Dublin, Virginia, is a quiet little town in the southwest corner of the state. Most people have probably never heard of it.
But many long-haul truck drivers know it as the home of Volvo Trucks’ New River Valley Plant. Sitting on 300 acres, it’s the company’s largest truck assembly plant.
The 1.6 million-square-foot plant makes all the different Volvo class 7 and class 8 truck models sold in North America. And now it’s developing a brand-new model.
Volvo’s Sticker Shock
Volvo Trucks, a subsidiary of Volvo (STO: VOLV-A), is joining Tesla (Nasdaq: TSLA), Kenworth Trucks, Nikola (Nasdaq: NKLA) and Daimler (OTC: DDAIF) in designing electric semitrucks for long- and short-haul routes.
So far, Volvo has completed a pilot build of 70 VNR series electric semitrucks. It’s leasing them to several delivery fleets in Southern California.
But, like every other electric semitruck maker, Volvo has a problem: sticker shock.
Electric semitrucks and buses cost a lot more upfront than their diesel counterparts. But electric trucks and buses have a much lower total cost of ownership.
For instance, maintenance estimates for electric semitrucks are 25% lower than they are for diesel-powered ones. There are far fewer moving parts in electric trucks.
And electric semitrucks are easily recharged at freight stations. Charging can be done in the middle of the night, when electric rates are cheapest.
Volvo plans to collect data for a year or two to prove the truck’s total cost of ownership is lower. It will then use that data to fine-tune the VNR series trucks for volume production and manufacturing cost reductions.
Volvo Trucks’ electrification story is in its early stages. And that’s true for other big electric semitruck makers too.
Semi Makers Are Moving in the Same Direction
The market for electric trucks is still small. However, that’s quickly going to change.
Last October, Kenworth announced its first electric class 8 truck, the T680E. Production starts this year.
It has an operating range of 150 miles and a top speed of 70 mph. It’s perfect for local pickup and delivery applications.
Tesla isn’t making its Semi in volume yet. It’s barely making enough battery cells for its electric vehicles and energy storage products.
Its Semi uses so many cells that it would take up a big portion of Tesla’s cell-making capacity. But Tesla is building new Gigafactories in Texas and Germany that will be able to turn out more cells.
Additionally, 300 fleet managers completed a survey last May. More than 90% said that electrification was the “inevitable future of commercial fleets.”
And company shareholders are driving the demand for electric class 7 and class 8 trucks. Many of the largest freight companies are publicly held. And most have announced environmental, social, and corporate governance goals under pressure from shareholders.
The only way to meet those goals is to go all-electric. The faster they can move away from fossil fuels, the better.
This year is going to be pivotal for class 7 and class 8 electric trucks. This will be the year that they go from demonstration to initial deployments.
Fleet owners are just starting to realize how much lower the total cost of ownership is for electric semis. So orders are starting to flow in.
I think it’s the perfect time to invest in this subsector of EVs. Investors who want exposure to the electric semitruck market may want to consider jumping in now.
The e-trucks are coming!