Volta’s Electric Truck Is U.S. Bound
The startup plans to apply lessons learned in Europe to the U.S. market, bringing a “small fleet” of electric trucks for potential customers by the end of the year.
Volta Trucks has been operating its all-electric Volta Zero delivery trucks in Europe for three years. Now, the map is expanding. Fleet operators soon will be able to get behind the wheel of a Class 6 or 7 Zero in the U.S., adding to a growing list of electric options for moving freight.
Volta displayed a Zero at the ACT Expo in Anaheim, California, in May as a sort of ambassador. Volta will tour this truck around the U.S. for a few months before bringing over a “small fleet” for potential customers to test out and perhaps integrate into their operations before the end of the year, according to Volta Trucks CEO Essa Al-Saleh. It’s all part of a dramatic shift towards electrification throughout the industry, he said.
“I think this is a pivotal moment in the transition,” Al-Saleh said. “Where there had been a lot of questions with very few answers, now there are a lot more answers to those questions, but not all of them.”
Both the Class 6 and 7 versions of the Volta Zero use a 225-kWh battery for a maximum range of 125 miles (200 km). For delivery drivers who will not need more than 95 miles (153 km) of range between charges, a 150-kWh battery also is available. The truck can DC fast charge at 150 kW or use a 19.2-kW Level 2 charger. The Zero has a maximum payload capacity of 12,975 pounds (5,885 kg).
Al-Saleh said Volta believes the Zero is a solution for last-mile, mid-duty urban operations, but not just because of the powertrain. Redesigning a delivery van that has for decades been built around a large diesel engine meant Volta could eliminate the ICE and its associated emissions. But that’s not all.
“There’s an opportunity to rethink the design to impact safety and driver comfort, to which then you hopefully attract more drivers and reduce driver attrition due to injury,” he said. “If you come at [the design] from the ground up, you have a blank sheet of paper to rethink that and build your supply chain, your manufacturing process will be able to produce a unique truck that solves fundamental issues in this industry. And that’s where we are. We’re at that moment.”
The attitude that the commercial-truck industry is at a crucial turning point was evident throughout the ACT Expo. Al-Saleh joined others at the show in pointing out that the next big step for the industry is onboarding new customers and fleets. He said the truck wins people over quickly. The driver’s door opens like on a bus to make it safer in the city. Drivers notice the low step up into the truck and quickly adapt to sitting in the center of the cabin, but they also mention the benefits of a cabin that’s much quieter than a similar diesel truck.
“Our drivers said they feel they have a lot more energy at the end of the routes,” Al-Saleh said. “That’s intangible but significant.”
Al-Saleh understands that getting more EVs into fleets will take more than driver approval. Potential customers need someone to answer their questions and simplify the issues surrounding not just the initial transition but also ways to maintain an electric truck and how to best reduce the cost of ownership.
“It’s companies like us at the center of this ecosystem – with partners, whether they’re charging, financing, service capabilities, telematics or data services – to make it compelling for our customers to manage a new electric fleet,” he said.
Plan for mass production
With strong demand expected, Volta needs a plan for mass production. Volta has been building a limited number of trucks at a contract manufacturing plant in Steyr, Austria, and received certification in March 2023 to produce the truck in volume. Al-Saleh said it would be able to build 14,000 trucks a year in Europe at full production. This will be the initial source for the trucks sold in the U.S.
Later, Volta will export semi-knocked-down (SKD) kits from Europe to the U.S. for assembly and, ultimately, Volta plans to produce vehicles in the U.S. starting in 2026. By 2027, Al-Saleh said, Volta could build another 14,000 vehicles annually in the U.S.
“We’re building this business to scale,” he said. “Why is [14,000 trucks a year] important? Because to get to the cost targets that we need to get to, to make it even more competitive without subsidies, we need to build scale. You can’t build a business by taking half measures.”
Volta Trucks’ short history proves that the company moves quickly. It was founded in 2019 and spent the pandemic’s disruption in a pure development phase, which meant the team could plan for its start of production with plenty of lead time to get partners and suppliers ready.
“There’s a bit of good timing, luck and all that,” Al-Saleh said. “But luck is the intersection of two things, right? A lot of hard work with the right opportunity. The opportunity came, so we were lucky in that sense. But we believe logistics, sourcing and procurement are core competencies for a company like ours. Many people tend to focus on the technology, but there’s a fundamental supply-chain execution piece, and I think this is something we’ve strategically invested in as a company.”
That’s Volta’s big plan. If it works out, the company will be well-positioned for what Al-Saleh expects to be a large electrified commercial-vehicle market in the U.S.
“We want to apply the lessons we learned in Europe but recognize that the U.S. is slightly different,” he said. “Although Europe is probably getting faster to electrification than the U.S., the U.S. is much bigger and will accelerate much faster in many ways.”