AB Volvo, the construction truck arm of Sweden’s Volvo Group, on Wednesday unveiled a new vehicle made from a majority of “fossil-free” steel, with plans to begin small-scale series production using the new material in early 2022 Is.
“Our intention is to start building these vehicles, these relatively small load carriers, using this fossil-free steel,” Lars Stenquist, executive VP of truck technology at AB Volvo, told Nerdshala in a recent interview. “It is important to say that this is not a research and development project or some kind of demonstration project for politicians. This is serial production.”
The prototype vehicle, a fully electric and autonomous load carrier for use in mining and quarries, is made from over 3,000 kg (6,600 lb) of new steel. Volvo said it targeted construction trucks first because, on average, about 70% of a vehicle’s weight comes from steel and cast iron.
The steel was manufactured by Swedish steel maker SSAB, with which Volvo partnered earlier this year. Traditional steelmaking uses coal to extract oxygen from iron ore, but SSAB has developed a process for making steel using hydrogen. Hydrogen is generated through electrolysis, a process that uses renewable energy to split 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 some of the geometries, such as those required to produce cylindrical shafts, Stanquist said. He added that most of the components, and especially the large bucket at the rear of the vehicle, are fossil-free.
SSAB’s steel is identical to conventional steel in all respects, which means it can be used at all of Volvo’s existing manufacturing facilities. “This is a very important input for us, because it means we are agnostic from a production and manufacturing perspective,” Stanquist said.
Volvo, which has set a zero-emissions target in its operations by 2040, aims to increase its use of steel for the rest of the decade. Volvo Cars, owned by China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding, also plans to build a concept car using steel by 2025.