Diesel delivery trucks are a significant contributor to pollution around the world. Volta Trucks is taking on that problem by changing the way these vehicles are designed.
Diesel trucks have increasingly been a contributor to pollution in cities around the world as they transport goods for the last mile of delivery. A report by the World Economic Forum found the number of delivery vehicles by 2030 in the world’s top 100 cities could rise by 36%, while emissions could go up by 32%.
This has governments around the world getting tougher on the industry. In the United Kingdom, vehicles weighing up to 26 tonnes (28.6 tons) will be phased out by 2035 and for vehicles weighing over this amount it will be by 2040. In France, it will become illegal to drive a diesel engine truck through the center of Paris or any other city of more than 150,000 people by the end of 2023.
This shift has fleet operators looking for something new to drive. Stockholm-based Volta Trucks, for example, has been in the process of building a 16-tonne (17.6-ton) electric truck, the Volta Zero, for the inner-city logistic market.
“At the moment, there really isn't a significant product supply into the marketplace,” said Duncan Forrester, chief communication officer of the project at Volta Trucks. “So we are working at a fast pace.”
Designing the Truck of the Future
Not only is the Volta Zero all electric, but it has also been designed to solve other common problems that plague the industry. For example, the truck has a central driving position, with a much lower seat height than a conventional truck. A glass house–style cab gives the driver a wide 220 degrees of visibility, minimizing dangerous blind spots.
The team was able to design the central driver position in the vehicle because the internal combustion engine, situated where the driver now sits, has been removed. A sliding door was installed to mitigate the dangers of getting out of the vehicle from a height of one and half meters up to 40 times a day.
Twisted and broken ankles are commonplace among drivers. “[Getting down from the truck is] one of the biggest health and safety issues,” said Forrester. “For our vehicle, you step into it, so it's much safer for drivers. Also, the driver will open a sliding door, not a swinging open door, which could fall onto the path of a cyclist.”
To make sure the truck could satisfy all stakeholder requirements, the team had to consider a multitude of factors.
“We have to build a vehicle that delivers on price and quality and range and all of the things that our customers need it to do,” said Forrester. “We have to build an after-sales structure that gives the reassurance that we have a service and maintenance network that can support the vehicle that they will be operating.”
To deliver, Volta had to scale up the organization significantly.
“We've gone a very long way down the road of understanding what our customers actually needed when we designed the demonstrator vehicle,” he said. “When we started the design of the demonstration vehicle, we spent a significant amount of time with truck drivers and fleet operators to really understand what they like and what they didn't like. When you look at the design of the vehicle it is completely different from any other trucks on the road.”