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Volvo LIGHTS project wraps in Southern California

Aug. 25, 2022
The three-year project saw Volvo and partners deploy its VNR electric trucks, gathering data to make a blueprint for the commercialization of battery-electric freight trucks.

Volvo Trucks North America has finished the Volvo LIGHTS project—a three-year project that brought together 14 public and private partners to design and implement a blueprint for the robust support ecosystem necessary to deploy battery-electric trucks and equipment at scale.

During the project, which ran from 2019 to 2022 in California’s South Coast Air Basin, Volvo Trucks deployed its first Class 8 pilot Volvo VNR Electric trucks to fleet operators to collect real-world operating data and customer feedback ahead of announcing its commercial model in December 2020, according to a Volvo press release.

“By working closely with an extraordinary group of public and private partners through the Volvo LIGHTS project, we were able to validate key processes around Class 8 battery-electric truck adoption for commercial transport segments and identify challenges that needed to be addressed for widespread market introduction,” said Peter Voorhoeve, president, Volvo Trucks North America. “The most valuable takeaway for our team was really experiencing the value of close cross-functional and cross-organizational collaboration as we continue to drive innovation and develop new solutions for sustainable transport.”

See also: McLane integrates Volvo EVs into Southern California operations

The Volvo LIGHTS project was led by Volvo Group North America and California’s South Coast Air Quality Management District (South Coast AQMD), and included NFI Industries (NFI), Dependable Highway Express (DHE), TEC Equipment, Shell Recharge Solutions (formerly Greenlots), Port of Long Beach, Port of Los Angeles, Southern California Edison (SCE), CALSTART, University of California, Riverside CE-CERT, Reach Out, Rio Hondo College, and San Bernardino Valley College.

During the multi-year project, Volvo Group North America collaborated with each organization to develop programs and best practices that would help lay the foundation for the successful commercialization of battery-electric freight trucks, including but not limited to:

  • Identifying ideal routes for electrification: Volvo Trucks deployed 30 Volvo VNR Electric trucks to 11 fleets to operate in their daily Southern California fleet routes to assess many factors that may impact vehicle range, including topography, ambient temperature, traffic patterns, driving styles, and more. The insights gained were informative as Volvo Trucks introduced the Electric Performance Generator (EPG), its route planning tool which enables fleet managers to simulate real-world routes for their VNR Electric trucks.

  • Comprehensive dealer support: TEC Equipment, Volvo Trucks’ largest West Coast dealership, provided uptime support to the fleet customers that leased VNR Electrics through the Volvo LIGHTS project. The hands-on experience gained during the project led to TEC Equipment Fontana becoming the nation’s first Volvo Trucks Certified Electric Vehicle Dealer and spurring the rollout of certified dealerships across North America.

  • Reliable and cost-effective charging infrastructure: Multiple project partners collaborated with Shell Recharge Solutions and SCE on the installation and energization of 58 networked public and private electric vehicle charging stations, identifying opportunities to streamline processes, shorten installation timelines, and refine existing laws related to allowing entities other than utilities to re-sell electricity for EV charging. SCE also conducted a site grid system impact study to help plans for supporting a future of fully electrified goods movement.

  • Technician training programs: Rio Hondo College and San Bernardino Valley College both collaborated with Volvo Trucks to launch heavy-duty electric truck technician training programs, with a combined total of more than 45 graduates throughout the project.

  • First responder training programs: Throughout the project, Reach Out, a local outreach organization worked with Volvo Trucks to keep community stakeholders informed about the project. This partnership helped facilitate the development of training materials for first responders to raise awareness about the high-voltage components on the Volvo VNR Electric and develop the first responder safety document that is now publicly available from the National Fire Protection Agency.

“This project shows how important it is for public and private entities to work together to bring zero-emission technologies and infrastructure to the nation,” said Ben J. Benoit, Chair of South Coast AQMD’s Governing Board. “Now that the project is coming to an end, we look forward to seeing these cleaner trucks on the road, and the impact they will have on air quality.”

See also: Volvo Trucks to build charging corridor in California for electric vehicles

The Volvo LIGHTS project was made possible by a $44.8 million award to South Coast AQMD from the CARB as part of California Climate Investments (CCI), a statewide initiative that puts billions of Cap-and-Trade dollars toward reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, aiming to strengthen the economy and improve both public health and the environment. South Coast AQMD also contributed $4 million from its Clean Fuels Fund. Volvo Group and its partners contributed $43 million in matching funds for a total project of $91 million.

"Zero emission trucks work—as this project shows—and we need strong rules, in many states and federally, promoting them. This project shows that this technology can serve business and deliver protections that will benefit the health of our communities that need it the most," said Craig Segall, California Air Resources Board (CARB) deputy executive officer for mobile sources and incentives.

A Volvo LIGHTS Lessons Learned Guidebook was produced to documents key insights gained as the project partners designed and implemented innovative programs and technologies critical for the widescale success of battery-electric freight movement.  To download the 22-page guidebook, Bringing Battery-Electric Freight Trucks to Market: From Demonstration to Commercialization, visit here.

To learn more about the Volvo LIGHTS project and to access photos, videos, and other resources, visit here.

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