The race towards achieving clean mobility in the commercial vehicle segment has seen steady improvement over the years and one of them at the forefront is Swedish commercial vehicle major Volvo. Globally, with many countries – including India – aiming to go carbon neutral, the commercial vehicle manufacturer is looking into all possibilities.
In an interaction with Express Mobility, Lars Stenqvist, Executive VP, Volvo Group Trucks Technology & CTO, Volvo says, “In terms of clean mobility, we are firmly committed to the Paris agreement. We believe that we need to decarbonise road transport and infrastructure solutions. That is by 2050, according to the Paris Agreement, but since our vehicles last long, we cannot wait until 2049 to deliver trucks that run on clean fuel. On an average our vehicles operate for more than 10 years, thus the target of 2050 means our internal target is 2040.”
According to him, to achieve this, three technology developments need to be in parallel — battery electric vehicles, fuel cell technology, and the internal combustion engine (ICE). Although most companies are declaring the end of the ICE-vehicles, Volvo (trucks) isn’t doing so. Stenqvist adds, “We see that in certain applications, installing renewable fuels will be the sweet spot.”
From the global perspective, Volvo is on the road to developing some of these technologies that a few years ago were deemed to be impossible to be used in commercial vehicles. The CTO shares, “If you go back and read papers from 5-years ago, there were not many people that believed that you could operate a battery-electric heavy truck. And this year, we are going into serial production for European customers with heavy-duty trucks up to 44-tonne. We have taken the technology to a new level, meaning that we have been working on the batteries to get enough energy onboard.”
On the fuel cell topic, the top executive said that there are no fuel cells that match Volvo’s requirements anywhere globally. It was in December 2021 that Volvo entered into a JV with one of its long-time competitors, Daimler Trucks, and together, they are developing fuel cells. According to the JV, companies will install and operate high-performance public charging networks for battery electric, heavy-duty long-haul trucks and coaches across Europe.
While the two companies continue to compete against each other globally, the collaboration (for fuel cell tech) will be a 50:50 joint venture.
Volvo will begin manufacturing the fuel cell trucks for the European market as it sees high demand there and slowly cater to other markets as demand arises, including India. “There will be production facilities around the world where we see demands, but the first production facility when it comes to fuel cells will be in Europe. And that is the only decision that has been taken so far,” shares Stenqvist.
In fact, when queried about potential of fuel-cell CVs in the Indian market, he says that while there are no immediate plans for fuel-cell vehicles locally, “the solutions that are being developed in Bangalore are used across the globe and across the product platforms.”
On the other hand, he shares that the Volvo-Daimler collaboration doesn’t end with manufacturing fuel cells though, as the two are looking at setting up charging infrastructure as well in Europe. He clarifies, “We don’t have any intention to say that we will be the only ones providing (the charging infrastructure), but we are the first movers right now. It is important that we first get this going.”
The Swedish CV major claims that even though one of its tech centers is based in a particular country, the solutions worked on will be from a global perspective and not limited to the local market.