AB Volvo, the construction trucks arm of the Swedish Volvo group, on Wednesday unveiled a new vehicle made with a majority of “fossil-free” steel, and plans to begin smaller-scale series production using the new material as early as 2022 .
“Our intention is to start building these vehicles, these relatively small load carriers, using this fossil-free steel,” Lars Stenqvist, executive vice president of truck technology at AB Volvo, told TechCrunch in a recent interview. . “It’s important to say that this is not a research and development project or some kind of demonstration project to present to politicians. This is a series production.
The prototype vehicle, a fully electric, self-contained load carrier for use in mining and quarrying, is made up of over 3,000 kilograms (6,600 pounds) of the new steel. Volvo said it was targeting construction trucks first because, on average, around 70% of the vehicle’s weight comes from steel and cast iron.
The steel was manufactured by SSAB, a Swedish steel maker Volvo partnered with earlier this year. Conventional steelmaking uses coal to extract oxygen from iron ore, but SSAB has developed a process to make steel using hydrogen. Hydrogen is produced by electrolysis, a process that uses renewable energy to separate water into hydrogen and oxygen.
The load carrier unveiled today is not made of 100% fossil-free steel, as SSAB does not yet have access to certain geometries, such as those needed to produce cylindrical shafts, Stenqvist said. He added that the majority of the components and in particular the large bucket at the rear of the vehicle are fossil-free.
SSAB’s steel is identical in every way to conventional steel, which means it can be used in all existing Volvo manufacturing facilities. “This is a very, very important contribution to us because it means that we are agnostic from a production and manufacturing perspective,” Stenqvist said.
Volvo, which has set itself a goal of zero emissions in all of its operations by 2040, aims to expand its use of steel throughout the decade. Volvo Cars, owned by Chinese company Zhejiang Geely Holding, also plans to produce a concept car using this steel from 2025.