Volvo Trucks North America (VLVLY) recently delivered the first of five electric trucks to Manhattan Beer Distributors in New York City in an effort to make diesel-powered beer delivery more environmentally friendly.
“It’s a battery-electric truck, zero tailpipe emissions, contributing to clean air in New York City,” Peter Voorhoeve, President of Volvo Trucks North America, told Yahoo Finance (video above). “So [the trucks are] helping the climate change challenges that we have and with significant noise reduction… more silent when they distribute the beer in the five Boroughs in New York City.”
The five Volvo VNR Electric trucks, which are joining Manhattan Beer Distributors’ fleet of 400 trucks, are among some of the first fully electric Class 8 trucks to be deployed in the Northeast as some states follow California’s push for more electric vehicles.
“It’s a breath of fresh air,” Voorhoeve said. “That is an immediate impact in densely populated areas like New York City but also like Los Angeles, et cetera, and the areas around the ports there. They need this.”
And while Volvo’s VNR trucks’ 150-mile range could limit long-haul trucking operations, that range suits local and regional delivery. Three new charging stations were also installed at Manhattan Beer Distributors’ Bronx facility to charge the trucks overnight.
“They can do their job and then come back and get charged here again,” Voorhoeve said. (With a battery capacity of 264 kWh, the trucks can charge to 80% in 70 minutes, according to Volvo).
Another advantage Voorhoeve noted is that electric trucks can also improve the environmental conditions for local residents. By removing internal combustion engines from the equation, these trucks address two types of pollution that affect human health: air and noise pollution.
“You can drive the truck whenever you want,” he said, “and nobody kind of wakes up.”
Electric trucks for ‘bold mover’ businesses
Logistics companies and others have adopted sustainability practices and created emission targets that involve electrification, though the transition is slow.
Until “range anxiety” abates when more charging stations arise and the high costs of batteries decrease, government programs are a key driver to entice early adopters of electromobility.
“Everybody is convinced that we need to do something because we have a climate challenge,” Voorhoeve said. “So there is an enormous pull from many customers that ask us, OK, how are we going to do this?”
Voorhoeve credited The New York City Department of Transportation and its Clean Trucks Program as “instrumental” in bringing these trucks to the road. The Clean Trucks Program rebates up to $185,000 (depending on the truck class and fuel type) to replace trucks in certain industrial regions of the city.
And although Voorhoeve said that the incentive program “is a very important element in order to get electric trucks and electromobility going,” he thinks the cost imbalance between electric trucks and their gas-guzzling counterparts is unlikely to be permanent. Ultimately, “two mechanisms” will make electric trucks cost-competitive, Voorhoeve said.
“You will have battery technology development that will bring down the cost,” he said. “And you have volume that creates scale effects. At a certain amount, we will come to a total cost of ownership between electric vehicles and traditional vehicles that will be competitive.”
When it comes to long-haul trucking, Voorhoeve predicted that heavy duty electric vehicles eventually will evolve to meet the need.
“That will then be done with fuel cell technology, for instance,” he said. “So right now, we’re starting with battery-electric and charging at the site.”
Grace is an assistant editor for Yahoo Finance and a UX writer for Yahoo products.