Good news on the environmental front – albeit not for our local shores – is that Volvo Trucks will start selling electric trucks in Europe in 2019 with the first units already being put into operation with selected reference customers as early as this year.
Electric trucks drastically reduce noise and exhaust emissions and open up new ways to manage logistics. More transport assignments can be carried out at night and fewer trucks need to compete for road space during rush-hour.
“Electromobility is fully in line with Volvo Trucks’ long term commitment for sustainable urban development and zero emissions,” says Claes Nilsson, president of Volvo Trucks, adding that by using electrically powered and quieter trucks for goods transport in urban areas, several challenges are met simultaneously.
“Without disturbing noise and exhaust gases, it will be possible to operate in more sensitive city centres. Transport may also take place throughout less busy periods, for example in late evening and at night. This will reduce the burden on the roads during daytime rush-hour traffic, allowing both the road network and vehicles to be utilised far more effectively than today,” he says.
A recent project, Off Peak City Distribution, conducted by Stockholm City, Sweden and KTH Royal Institute of Technology studied the effects of goods transport at night in central Stockholm. Since the trucks avoided having to operate in rush-hour traffic, transport assignments were carried out in one-third of the normal time.
According to Nilsson, to improve the quality of life in urban environments, more sustainable transport solutions need to be adopted. A distribution truck has just over ten times the load capacity of a regular van. With well-developed logistics and more effective utilisation of roads in the evenings and at night, it is possible for many smaller vehicles to be replaced by fewer but larger, vehicles. This contributes to lower emissions and less traffic.
If a larger proportion of transport assignments could be carried out during hours when fewer people are on the road, it will also significantly reduce the risk of accidents.
Jonas Odermalm, Head of Product Strategy for Medium Duty Vehicles at Volvo Trucks says, however, that the vehicles themselves are only one part of what is needed for large-scale electrification to succeed.
“Enabling long-term sustainable transport is a complex issue that requires a holistic and wide range of measures. We are working closely with customers, cities, suppliers of charging infrastructure, and other key stakeholders to create the necessary framework for electrical trucks,” he says.
“We believe in full electrification for urban distribution as a first step. However, we are working with electrification for other transport applications. This is only the beginning,” concludes Nilsson.
While this might seem on the surface to be a nice-to-have, it is essential in terms of future urban needs. According to the World Health Organization and the UN, 60% of the planet’s population – about 5 billion people – will live in cities by 2030. This is an increase of just over 1 billion compared to current levels.
This swift pace of urbanisation will impose huge demands on traffic systems which, in many cases, are already battling to meet current needs. Within the EU, it is estimated that congestion and related traffic problems cost about 100-billion Euros per year. In South African Rand that’s R1472379090900.00. I don’t know how to read that in billions. Where Zuma now that I need him?