Volvo unveiled a brand-new e-axle driveline for its heavy trucks that will not only increase the range of future trucks, but also open up new segments.
The fully electric rear axle combines motors, transmissions and their electrical systems into a single unit, freeing up more space on the chassis for battery packs. It will be rolled out in future global products from Volvo including a fuel cell variant, set to be launched in the latter half of this decade. By combining the transmission and motors into one compact assembly, the e-axle will create more space for the fuel cell’s electrolysers and energy storage batteries.
“We will use it globally,” Jessica Sandström, SVP global product management at Volvo Trucks, told CM.
“It will be a complement to the offer we already have today. We believe that with the trucks that we have available, they can do 300km, and that will be sufficient for a lot of applications. If that is enough range you will stick to that type of solution in future as well, because it’s a trade-off between the load and cost. But for transport that requires even longer driving distances, then the electrical e-axle will be the solution. It will be used on the electric and on the fuel cell, and will be in the cab-overs as well as in our conventional range for North America,” she added.
Its introduction is not just about improving range for long-distance haulage; the smaller packaging of the electric components will also allow Volvo to expand its electric vehicle offering to construction vehicles, where space on the chassis is notoriously hard to find. The more compact e-axle will enable new solutions for off-road vehicles and allow them to be electrified.
“The thing is that we tend to pack more batteries on the truck itself, thus getting longer driving distances. But we believe that also in the future it’s not one model that fits all; you need to be able to have the flexibility. Looking at how trucks are configured today for construction, with all the bodies, that needs to work.
That truck has to work for tomorrow as well, so that is why we need this flexibility. Finding different solutions to be able to have zero-emission options for everyone, because that is really the target.
We can’t afford to just look at the EC to obey the regulations; we need to find solutions for all trucks. That really is a challenge, but also a fantastic opportunity for when we manage to decarbonise the transport industry,” Sandström said.
Volvo has already taken more than 2,700 orders for its electric truck range, which covers all of its existing products. However, its target of 50% sales for its electric products across the world will not be an easy task to achieve by 2030 unless it can produce solutions for all sectors of the industry, not just urban or long-haul transport.
“Our target in 2030 is that 50% of everything we sell globally should be electric.
That means that to be able to do that, for Europe, we have an even higher target. Here we are aiming at 70%. When we look at how trucks are operated, when we look at all the activities that are ongoing now to build the infrastructure and we have the oil companies aiming in the same direction, politicians also supporting this direction – and the products are good enough to be able to do it – then we think that it’s possible.”
The e-axle will enable more sectors to become electrified and it will also play a role in widening the model mix to enable Volvo to meet its sales objectives, but Sandström concedes that current engine technology will also have to evolve to meet future needs.
“We believe that battery electrics will be the main volume, then we will have the fuel cell electric support,” she said. “In some parts of the world, we will use the ICE again, but maybe run on renewable fuel. That could actually be hydrogen as well. We are doing some tests with hydrogen directly into the combustion and we will see how that works.”