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Volvo’s electric hybrid as reliable as a diesel truck

VolvoSince the launch of the Volvo FE Hybrid about 50 trucks have been delivered to customers throughout Europe. Their responses are highly positive. The truck is both economical and reliable.

Christina Eriksson, business manager for alternative drivelines, has encountered nothing but enthusiasm on her visits to customers.

“It’s been amazing !” she says, “Our hybrid technology has performed exactly as we hoped, as regards both carbon dioxide emission reductions and reliability. Prior to the launch we trained two hybrid technology experts so they’d be prepared to quickly get to any customers experiencing problems with their new trucks. But the fact is they have had very little to do. They’ve spent most of their time training drivers and mechanics.”

About half the Volvo hybrid trucks sold are used in distribution operations and half in refuse duties. It is within these two areas that the technology offers the greatest fuel savings, between 15 and 20 per cent, depending on chassis and driving cycles. Some refuse truck operators with trucks featuring a rechargeable electrified waste compactor have even been able to cut their fuel consumption by 30 per cent.

One of the customers, recycling company Roteb in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, purchased two Volvo FE Hybrids in order to meet both its own and the city’s environmental policies. The new trucks were thus an investment for the future.

“Volvo’s hybrid trucks function exactly like our diesel-powered refuse trucks, but consume about 30 per cent less fuel and are far quieter than diesels. We would definitely consider buying additional hybrids if the price and the political decisions make it possible,” says Roteb sales director Rene Herlaar.

For the drivers the purchase of hybrid refuse trucks has been a highly appreciated move, resulting above all in an improved working environment.

“They’re reliable, offer really good visibility and great driveability. What’s more, they’re very quiet. We get a lot of compliments and thumbs-up from people out on our rounds, they really appreciate that such a large truck can be so quiet and clean,” says Ton van der Horst, one of Roteb’s refuse truck drivers.

Hybrid technology is a long-term investment by Volvo and the upcoming challenge is to lower costs and increase sales volumes so that production can expand and become more cost-effective.

“Today the cost of hybrid technology is forcing the price so high that it is difficult for the customer to achieve economic gain in the short-term,” says Christina Eriksson. “However, having said that, it definitely promotes goodwill. If a company buys a hybrid truck, it shows that the environment is a high priority and they can reap many advantages from that. But in the perspective of a couple of years or so, our aim is to reach a more commercially viable level on costs, so that the customer can achieve good profitability right from the start.”

Volvo Trucks’ Environmental Director Lars Mårtensson points out that the EU’s forthcoming legislation, encompassing the ability to measure and compare the fuel consumption and CO2emissions of heavy trucks too, will boost hybrids. “That will massively increase interest in really economical trucks. Today electric hybrids are definitely the best and most reliable alternative,” he says.