Volta Trucks, the manufacturer of fully electric commercial vehicles, is behind the Volta Zero – the world’s first specially built fully electric 16-ton commercial vehicle that was specially developed for inner-city freight transport.
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The fully electric commercial vehicle startup, manufacturer and service provider with branches in Sweden, France and Great Britain developed the Volta Zero from the ground up with an all-electric range of 150 to 200 km (95 to 125 miles). These claims are estimated to eliminate 180,000 tons of CO2 by 2025.
The Volta Zero prototype was launched in September 2020. The first vehicles are expected to be used by customers at the end of 2021.
Rob Fowler, CEO of Volta Trucks, reflects on the past 12 months and his first year in the mail.
Tell us how life was for you and Volta Trucks last year?
“It’s been a fascinating year since we took over Volta Trucks. A tremendous amount has been achieved. I am very proud of a team of people who came together in an incredibly challenging year to achieve outstanding success at the start of our journey. We raised capital; We have grown the team and built a corporate culture that we all want to work for. We have also created an extensive order book, all of which is in the challenging context of COVID 19 and offers very little personal interaction. It was an unusual time, right before (hopefully) the worst pandemic we will ever see, to take over the helm of a start-up and leave the safety of a large corporation. It was interesting timing – not one that everyone could predict – but it also made our successes even more meaningful. “
You started as CEO a year ago. What initially attracted you to the role?
“The vision of the founder and co-founder was inspiring to see a much better sustainable transportation solution in urban environments. As a fleet operator at the DPD Group, I saw that the insufficient supply of electric commercial vehicles to the market was hampering the sustainability plans of several companies. This apparent reluctance from OEMs to change was an opportunity for me to make a real impact on the supply of electric vehicles. And since I have three young children, I’m very committed to a sustainability agenda and leaving the planet better for them than we inherited. This is a great opportunity to influence this. “
How has the company developed in the past year, what were the greatest challenges and which important milestones did you notice?
“The company is almost unrecognizable to the company I joined when we were three or four. We have almost 100 people now. We have grown from a start-up to a scale-up and a company with an incredibly bright future. We started a great journey, but we all know we still have a long way to go. In terms of achievements, fundraising in a 2D world was a significant challenge, but we achieved it. The customer order book is also excellent, and we thank our team for their hard work securing significant quantities of pre-order vehicles. But what I am most proud of is that we have built a culture within the company that enables people to make decisions and that is responsive to the challenges of people’s lives. We create an excellent working environment in which we can achieve these great successes. “
How do you grow and scale a company to ensure its success?
“Over the past year we have surveyed our employees to understand the cultural organization we all want to work for. It became very clear that recruiting for technical skills is one thing, but recruiting for culture is more important. And when we look at candidates, we’re not just looking at whether or not they can do the job, but how they fit into the business we’re trying to build. And one of the big challenges we face over the next few years is maintaining that culture as we have more people and more geographic locations. It is important that the management team has a handle on the type of business we are trying to build and I have enjoyed attending interviews at all levels of the company to assess how candidates fit into the complex network of people at Volta Trucks fit. “
How do you ensure that the early vision is preserved when the company goes from start-up to vehicle manufacturer?
“The founder and co-founder’s connection with the company is vital as they see something that they have nurtured and nurtured to grow and develop. In this way we stay true to this vision as we grow the business into the future and your engagement will only benefit our company. Thank you very much for bringing me on this journey. “
You came to Volta Trucks from the DPD Group to understand the customer’s perspective. How did you see how the customer’s understanding of sustainability and electrification has developed over the past 12 months?
“The DPD Group was a leader in sustainability and electric commercial vehicles in the UK and was a pioneer in this industry. What is most interesting recently is to see more and more companies understand that sustainability is a key element of their business now and in the future. Even some of the most traditional companies have started rethinking how sustainability fits their corporate goals, their shareholder goals, and also the people in their business. Regulation has played a role, but my general view is that the logistics industry is very much aware that sustainability is staying here and is now taking positive steps. I hope that goes a long way into the future. “
The pace of development and change is important to you, both for the company and for the wider adoption of electric vehicles. Do you think the commercial vehicle industry is moving fast enough?
“Simply put, no. Commercial vehicles are different from passenger cars in which you have to convince someone to convert a vehicle to electrification. With commercial vehicle fleets, you only have to convince a few people to switch 100 and possibly 1000 vehicles. We’re starting to see a large commercial vehicle range that will help make that change. Now that the industry begins shipping electric vehicles, we’ve come to a point where sustainability and profit are no longer mutually exclusive. In the past, you had to pay for your sustainability agenda because you couldn’t get electric vehicles at the right price. But now we’re seeing a convergence in total cost of ownership between diesel and electricity. There is no longer a choice between sustainability or profitability – a fleet manager can make both decisions at the same time. “
If you review this in 12 months, how will the company have changed from today and what further progress will we see?
“The company will have changed undetectably over the next 12 months. That’s the fascinating thing about a start-up or scale-up company. We will continue to develop, expand and expand our number of employees and geographical locations, our product development, technical maturity, brand and everything else in the company. We will continue to build very strong business relationships and influence the market. Additionally, I want us to continue to be an employer that people want to work for and spend their time dedicated to believing in what we want to achieve. I hope all the people who work in the business today will still be with us in 12 months. Finally, as a management team, we have to make sure that business is developing as quickly and dynamically as possible. We acknowledge that we are going to do something wrong because we make decisions quickly when we have enough, rather than any information. We have to acknowledge when we’ve done something wrong and change direction, but ultimately business can only go as fast as people allow it to be. That is why we have to be ambitious if we want to achieve our goals. “