DB Schenker is planning climate-friendly urban transport with Volta Zero Trucks 

DB Schenker is planning climate-friendly urban transport with Volta Zero Trucks 

DB Schenker is planning climate-friendly urban transport with Volta Zero Trucks 

 Something special, if only because of the all-round glass cabin: the Volta Zero truck. Image credit: DB Schenker/Christian Huhn
It looks sleek, the Volta Zero - more like a bus with no passenger windows than a truck. Now the vehicle is to support the logistics company DB Schenker in its environmentally friendly climate strategy. 

At the end of November 2021, DB Schenker ordered 1,470 of the world’s first all-electric 16-ton commercial vehicle, which was specially developed for inner-city goods transport. In the spring and summer of this year, DB Schenker intends to use the first prototype of the Volta Zero under real distributor conditions. The test experiences then flow into series production. 

The young startup Volta Trucks was founded in Sweden in 2017 by Carl-Magnus Norden and Kjell Waloen. The focus is on the development and construction of trucks, which are used primarily in distribution traffic over the “last mile” and make these transports climate-friendly with battery drives. By 2025, the company has announced four electric truck models for 7.5 to 12 and 16 to 19 tons. This offer would then also enable to handle heavy overland traffic. Lithium-iron-phosphate batteries with a capacity of 150 to 200 kilowatt hours are currently being used, enabling ranges of between 150 and 200 kilometers. 

With Volta to the CO2-free last mile 

The contact between the Swedish developers and the German, globally active logistics company came about in June 2021. At that time, a demonstration model made stops during a road show with potential customers in France, Spain, Great Britain and Germany – also at DB Schenker. “It was absolutely amazing to see the Volta Truck live. The vehicle was designed with the idea of ​​really focusing on what’s best for truck drivers,” enthused Christian Drenthen, DB Schenker Board Member for Land Transport. This allows the logistician to reduce its own CO2 footprint. The logistics service provider had already become a member of the Climate Group’s EV100 initiative. This requires its members to convert all owned or used vehicles with a payload of up to 7.5 t to electric drive, i.e. to battery or fuel cell operation, by 2030. A corresponding charging infrastructure for employees and customers should also be set up by 2030. 

DB Schenker had been testing trucks with electric drives in Berlin since 2018. In 2020, the logistics company ordered eleven Volvo FL electric trucks with electric drive for its Oslo City Hub, which had been founded a year earlier. The 16-ton trucks are fed with electricity from renewable hydroelectric power and thus allow completely emission-neutral operation. In the same year, the company increased its fleet of 7.49-ton Fuso eCanter trucks with a range of at least 100 kilometers to 41 vehicles. However, the blanket order for up to 1,470 vehicles that has now been placed is by far the largest electric truck order in the history of both the buyer and the designer. 

Win-win for Steyr Automotive 

Even if a specific delivery schedule with quantities and data has not yet been communicated, it was clear to the development startup Volta: Building an own new factory for production is too time-consuming and expensive and involves risks. That’s why Volta Trucks launched a Europe-wide tender for potential suppliers. The winner was Steyr Automotive. This is the former company MAN Steyr (MAN Truck & Bus GesmbH), which continued the traditional truck production at the Steyr site and only came to MAN in 1990. The Austrian entrepreneur and former CEO of Magna International Siegfried Wolf became the owner of the plant through his WSA Beteiligungs GmbH. 

The Volta Zero is to be built on this Steyr Automotive site. Image credit: Steyr Automotive 

It was decided that trucks would be built in Steyr for or on behalf of MAN until 2023. The group would then relocate its production from Steyr to Kraków in Poland. The award of the contract by Volta to Steyr Automotive is a win-win case. The Upper Austrians have a follow-up order for the period after MAN production. Volta Trucks benefits from the enormous experience in Steyr in commercial vehicle construction and the existing production infrastructure. This should enable the e-trucks to be launched quickly on the market. Series production is scheduled to start as early as the end of 2022. It is hoped that up to 500 jobs will be created in the region and an estimated 2000 additional jobs in the supply chain. 

“The special thing about the Volta Truck is the design,” emphasise the developers. That’s correct. The front cab glass reaches on the sides almost to the vehicle floor, just like on a road bus. This gives drivers a wide 220-degree field of vision and no fear of blind spots – without any additional side mirrors. You sit in a middle driving position with a much lower seat height than conventional commercial vehicles. This should also contribute to safety. This constructive extravagance is made possible because – as emphasized by those responsible at Volta Trucks – the vehicles were designed for electric drive from the outset. The engine and transmission sit on the rear axle. Volta also points to the low operating costs of their vehicles compared to conventional diesel trucks: A Volta Zero has 90 percent fewer mechanical parts than a comparable vehicle with a combustion engine. 

DB Schenker explained without details that the new electric trucks should initially be used at ten locations in five countries. Volta CEO Essa Al-Saleh is looking forward to the future: “Working with DB Schenker on Europe’s largest all-electric truck order shows the confidence of major freight distributors in our ability to deliver a world-class zero-emission vehicle on time and of the highest quality.” 

Hermann Schmidtendorf, Editor-in-Chief


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