Building cranes dot the skyline of Volvo Trucks’ home town of Gothenburg, Sweden. The city is set to grow by a third by 2035 and large parts of the city centre are being remade to accommodate more people and roads.
It is a challenge that is in no way unique to Gothenburg. About a billion people are set to move into the world’s cities by 2030.
To make space for new residents, Gothenburg is planning plenty of new, densely built, mixed-use neighbourhoods, which combine residences, offices and shops.
The city of Gothenburg’s City Planning Director, Henrik Kant, hopes that electric trucks will play a large part in making this type of cityscape successful and sustainable.
“Since electric vehicles are more quiet and don’t emit exhausts, they allow us to plan our cities differently. The technology makes new solutions possible: less-restrictive delivery times, for example, or bus routes that run closer to residential houses. That helps us plan closely knit, mixed-use neighbourhoods.”
In his previous role as the head of Gothenburg’s water and sanitation department, Henrik Kant put the wheels in motion to make sure that electric trucks were part of the city’s sanitation strategy.
“We already have a policy of using low-polluting, fossil-free refuse trucks in Gothenburg. The trucks in the city run on biogas or HVO, a fuel made of the byproducts from meat processing,” he says.
Electric trucks are now allowing the city to take another big step in the right direction.
“Gothenburg’s vision is to build a dense, green city. We need to work hard to achieve as low emissions as possible, especially in the city centre. At the same time, we can reduce noise pollution to a minimum.”
Gothenburg’s vision is to build a dense, green city. We need to work hard to achieve as low emissions as possible, especially in the city centre.
A few years ago, Gothenburg turned to Volvo Trucks to develop a tightly specified electric refuse truck that met the requirements of the route, topography, speed and load capacity. Among the specifications, the trucks needed to be able to carry five tonnes and each charge had to last a full day of driving. Now, the electric refuse truck is being introduced. If it is successful, the City of Gothenburg hopes to expand the scheme.
Among the benefits, Henrik Kant hopes the electric trucks will result in a better working environment for drivers.
“Sanitation workers have one of the highest occupational injury rates of all workers in the country. Solutions that can improve their working environment are naturally something we want to explore,” he says.
At the same time, another electric Volvo truck will hit the streets this year. Volvo Trucks is putting an electric distribution truck for food deliveries in operation, together with the haulage firms TGM and Schenker.
“Electric vehicles have many advantages,” says Jonas Odermalm, Head of Product Strategy Volvo FL and Volvo FE at Volvo Trucks. “Not only do they result in less pollution and noise, but, since more deliveries can potentially be made during off-peak hours, electric vehicles can raise productivity and delivery precision by cutting the amount of time drivers need to spend in traffic.”
Electric vehicles can raise productivity and delivery precision.
But getting a fleet of electric trucks up and running takes more than trucks.
“The vehicles are just one part of what is needed for large-scale electrification and sustainable transport. This is also a question of making sure the right rules, charging stations and infrastructure are in place to make it beneficial for companies to use electric vehicles. Customers and cities that invest in this technology also need to look at the transport system holistically and see the value for their brands, quality of life and for the environment.”
The city of Gothenburg hopes to become the centre of logistics for the Scandinavian region and it is fast becoming a testbed for new transport solutions.
It already has two fully electric bus routes, alongside a multitude of hybrid vehicles. Local car manufacturers are testing automated vehicles on certain routes and Gothenburg is making international headlines by building an aerial cable car to transport 4,000-6,000 people an hour across the strait in the city center, as part of the city’s public transport system.
So, what does he expect for the city’s future residents?
“I hope that, by 2035, we won’t have to focus on noise pollution or air quality, because these issues will be largely solved,” says Henrik Kant.
Volvo Trucks’ Director of Environment and Innovation, Lars Mårtensson, thinks that the solutions being trialled in Gothenburg will be expanded to other places.
We want to scale this up and are already starting trials in other cities.
“We want to scale this up and are already starting trials in other cities including Hamburg. It’s part of building a livable, attractive city. Trucks haven’t been a prioritised area for the transition to electricity, but we are changing that now – together with our partner cities.”
570,000 – The population of Gothenburg, Sweden’s second largest city. It has been Volvo’s hometown since the company’s founding in 1926.
140,000 – Expected addition of residents to the city of Gothenburg up until 2035
– a growth of one third.
12 – Number of the city’s environmental goals that aim to create a good living environment and sustainable development. Three goals relate directly to transport: