“This is the biggest transition we’ve ever seen.” It’s a phrase we’ve heard a lot in recent years as the world rushes toward a green energy future.
But the term is not about switching from coal to renewables, from gas water heaters to batteries, or from gasoline to electric vehicles. It was from the CEO of Scania Trucks about the changes in the trucking industry. And it’s huge.
The IAA Transportation Hub is the world’s largest trucking show. And the track is, well, big enough to cover a vast area that would require a shuttle to travel from one side of the week-long show to the other.
In 2019, the last time the show was held, it was all about horsepower and a little bit about alternative fuels. However, there were a lot of changes this year, and diesel burners were hard to find at the show anyway.
It was almost all electric. Recall that this is from the trucking industry, a sector considered the slowest and most difficult to electrify.
Legacy Truck Maker Leads Transition to Electric
The scale of what is being considered here is enormous and is led by the largest shipping companies themselves. As such, it represents a major shift from other industries turned around by the pace of migration.
In the utilities sector and EV space, legacy companies have held out until the last possible moment, or sometimes until it’s too late.
In the truck industry, take note of Tesla’s impact on the passenger car market. Tesla didn’t show up at the show, but it’s clear that Tesla’s ghost of his cicada made an impact and that spurred the legacy company into action. And it needs to because it’s being chased by a variety of new players, not just Tesla.
On the opening day of the Hannover Show, the CEO of another trucking giant, Man Trucks, agreed with Scania, describing the adoption of electricity as the trucking industry’s “greatest technological leap in history.” He said the transition was happening at “tremendous speed”.
Roger Alms, Head of Volvo Trucks, said: Alms predicts that by 2030, 70% of his company’s truck sales in Europe will be fully electric. It could be even more. Volvo Electric He is so confident in the electric future that he never brought a single fossil-fuel car to Hannover.
Australia is still dealing with the mind-boggling absurdity of the coalition’s attack on an electric car, with little understanding of what’s going on. And we certainly have no clue as to the rate at which diesel options will be replaced by battery-electric trucks.
“It’s a problem. We’re not going anywhere on this,” said the head of the Australian subsidiary of a major trucking company after the morning at the Hanover show.
“I was surprised that Volvo showed up here without a single diesel truck,” said owner-driver Stephen Brooks.
Australia has its own problems and its own upstarts. Strict local design regulations make it difficult to import or convert electric trucks.
However, Volvo Trucks’ promise to start manufacturing heavy electric trucks in Queensland from 2025 has just started production of the world’s first heavy electric trucks in Gothenburg, Sweden. Battery replacement specialist Janus and his more established SEA Electric efforts.
A lot of people are making fun of the idea of a big electric truck. However, there are many applications that can operate in a 24/7 virtual business, where almost half of all goods delivered in Europe are within 300 kilometers.
With the oldest and most polluting trucks identified as those transporting goods to and from ports and distribution centers within cities, the Australian industry is ripe for change. The question is how far the new Labor government will intervene to get the dirtiest trucks off the road.
A lot of buzz about buzz
One of the big new themes at the Hannover show was the rollout of electric vans, the essential ‘last mile’ delivery vehicles for getting goods to the door of consumers.
A number of trucking companies had some to deploy, but none fully captured the VW ID.Buzz imagination. This is a modern electrified version of the original his Kombi and comes in a variety of formats, from surfing/camping vans to passenger transport vehicles. Cargo Vans, Food Vendors and Evans are tipping options.
But what was striking at the Hannover trade fair was the focus on the benefits of electric trucks. There are cost savings, but it should be recognized that at this stage of the industry, they are only possible with significant government subsidies to recoup some of the cost difference between electric and diesel.
There are ejection elements, and there are also sounds of silence.
Mercedes installed a ‘sound box’ to explain the benefits of electrification to drivers in the cabin, as well as those living in urban and rural areas. “Find silence,” he declared. Volvo estimates that electric trucks cut outdoor noise by half and cabin noise by a third, he said.
Most of the major transportation companies expect their diesel vehicles to be banned from urban and suburban areas within a few years. It’s not just noise, it’s pollution, even on a continent with relatively strict pollution standards compared to the deadly free participation allowed in Australia.
Electric drivers don’t want to go back to diesel
Gilberto Enkerlin of Oslo-based civil engineering firm Tom Wilhemsen has 34 medium and large tippers at construction sites in Norway and expects them to all be fully electric by 2035. .
It’s good for drivers and good for the community, he says. At one large construction site, other contractors were using electric excavators, but noise complaints from residents were about a nearby kindergarten. This means his truck can operate at night, which means he can win bids in inner-city areas where the focus is now on positive environmental impact.
And drivers like it. Not that they were enthusiastic about the idea. Enkerlin’s experience points to the challenges facing Australia. In Australia, the lack of experience with electricity and the propaganda of the Coalition and Murdoch have led to a great deal of prejudice against new technology.
“It was tough at first. I’m not going to lie,” Enkerlin told The Driven.
“We had conversations with drivers who had driven diesel engines for years and were used to the vibrations, the engine and the background bloom noise.
“It seemed like the dumbest thing to do to them to sit in our electric trucks. He said he wouldn’t go back.”
No noise, no vibration, no emission
Volvo Trucks CEO Roger Alms says customer feedback is the same. “Thousands of people visit us in Gothenburg and the feedback we get is amazing: quiet, vibration-free and exhaust-free goods movement.
“So it feels great. I’ve heard drivers say that once they’ve driven an electric truck, they never want to go back to a diesel truck.”
That was another common theme in Hannover. And in Hannover this year, electric cars were the only ones anyone could drive.
The author traveled to Hannover at the invitation of Volvo Trucks
Giles Parkinson is the founder and editor of The Driven, editor and founder of the Renew Economy and One Step Off The Grid websites. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years, is a former deputy editor of the business world and Australian Financial Review, and owns a Tesla Model 3.