North America

Driving forward with electromobility

In its journey for electrification, Volvo Penta has engaged young professionals from the Volvo Group, to present the business case for electrifying terminal tractors in ports. Using the strength of the Group’s technology platform, the team – based in Sweden, France, Belgium, Poland, Japan and the US – accessed the breadth of the organization’s international expertise.


Aligned with Volvo Penta’s pledge to offer electric power solutions by 2021, the team, who were part of the Volvo Group International Graduate Program (VGIGP), focused on issues of environmental sustainability and customer benefits.

“There is a growing interest by customers for electrification, and a demand for cleaner, quieter and more fuel-efficient drivelines,” says Niklas Thulin, Volvo Penta’s director of electromobility. “In assessing which market areas would be most suitable to pursue our vision of offering electric drivelines, it was an ideal opportunity to use the VGIGP team to research data, challenge assumptions, and present ideas that could form concrete plans for the future in relation to terminal tractors.”

Key factors for electrification
The team investigated three main factors that customers would consider: total cost of ownership of an electrified fleet in comparison to a diesel fleet; differentiation analysis of energy prices, battery costs, and charging schedules; and how electrification could add value to the material handling sector.

Terminal tractors that move cargo at Gothenburg harbor were used as case studies. Additional modeling was done to make predictions on the performance capabilities for electric drivetrains.

“There was minimal data available for industrial off-road machinery, so we analyzed data from electric cars, identifying trends and translating applicable information,” says Patrick Graven, a US-based business and finance controller. “We found data on the running costs of batteries, residual value of vehicles, retail price of electric cars versus gasoline motors, and applied this to where heavy-duty batteries and prices are today.”

The group also researched data from electric buses and trucks, looking at factors such as capital costs, battery size and efficiency, maintenance costs, energy prices, emissions, and re-charging infrastructure.

Increased demand and lowering of costs
The team concluded that there is a robust business case for the electrification of port terminal tractors, but that regional differentiation in energy costs would be a factor; and increasing demand for electrical power and greater economies of scale would lead to lower total cost of ownership in the future.

“If a harbor buys an electrical terminal tractor today it will be more cost efficient than diesel after seven years, but if they buy one in 2025, it will be more cost efficient in two years,” says Gustaf Eriksson, an IT project manager, based in Sweden. “The monetary benefits of electric terminal tractors versus diesel tractors will keep rising.”

The group also concluded that port cargo operators should undertake ‘opportunity charging’ (re-charging batteries when there is time throughout the day, rather than at the end of a shift), and that operators would experience greater comfort with reduced emissions and less noise.

“The information presented by the team confirmed what we believed,” concludes Niklas Thulin. “There is a strong business case for electrification of terminal tractors in ports.”


The Volvo Group International Graduate Program

  • The Volvo Group International Graduate Program has been running for more than two decades.
  • Each year, around 25-30 Master’s and Bachelor’s degree graduates are selected for the program.
  • For 2017-18, there were around 6,000 applicants.
  • The program is split into small teams of 5-6 people, and each team analyzes a different subject area for one of the Volvo Group’s business areas.
  • Each team has members with different study or business backgrounds, such as finance, engineering, logistics, IT, marketing, purchasing, and human resources, to provide an all-round selection of knowledge and skills.
  • The team working on the terminal tractor electrification project for Volvo Penta was: Gustaf Eriksson, Patrick Graven, Camille De Koninck, Ylan Benrabaa-Bal, Ryo Ishibashi, and Scott Young.