Volta Trucks is a start-up full-electric goods vehicle manufacturer and services company. The company has offices in the UK and Sweden and has partnered with a number of industry-leading design and engineering companies to develop the Zero, including Prodrive, Astheimer and Magtec.
TotallyEV conducted an interview with Rob Fowler, CEO of Volta Trucks to gather his thoughts on the company’s vision to become the most sustainable commercial vehicle manufacturer in the world – Volta Trucks’ statement can be found, here.
“By 2025, Volta aims to remove 180,000 tonnes of CO2 from city centres” – is this in relation to the number of electric trucks that will replace hybrid or non-EVs, or in reference to the choice of materials used on the Volta Zero?
The estimate of 180,000 tonnes relates to the number of full-electric Volta Zero trucks we aim to have on the roads by 2025, that will have replaced diesel-engine trucks, and an estimate of the emissions that those diesel engine trucks would have emitted if they’d still been on the roads. This doesn’t relate to the materials used in the construction of the vehicle.
“The Volta Zero will also improve a city’s noise pollution and enable 24-hour usage for its operator” – is this in relation to the operating hours a single truck can maintain?
Yes, but it actually relates to the silent operation of electric trucks. Many city centres are now focussed on noise pollution as well as emissions pollution, and are banning noisy trucks from the streets in hours of darkness. As a full-electric truck is silent in operation, it can operate 24 hours a day even in areas with noise pollution restrictions.
How long will a Volta Zero take to recharge and what charging ports will it have?
We haven’t confirmed this information yet. We plan to publish a deep dive of electrification information prior to the launch of the truck.
Will the exterior body panels be safe to both the passengers of the Volta Zero and vulnerable road users (i.e. pedestrians)?
Absolutely, yes. The properties of the sustainable flax composite are perfectly suited to urban mobility. The occupants of the Volta Zero are protected in the cab by a spaceframe, so they are secure. And should an accident happen, unlike carbon fibre that shatters and splinters, the sustainable flax composite bends and reshapes, thus protecting pedestrians around the vehicle.
How will the trucks be shipped to customers around the world?
This is still to be confirmed.
How does the supply of the sustainably farmed crop get from Switzerland to Sweden, and where are the Volta Zero trucks being manufactured?
The final location of the production facility is still to be confirmed. The launch truck currently being built is being manufactured by Prodrive in Banbury, England. In terms of the supply chain, the Flax is collected from Switzerland and a number of other EU countries and transported to our supplier, Bcomp in Switzerland.
Here, it is turned into the highly technical weave matting. It is then transported to Bamd in the UK where the matting and biodegradable natural resin is added into a mould to make the exterior body panels themselves. These panels are then transported the short distance to Prodrive for mounting onto the truck.
How will the Volta Zero be painted; will this be from sustainable paint, and furthermore are the manufacturing plants producing a lot of wastage?
When you view images of the Volta Zero, all of the darker exterior body panels are made from the sustainable composite material, and this is the final colour. The final painting process for the white panels is currently being decided but it will be done in the most sustainable way using water-based paints etc. Clearly the final colour of those currently-white panels will depend on the customer’s own livery.
What is the purpose of making a truck from natural and biodegradable materials?
The main purpose of Volta Trucks is to reimagine the large commercial delivery vehicle for the 21st century, with a clear focus on safety, sustainability and electrification. When you remove the internal combustion engine from the front of an existing design large truck, it frees up all sorts of design opportunities to improve the safety of the vehicle and the driving environment. And while the removal of the diesel engine removes the obvious tailpipe emissions, there are so many other emissions created during the production processes of a vehicle.
We wanted to take a holistic approach to sustainability and strain every sinew of our sourcing strategy to ensure we minimised the environmental impact of the whole vehicle. The creation of body panels, either in metal or carbon fibre composite, is usually very CO2 intensive. The opportunity to use sustainable near-CO2 neutral flax composite in the construction of the exterior body panels for the first time in a road vehicle was too good to overlook.
How much added cost do these manufacturing techniques (of using natural materials) bring to the company?
We don’t comment on the cost impact. However, we do see that customers who have already signed up to trial a Volta Zero in 2021 have a particular interest in electrification and sustainability. As a brand with sustainability at its heart, it would have been difficult to extensively use materials in construction that were not sustainable or had a heavy environmental impact.
Are natural materials more prone to catching fire? Will their fibres be more prone to heat?
No, to the contrary, the flax composite material has very good fire retardant property. It is also non-conductive, lessening the impact of a short circuit on the vehicle.
Has Volta Trucks considered using recyclable material in other parts of its vehicles’ construction?
Yes, we have a sustainability-first approach to sourcing and will take every opportunity to use sustainable materials where they are suitable and provide benefit.
Will the production of the Volta Trucks be sustainable/environmentally friendly?
As above, we are still in the process of defining our production strategy. More on this will follow in due course.