Volvo Group Australia has confirmed it will start making all-electric trucks in its Wacol factory in Queensland – the country’s biggest vehicle manufacturing plant – in 2027.
The commitment to making fully electric trucks in Australia comes just six months after Volvo started full commercial production of its heavy-duty electric trucks at its Gothenburg factory in Sweden, and on the same day it got approval to trial those trucks on Queensland roads.
The commitment by Volvo, which has won a series of significant orders for its electric trucks in Australia, and first brought its electric trucks to Australia in 2021, comes amid widespread discussions on whether Australia should seek to re-establish a car manufacturing industry, albeit fully electric.
Volvo’s Wacol facility is now Australia’s biggest vehicle manufacturing plant, but the ability and volume of electric trucks that Volvo will make will be heavily dependent on the fate of design rules that impose heavy restrictions on what can operate on Australian roads.
Volvo Group Australia boss Martin Merrick told a seminar at the ANU in Canberra on Wednesday that the current maximum truck width regulation of 2.5 metres means that each electric Volvo sold in Australia needs a special permit because it’s 2.5 centimetres over the 2.5m limit.
A similar problem faces the Tesla Semi electric truck which is 2.59 metres wide (US maximum truck width is 2.6 metres).
Volvo vice president of emerging technology business development Paul Illmer says the number of electric trucks that Volvo make at the Wacol factory will depend on whether current width and axel weight regulations can be changed to facilitate heavier electric trucks.
“It’s mainly the front axel weight that’s holding us back,” Illmer says. “It’s currently 6.5 tonnes but we would need that to be 7.1 to 7.5 tonnes to allow for the extra battery weight.”
In its submission to the Australian government’s Electric Vehicle Strategy, the Australian Trucking Association agrees:
“The Australian Government should implement an immediate reform package for zero emission truck vehicle design rules, including increased width and a zero emission heavy vehicle mass concession, and commit to further reform by 2030.”
The Sweden-Australia electrification seminar was attended by Swedish Crown Princess Victoria, who stressed the urgency of the climate crisis and highlighted the opportunities for Australian and Swedish companies to work together on accelerating the world’s transition to electric transport.
The seminar which was hosted by the ANU’s Institute for Climate, Energy and Disaster Solutions, was also attended by Sweden’s Minister for International Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade Johan Forssell.
On the same day the Queensland government announced that Volvo Group Australia had been given the green light to trial heavy duty battery electric vehicles in Australia.
A media release from Queensland Minister for Transport and Main Roads Mark Bailey said Volvo has had medium duty battery electric trucks operating successfully in Australia since mid-2021 however the new trial would allow fully electric 3-axle prime movers operating at a gross weight of 44,000kg.
“The introduction of battery electric heavy vehicles provides opportunities to also bring vehicles with the latest safety technology features and emissions performance to our shores,” Bailey said in a statement.
“The information available from trials like this will help our engineers make sure mass and dimension issues with the take-up of battery electric heavy vehicles are managed in a sustainable way to benefit all Queenslanders.”
Daniel Bleakley is a clean technology researcher and advocate with a background in engineering and business. He has a strong interest in electric vehicles, renewable energy, manufacturing and public policy.