The urgency with which the commercial vehicle sector needs to decarbonise cannot be underestimated. That realisation has been dawning on the industry for a while, thanks in no small part to the disruptive leadership of Volta Trucks.
There are still barriers, perceived or otherwise, that are holding back fleet operators from taking the plunge and going full-electric. Technology, infrastructure and TCO concerns cast doubt in industry minds as to whether now is the right time to make the change.
Volta Trucks has been the antidote to this perception since the company was created in 2019 and has been the leading voice confirming that not only is the time now, but that the change is viable now. But Volta Trucks isn’t just talking the talk; it has the solutions available today that make industry concerns redundant.
That’s where Truck as a Service (TaaS) comes in. In this interview, we speak to Casper Norden, Volta Trucks’ Chief Fleet Solutions Officer, about the inspiration behind TaaS, what its many benefits are and how it will work across our global markets.
Why is Volta Trucks offering TaaS rather than just the truck?
The question I am most often asked is “It’s all very well electrifying my fleet but how do I service, maintain and finance that fleet?”
TaaS is the innovative answer, delivering a frictionless process in which we can migrate fleets of all sizes to electric and, at the same time, revolutionising the ownership, financing, and maintenance of commercial vehicle fleets.
For a single monthly fee, customers have access to the full-electric Volta Zero vehicle, its charging infrastructure and all its servicing, maintenance, insurance, and training needs.
Among the fundamental insights that led our Founders to create Volta Trucks were the many challenges facing fleet operators when considering the transition from internal combustion engine vehicles to battery electric vehicles.
Those fleet managers had spent decades building their businesses around diesel vehicles. The raft of significant changes to the traditional model that would be involved in shifting to electric was understandably concerning.
Our Founders understood that stepping away from the technology that had powered a fleet operator’s most business-critical asset for decades would naturally have a significant impact and, without solutions to smooth the way, was never going to be a decision that businesses would take lightly.
Introducing electric vehicles into a fleet is a complex process. It is not just limited to installing a charging infrastructure. Businesses must completely reinvent their fleet operations and staff at all levels – from drivers to technicians to managers – have to be retrained to deal with an entirely new technology.
Alongside the challenges involved in switching from diesel to electric, our Founders also understood the urgency with which the decarbonisation of the commercial vehicle sector needed to happen. Professionals in the industry needed to be provided with solutions to the challenges, rather than seeking them themselves, otherwise no progress would be made. And so, as well as developing the innovative Volta Zero truck, the concept of TaaS was also born.
TaaS guides our customers through all the obstacles along their electrification journey. Ultimately, our ambition with TaaS is to accelerate and de-risk the transition to battery electric technology.
What are the customer benefits from TaaS?
TaaS is an end-to-end solution. That means that a dedicated onboarding team and extensive support network are there alongside our customers throughout the transition period. Customers don’t have to face the journey alone – they have a dedicated project manager to support them. The 360-degree support ranges from designing the optimal setup of the Volta Zero for the customer business and installation of the in-depot charging infrastructure, to ongoing support once the vehicles are in operation.
Our maintenance and service offering effectively works as an extended warranty that stretches over the holding period of the truck. It includes a guarantee on battery performance, meaning our customers can always be assured that their vehicle will always fulfil its duties towards their customers.
Understandably, many of our customers are worried about the risk of locking into emerging technology. New technology development moves at a rapid pace and that can be concerning. However, we believe that its early adopters are the industry trailblazers and should be rewarded as such. So, early customers will benefit from all vehicle software updates, meaning they automatically have the latest technology on board without having to worry about what is coming next.
For customers who chose our financing options, we also take on all residual value risks. Fleet managers will no longer need to worry about estimating what the vehicle will be worth at the end of its life.
Our charging infrastructure is tailored to the individual requirements of our customers. If they already have a charging solution installed, we will assess how it can be adapted rather than expensively replacing it with a new bespoke system. Importantly, our Electrification Services team will always ensure that whatever solution is reached, it will be future proofed for the customer.
The charging infrastructure solution is fully financed, so customers who choose to finance their truck will see an immediate cost benefit. This is because the higher upfront cost of electric vehicles is spread out over the holding period, but the lower costs of fuel start from day one.
In addition, our Electrification Services team will also make sure that customers take advantage of all the legislative benefits and any incentives that exist.
It’s very unusual for a vehicle manufacturer to offer service for its customers as expansive as this alongside the vehicle itself. But we understand that fleet operators genuinely want to play a part in arresting the climate crisis, and they know it needs to happen now. They are thinking not just about business but about their children, and their grandchildren. The challenge is that often, they don’t know where to start. They need help from us to support them in making a difference to the world by electrifying their fleets and contributing to the decarbonisation of transport. Only through these advocates will real progress be made, by inspiring others to follow in their tyre tracks.
How do customers get started?
Early adopters will find many benefits in switching to electrification ahead of their rivals. The move to electric will happen but it won’t be possible for every business to make the transition at the same time. Installing the required charging infrastructure can take time, as will training staff, and needs a lot of planning. Therefore, securing a customer’s position as one of the gamechangers means starting now.
Our Electrification Team will study customers’ needs, operations, and facilities to develop a tailored plan for the transition process, giving them a firm view on the timeline and effort required to get started. It will also give users an idea of the TCO that is likely to be achieved. And, what’s more, the service is free.
Where is Volta Trucks on its TaaS journey?
In April 2022, we announced the launch of our first Volta Trucks Hub in Paris, which will deliver our first customer focused TaaS operations. This marked a major milestone towards building a comprehensive service network to support the launch of the Volta Zero in Paris, London and beyond from later in 2022, when the first customer trials begin.
Meanwhile, we’ve been building a pan-European team and partner network to support the launch of its services across Europe. In April, we also announced the appointment of Helder Ribeiro as Vice President of Operations and Fleet Services, to support the development and delivery of the aftermarket and charging infrastructure services. Helder has extensive experience from building aftermarket businesses through his long career at Petit Forestier, where he was most recently Managing Director of the UK, Ireland, Middle East and South Africa.
The team has been hard at work for the past year in taking TaaS from the concept stage to reality and I look forward to being able to make many more exciting announcements in the coming weeks and months. A lot of exciting work remains, and we are actively hiring to strengthen our team and bring our disruptive concept to market.
Some of the TaaS team in front of the Volta Zero demonstrator at the UK’s Head Office, Reading, UK