Volvo Not Mucking About

By Austin Gamble

When attending the launch of Volvo’s electric truck range in South Africa, in Sandton on 6 June 2023, and listening to the detailed and enlightening presentations, I latched onto an acronym used by Eric Parry, Volvo Trucks SA’s sustainable solutions manager, and this acronym encapsulated all that was said in the morning’s proceedings

Parry, in his trucker’s jargon, used MUC to refer to Module Under Cab, but I heard muck (I am a muck raking journalist after all, and one who works for aBr, the chief protagonist of Words in Action), so voila, I had my heading. Because when it comes to bringing carbon reduction to the highways and byways of our country, Volvo is indeed not mucking about.  As Waldemar Christensen, managing director of Volvo Trucks South Africa, puts it “Volvo Trucks has been committed to social, environmental, and economic responsibility since the start of our company. Now, protecting the environment is the biggest challenge we face. The Volvo Group is a leading force in the shift towards the electrification of the transportation, mobility, and equipment sectors, making a real impact on our customers’ efforts to reduce their carbon footprint.” Volvo’s ambition in the field of sustainability from a customer and societal perspective is to reach, 100% safe, 100% fossil-free and 100% more productive solutions. This includes reducing CO² emissions by 50% by 2030 and being completely fossil-free by 2050.

Locally, the process has begun with the first electric FM 4X2 Tractor being presented to valued Volvo customer, KDG Logistics, at the function. The company will use the truck in its operations to move new passenger vehicles between factories/storage facilities and the Durban Port. “Our move to electric trucks was driven by our objective to be more efficient in every aspect of our business,” says Abdool Kamdar, KDG Logistics’ manager of Decarbonisation and Net Zero. “We believe what sets us apart from our competitors is the fact that we focus on operational and environmental efficiencies in our business, which includes steps to lessen our impact on the environment and enhance safety for all road users.” Kamdar wants his company to be one of the first movers on battery electric trucks to gain experience, knowledge and operational miles in the first generation of these units, to fully understand and take advantage of future efficiencies as the technology develops and expands.

Eric Parry expanded by saying that the trucks have been designed, developed and built to handle any major commercial operation that South African companies need to deal with. “Our trucks are designed to handle high temperature ranges and a variety of operational conditions. With a driveline that has 490kW or power and 2400Nm of torque, it will not struggle on the hills. One of the main advantages of going electric is that it provides drivers with a silent and vibration-free ride while delivering smooth and massive power.”

According to Christensen, South Africa is expected to be a low volume market at the start. “We need to get the necessary support from the government to help customers transition to electro mobility, both in a reduction in import duties and in terms of technical allowances for carrying more weight. Until that happens, we are not going to see mass adoption. Ultimately, we hope to assemble electric trucks locally at our Durban plant. This will be heavily influenced by the regulatory environment. If we can get the necessary support to help drive uptake, then we can have a market big enough to support the economies of scale to justify further investments to assemble locally.”

Mikel Mabasa, CEO of naamsa, puts the issue succinctly, “Competition in the motor industry is no longer company versus company, it is now government versus government. Unfortunately for South Africa, our government is moving at a snail’s pace.”