer of the Volta Zero.

Advanced Driver Assistance Systems
The Volta Zero will offer the latest Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS). ADAS electronic systems help driving, safety, manoeuvring, and parking, and make a significant contribution to the safe operation of larger vehicles. 

The driver of a Volta Zero will benefit from technologies such as Active Steering, Road Sign Assist, and Reversing Assistant with reversing camera, ensuring they have the latest safety support systems when operating in the confines of the city centre. 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.

Innovation in electric motors, safe and sustainable battery tech
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. This is where Volta Trucks fits the battery of the vehicle – the safest possible location.

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. Should the vehicle be involved in a significant accident that punctures a battery cell, the Lithium Iron Phosphate battery is very stable and does not ignite. By contrast, should a Nickel Cobalt Manganese battery cell be punctured, they can burn at extremely high temperatures. With commercial vehicles operating within public and depot environments, the use of Lithium Iron Phosphate negates these significant safety and insurance challenges.

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.

“Our engineers have worked with the world’s leading partners and suppliers to deliver the best possible product to fleet managers who are focussed on the electrification of their operations. The Volta Zero’s range of up to 125 miles will be sufficient for all inner-city logistics requirements. With Volta Truck’s ambition to be the world leader in safety and sustainability, we’ve created a brand-new design concept capturing the opportunities coming from being the world’s first purpose-built full-electric commercial vehicle,” said Kjell Walöen, Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of Volta Trucks.

Tags: Volta Trucks