Volvo Wants Half Its EU Truck Sales to Be Electric by 2030

Its electric portfolio could cover around 45% of Europe’s road freight needs.

Volvo Trucks


When Swedish truck maker Volvo announced it would be incorporating "fossil-free" steel into its vehicles, it was an encouraging sign of industrial decarbonization. Not only would it mean tackling the significant embodied emissions that are currently inherent in heavy-duty vehicles, but it would also potentially help kickstart the broader decarbonization of heavy industries like steel making. (According to estimates by SSAB, Volvo’s partner in this initiative, full decarbonization of their steelmaking would singlehandedly result in a 10% reduction of Sweden’s emissions, and 6% of Finland’s too.)

Yet whether or not big trucks are made of fossil-free steel, they are still big trucks. For now, at least, big trucks tend to run on dirty fossil fuels.

That, however, is also changing. And once again, Volvo appears to be pushing things forward: This week it launched two new electric trucks with longer ranges and higher load capacities. These new models add to a fleet that now includes six medium- and heavy-duty trucks, and allow the manufacturer to meet demand not just for local goods delivery, but with ranges of up to 186 miles, regional delivery too. The full line up now includes: 

According to company president Roger Alm, it’s now possible for Volvo’s electric trucks to meet some 45% of Europe’s road freight needs. Consequently, the company also announced it is now aiming for half of its European sales to be electric by 2030.

“There is huge potential to electrify truck transports in Europe, and also in other parts of the world, in the very near future," said Alm. "To prove this, we have set the ambitious goal to have electric trucks account for half of our sales in Europe by 2030. And these three new heavy-duty trucks we are now launching mark a giant step towards reaching this target.”

It's an encouraging sign considering that, until recently, electrification of heavy-duty transport really wasn’t on the agenda. (Remember, the introduction of the tiny, two-seat G-Wiz to the streets of London was considered innovation not so long ago.) Yet now we have electric versions of trucks, garbage trucks, and buses and school buses too. As James Murray, editor of Business Green, said on Twitter that “this is technology that only a few years ago serious people would dismiss as virtually impossible.”

As we’ve argued before, enthusiasm for electric cars usually needs to be tempered with the fact that the function of cars could be much better met by more effective city planning, investments in mass transit, telecommuting, and walking and biking infrastructure too. True, long-distance transport would be much better served by investments, a massive expansion of freight-carrying rail services, or even a return to (electric) barges in some quarters. But that’s not quite so true for medium and heavy-duty goods transport of the local and regional variety. 

So even as we work to localize supply chains and dematerialize the economy, we’re going to need to keep moving things around for some time to come — not least all that equipment for large-scale offshore wind. Shifting from trucks made from and running on fossil fuels to trucks made with renewables and running on electricity, also made from renewables, would be a significant step forward. Not just in decarbonizing road freight itself but, almost by definition, reducing the amount of embodied energy in so many of the things we buy. 

Next on Volvo’s agenda, apparently, is to tackle the longer distance challenge with both hydrogen and electrification. Here, Alm says, progress is imminent too: “Our aim is to start selling fuel-cell electric trucks in the second part of this decade and we are confident we can make this happen.”

We’ll be watching closely to see if this proves true.