Volvo Trucks talks of electrification strategy for logistics

Featuring at EV Magazine LIVE, Martin Kearns from Volvo Trucks discussed the need for a combined electrification strategy in our backstage interview

Following his keynote session as EV Magazine LIVE, we caught up with the Head of E-Mobility at Volvo Trucks, Martin Kearns who told us more about his journey into a role at the truck manufacturing company. 

After a discussion with the audience about the industry and the shift required from fleet operators, he explained the role of Volvo Trucks in facilitating it. 

How did your previous experience lead you to Volvo Trucks?

I thought it would be a strange link. Then I was moving from energy into trucks, but I guess it's all relevant to electrification, so it’s pretty good that I have a background in energy and has been quite helpful. I think the two organisations are quite similar. It's quite nice going in with some fresh eyes, but it is a very new area. I guess electric trucking is a very new area for everyone.

What are the main barriers to truck electrification? 

Barriers can probably be put into two categories of iconic behaviours and mindset around electrification. Can it work? Does it work generally? One of three questions: Is it worth the cost and what's the range? Among those three questions is a big lesson learned about infrastructure. Is it the other big problem or barrier within this organisation?

Trucks are about five or six years behind cars. You've got some practical problems as well as the actual power required for those batteries.

What comes first, the vehicles or infrastructure?

I mean, one comes with the other. You can't have trucks without the infrastructure itself. And as I was saying to the audience, I think the biggest flaw is if you don't work out a power strategy as well as your vehicle strategy, then you end up solving one without the other and they need to work in tandem.

Most of the operations for operators, probably the next 12 to 18 months, are still going to be back to base, like charging at home or the depo. So up until the likes of GRIDSERVE and others, the [providers] are able to offer a service for on route charging.

Fuel cell was a little bit further away as well. So yeah, back to base operations are probably the ones that are going to be the biggest in electric for trucks over the next 12 to 18 months. 

Why is it so important to have events like EV Magazine LIVE?

It's all about having conversations. And as I said, it's still very new. Even when you evolve as an organisation, some of the channels, such as social media, are probably not always as strong as they can be to [provoke] these kinds of conversations. It’s refreshing to see a digital voice and across different platforms, which is something that we need to get on board with.

What do businesses want to see over the next 12 to 18 months? 

What I expect is probably still some more of the challenges we have today. My hope is that there are more incentives and reasons for people to believe and maybe dip their toe in the water around [electrification]. I'm absolutely convinced that once people have one or two trucks and they understand their operation, even though it costs more, the benefits in the future will be massive.

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