Creating Fossil-Free Steel – Volvo Trucks’ Jessica Sandström with Mobility Moments

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Manufacturers around the world are turning to a net carbon-zero and, while many are right-focused on their efforts to decarbonize their product ranges, there are a number of factors that still produce carbon.

Volvo, however, is seeking to address all the carbon-producing elements of its operations. Last month, the Swedish automaker announced it was joining the SteelZero initiative to promote fossil-free steel in its vehicles.

Jessica Sandström with Auto Futures sat down, Volvo Trucks’ Senior Vice President Global Product Management and Sustainability, to find out more.

Can you explain why fossil-free steel is important for Volvo Trucks? Is the planet bad for steel production?

Volvo Trucks ’Jessica Sandström, Senior Vice President Global Product Management and Sustainability

Volvo Trucks is committed to achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040. To do this we need to remove emissions from all parts of our business.

We will increase the use of fossil-free materials in our trucks to make them net-zero, but only when it comes to materials.

An electric truck in steel, excluding batteries, represents almost 40% of the total greenhouse gas emissions produced when the truck is delivered.

SSAB to manufacture with steel?

Our partnership with SSAB started in 2021. Swedish SSAB is the first company to supply fossil-free steel and the cooperative enables us to start with steel. We are the first truck manufacturer in the industry to do this.

Have you had to make any modifications to the design of your trucks to accommodate the new steel?

No, the fossil-free steel in the steel properties is just as good as the conventionally produced steel.

How soon do you think that fossil-free steel can be used?

Currently, the volumes of fossil-free steel are very limited. Also, there are many different steel qualities in a truck and not all the qualities produced are fossil-free today. Starting with the frame rails, which are the backbone of the truck, we will gradually replace and increase the availability of fossil-free steel. Our goal is that all steel used in fossil-free steel. By 2040, Volvo Trucks is committed to achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in our entire value chain.

Are you planning to use fossil-free steel on electric trucks first, do you plan to use your ICE trucks, as well?

Yes, we do. Volvo Trucks is committed to achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040. Our goal is that 50% of our sales in 2030 will be electric trucks. However, it’s clear that the combustion engine will continue to play a significant role in our customers’ ability to demand carbon emissions for many years to come. But the combustion engine will run on fossil-free fuels, such as biogas or renewable hydrogen

Have you mentioned using greater circularity in building your trucks, which components offer the greatest opportunities?

Today, around 30% of the recycled materials come from a new Volvo truck. Up to 90% of the truck can be recycled at the end of its life. Our goal is to only use renewable and recycled materials in our trucks. We offer today remanufactured parts, which are old parts to remanufactured, but with less use of materials and energy than new parts. Our objective is to grow our circularity business by expanding our remanufacture of today’s engines and gearboxes. We are looking for great circularity opportunities for batteries in our electric trucks, remanufacturing, refurbishment, second life and recycling.

What does the future of truck manufacturing look like in 5-10 years? Will everything be fossil-free and circular or is that too soon or even impossible to achieve?

It’s possible to achieve a truck industry that is climate neutral. The impact of climate change is more and more visible. We must decarbonize the transport industry and everything we need to do that is possible. The technical solutions to decarbonize transportation exist here and now. Many types of transport can be electrified today; cities as well as transport between cities. Volvo Trucks has the broadest line-up of electric trucks in the industry, with three truck models already in production and three more as of this autumn.

The transformation will go faster in some parts of the world than in others. The speed of the transformation will depend, among other things, on the pricing of energy, how quickly the charging infrastructure can be expanded, the long-term governmental commitments, ie incentives for hauliers to invest in alternative drivelines, and the cost of batteries. The availability of green electricity will also have an impact. If a price would have been put on emitting carbon dioxide, that would have accelerated the transformation.

We see great commitment from our customers and their customers to make the shift together.

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