The European Transport Forum 2019
Fireside chat with Lars Stenqvist
Mr. Stenqvist, Chief Technology Officer at the Volvo Group, started off by pointing out that road transport will continue to increase in the future, both in Europe and globally. He emphasised that we cannot go on with transport as it is today – the planet cannot cope with it. We need to come up with new solutions and change the transport system.
When asked which sort of trucks will be on the roads in five to ten years, he shared his conviction that there will be electric vehicles for long distances in all regions. Yet, he believes that there will not be a “fix all” solution, but instead a variety of technologies will be available and in use. Willing to be provocative, he added that the combustion engine will survive, and Volvo Group will keep investing in the technology. He explained that contrary to common beliefs, the combustion engine does not equal fossil fuels – it is in fact versatile and can run with different fuels, including hydrogen. Against this background, the number of electric vehicles will undoubtedly increase. Some networks and dedicated fleets will be electrified.
Regarding Volvo Groups’s work in terms of electric vehicles for long distances, Mr. Stenqvist answered that the company is investing in the technology. Since 2013 it develops city buses which are either hybrid or fully electric. Although he admitted that this decision was made slightly too early, he stated that in terms of knowledge – how to charge, discharge and get the best performance from a vehicle – the experience was certainly valuable. Following the development of hybrid and electric city buses, Volvo Group is now working on urban trucks, and electric construction machines as well as other equipment which are potentially in the pipeline.
Mr. Stenqvist further pointed out that we are now facing a “chicken and egg situation” – in other words, electric trucks are ready, but whether
customers will be ready to invest is the main question. He believes that there will be a business case to build charging points, and that politicians will have an essential role to play in this context.
When asked about what Volvo Group is expecting from the revision of the Directive on Alternative Fuels Infrastructure (DAFI), Mr Stenqvist stressed that it is time to bring heavy vehicles on board and called on the European Commission to include binding targets for Member States. He said he was afraid that we might end up in a situation where electric vehicles have become popularised, but charging points are lacking. He added that while electric vehicles’ price tag is currently rather high compared to that of diesel, the situation in the long-run will change and customers will choose
electric vehicles over their diesel counterparts. Customers are ready to buy if they are convinced that there is a business case for electric vehicles and know that the situation will be favourable long-term.
Regarding the situation elsewhere in the world, he explained that China is working on developing batteries, and that there are also clear commitments in California. In addition, Mr. Stenqvist was concerned about the fact that the Paris climate agreement does not take fuels into account and does not consider long and heavy vehicles. Lastly, Mr. Stenqvist talked about connectivity and new technologies, pointing out that since there are more than one million connected vehicles on the roads, a lot can be done with the data available. He concluded the first part of the event on a positive note, saying that he has never been so optimistic about the solutions which are available today.