From hero to zero

From hero to zero

I was so chuffed to take a ride in the incredible Volta Zero at the recent IAA Mobility fair in Munich. Little did I realise how significant that test drive would be…

The IAA Mobility exhibition was an absolute blast. There were all sorts of cool vehicles to be seen. Being a truckie, I sought out the trucks, and I found two: a VDL Hydrogen ePower based on a DAF CF Electric and the Volta Zero which, incredibly, was available for a test drive! I was thrilled!

I had been following the progress of the company – founded in Sweden by Carl-Magnus Norden and Kjell Walöen back in 2019 – with great interest. And when The Big Reveal took place on 3 September 2020, I set myself a goal: I wanted to drive this truck!

It was thus that my drive in what was billed as “the world’s first purpose-built full-electric 16-tonne commercial vehicle” was the materialisation of a three-year dream (virtually to the day; the test drive happened on 6 September). It was only going to be a short spin – I wasn’t going to put the pure-electric range of 150 to 200km to the test – but I was elated!

It was also the first time that I was seeing the truck in the flesh, so to speak. So, I took a little while to examine the exterior before hopping into the futuristic cab. The first thing that I noticed was its relatively small size. This is no coincidence; the Volta Zero was designed to operate in narrow city streets. Despite its relatively small dimensions, it was designed to transport 16 Euro pallets, offering a payload of 8,600kg and an overall volume of 37.7m3.

Unlike the Volta Zero that would be used by Paulaner Brewery Group to provide all-electric zero-tailpipe emission deliveries to the world-renowned Oktoberfest in Munich later that month, I wasn’t making any deliveries. I was just planning to have some fun.

And indeed, I did. Like most electric vehicles (EVs), the Zero’s performance was scintillating. The smooth and powerful acceleration from the Meritor eAxle make it ideal for stop/start urban deliveries. Travelling around Munich’s heavily congested city centre, we never approached anything near the truck’s maximum speed of 90km/h, although the Zero certainly felt willing and able to get there.

While the performance was very nice, thank you, the seating position was mind-blowing. A driver’s seat positioned in the centre of the cab meant I could enter the Volta Zero from either side of the truck, while the seating position was much lower than in a conventional truck, with an eyeline of around 1.8m. This mirrored the height of pedestrians and nearby road users, making visual communication between yours truly and others very easy. The field of vision was nothing less than incredible; I had 220 degrees of direct vision around the vehicle. There were also rear-view cameras that replaced traditional mirrors, a 360-degree birds-eye camera, and blind-spot warning systems that detected objects down the sides of the vehicle.

The truck was nothing short of terrific to drive. I jetted back to South Africa to tell all my colleagues about my great experience in the Volta Zero, planning to do a big feature on Volta. And then came the news that the company had gone belly up. 

In May this year, Volta Trucks had announced that it had raised over €360 million in funding to date. Sources within the company have subsequently stated that it was closer to €460 million. Either way, this was nowhere near enough. As one of my commercial vehicle colleagues noted: “Volta wanted to be represented in every major European city – almost overnight. The plan was to sell around 22,500 trucks by the end of 2025. They were underfunded and this was completely unrealistic.”

So, now there won’t be any future test drives – for yours truly or anyone else. I sure am glad I got to experience the truck before it vanished. It had many merits. RIP Volta, you will be sorely missed. 

Published by

Charleen Clarke

CHARLEEN CLARKE is editorial director of FOCUS. While she is based in Johannesburg, she spends a considerable amount of time overseas, attending international transport events – largely in her capacity as associate member of the International Truck of the Year Jury.
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