Volvo rolls out latest VNR Electric and an autonomous diesel VNL

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A battery-powered ECR25 Electric Excavator from Volvo Construction Equipment at ACT Expo
Volvo Trucks debuted their autonomous diesel VNL 760 on the left and their next generation VNR electric on the right this week at ACT Expo in Long Beach, Calif. A battery-powered ECR25 Electric Excavator from Volvo Construction Equipment is shown in the center.

Hard to say if it was a first, but Volvo Trucks certainly attracted plenty of attention this week at the Advanced Clean Transportation Expo in Long Beach, California, after showcasing a diesel truck alongside an all-electric.

Even though renewable and biodiesel typically get kudos at the popular alt fuel show, which Volvo Trucks CEO Peter Voorhoeve praised as the biggest and best of its kind in the world, the nation’s most popular workhorse is rarely gussied up and parked on the showroom floor. They’re mostly out of sight hauling vendors’ equipment behind the Long Beach Convention Center.

But every now and then, one slips in to the ball. In this case, Volvo debuted an autonomous diesel truck, a long-haul VNL 760 integrated with the Aurora Driver from Volvo Autonomous Solutions. Sitting close by was Volvo’s next generation VNR Electric 6x2 and an ECR25 Electric Excavator from Volvo Construction Equipment.

NFI Industries' Volvo VNR electricNFI Industries in Southern California ordered 60 of Volvo's latest VNR electric trucks. Another Southern California fleet, Quality Custom Distribution, signed up for 30.Tom QuimbyOf course, the VNR Electric got most of the glory because it does, after all, offer zero tailpipe emissions. It just can’t drive itself -- yet. The latest VNR Electric offers up to 275 miles of range, an 83% jump over the 150 miles offered by the first-gen model.

That substantial boost in range “makes it more applicable for different applications,” Voorhoeve told CCJ.

Already in production, the enhanced VNR Electric comes with 250kW charging capability which offers an 80% charge in 90 minutes for the six-battery package and 60 minutes for the four-battery version.

[Related: Test driving the Volvo VNR electric]

Voorhoeve said the autonomous VNL 760 is designed for future long-haul hub-to-hub operations where diesel currently offers more range than all-electric.

“DHL is going to be our first customer and will pilot this solution with us,” Voorhoeve said.

Following the pilot, Volvo Autonomous Solutions will “roll-out to the market in a commercial way in the second part of this decade. We cannot put an exact year on that,” Voorhoeve added. 

In the meantime, demand for Volvo VNR Electrics continues to grow, Voorhoeve said, for three reasons: an extra 125 miles of range in their latest VNR Electric, increased incentives which “are seen in more states,” and greater fleet interest in going green.

“There is a much bigger awareness now of the need to do this,” Voorhoeve said. “People see that there is something wrong with the climate. People see that we have too many fires, floods, etc. More companies have adopted a more aggressive sustainability strategy. All those three together make for massive interest in our electric vehicles.”

The autonomous VNL 760 wasn't the only diesel featured at ACT Expo this week. Autonomous truck technology startup Plus brought their Kenworth T680 equipped with their PlusDrive kit, which the California-based company says takes less than 12 hours to install. Read more about that here

Volvo VNL 760The autonomous Volvo VNL 760 will enter a pilot phase with shipping giant DHL.Tom Quimby