Volvo Trucks’ Battery Chemistry of Choice: NCA

While no battery technology is off the table for the future, the Swedish truck maker currently opts for NCA lithium-ion batteries for their high energy density.

A Volvo energy storage system with three battery packs, each unit having a capacity of 90 kWh. Customers can package up to six battery packs (540 kWh) in a truck, depending on specific range and load capacity demands. (Ryan Gehm)

While Daimler Truck, Paccar and Accelera by Cummins are pursuing lithium iron phosphate (LFP) battery cells with technology partner EVE Energy, Volvo Trucks employs lithium-ion batteries in which lithium nickel cobalt aluminum oxide (NCA) is used as the cathode – for now anyway. The Swedish truck maker is continuously exploring other battery technologies.

Volvo FH and FM heavy-duty trucks use NCA lithium-ion batteries supplied by Samsung SDI. (Ryan Gehm)

“If you look back at least three years, maybe five years, LFP was not really on the map. There has come some new evolvement on LFP which would make it better in many ways, [improved] things that were problematic with it before. It might very well be a solution in the future,” Peter Granqvist, senior vice president of Volvo Group electromobility technology, said at a media event at the company’s headquarters in Gothenburg, Sweden, in late 2023. “Right now, we are not on that path, but I’m not excluding anything.” Granqvist said it’s possible multiple chemistries will prevail, based on the benefits being prioritized and the needs of the specific vehicle application.

Peter Granqvist, senior vice president of Volvo Group Electromobility Technology, said that he’s “not excluding anything” when it comes to battery chemistries. (Ryan Gehm)

Samsung SDI is the main supplier for Volvo’s batteries. NCA delivers high energy density – a priority for Volvo Trucks – as well as extremely good fast-charging capability. The company states that lithium-sulfur (Li-S) batteries also show potential due to their high specific energy. Li-S offers specific energies upward of 500 Wh/kg, about double that of lithium-ion batteries. Solid-state batteries also are on the table, according to the truck maker.

Volvo Trucks’ target is to be completely fossil-free by 2040. In the near term, the truck maker is targeting 50% of its global sales – approximately 75,000 units – to be zero-emission by 2030. Battery-electric trucks will be the OEM’s main technology path to achieve this aggressive target.

“That is the product we foresee will have the largest volume over time. It is because it’s simply the most efficient solution,” Jessica Sandström, senior vice president, product management and sustainability at Volvo Trucks, said in Gothenburg.

In 2024, Volvo Trucks will begin building its first battery manufacturing plant, located in Mariestad, Sweden, where green energy currently is more plentiful. Battery production is an energy-intense process, Sandström said. “If we are going to have a net-zero truck, it also means that all components going into the truck should be net-zero.”

Production in Mariestad is expected to begin in 2028, with a ramp-up to full-scale production during 2029. Battery cells produced at the plant (up to 300,000 tons per year) will be used across Volvo Group product categories, including trucks, buses, construction equipment and marine and industrial applications.

Battery cells produced at Volvo’s future “green” plant in Mariestad, Sweden, will be used across Volvo Group product categories. (Volvo Trucks)

Volvo Group has its own battery assembly plant in Ghent, Belgium, where cells and modules from Samsung SDI are assembled into battery packs for the Volvo FH, Volvo FM and Volvo FMX heavy-duty trucks. In 2025, the Ghent plant will begin to produce battery modules. The battery-module manufacturing line will be able to use battery cells both from partners and, eventually, from Volvo’s plant in Sweden.

Granqvist admitted that Volvo engineers are learning as they go in the quickly evolving battery-technology landscape. “We are used to development cycles that are much, much longer than what this industry is evolving. We are almost on a monthly basis reviewing what new players are out there, who can produce in these regions, can they get more range, is this safer, can it be lighter. It’s a continuous iteration,” he said. “And then it’s a balance between having something that is safe, solid and robust versus something that is stretching in terms of the performance ... We don’t know [what the future holds] but we are trying hard to understand.”