DUBLIN, Va. —Freightliner has led its U.S. diesel big rig rivals for years, commanding a market share no competitor could catch. But the nascent transformation to electric trucking provides other players an opening, and Volvo has jumped ahead.
Sales of electric trucks are still almost immeasurable compared to the roughly 150,000 heavy-duty diesel trucks manufacturers are on track to sell in the U.S. this year.
Yet Volvo holds an early lead in the U.S., according to registration data collected by S&P Global Mobility. Fleets have purchased 51 Volvo VNR Electric regional haul trucks through July. Peterbilt is at 10. Volvo's sibling company, Mack, is at seven, and Navistar's International Truck is at six. The data doesn't include 40 prototype battery electric Freightliner eCascadias and eM2s from Daimler Trucks North America in various test programs.
Volvo's lead is slight — now up to about 60 registrations, the company said — but illustrates its strategy to use electric trucking to close on Freightliner, said Peter Voorhoeve, president of Volvo Trucks North America.
Freightliner has about 40 percent of the diesel heavy-duty truck market compared to Volvo's 11 percent.
Volvo's early advantage comes from getting prototypes into real-world operations earlier than others, getting a jump on improvements and launching production at its New River Valley Factory here, Voorhoeve said.
That's allowed the company to generate what are comparatively big orders for electric trucks, including many from businesses that participated in early pilot programs, Voorhoeve said. "It is really accelerating," he said.
Performance Team, a division of Danish shipping giant Maersk, bought 16 Volvo VNR Electrics a year ago for its Southern California fleet operations serving port drayage and warehouse distribution routes. It came back with an order for another 110 earlier this year. Performance expects all the trucks to be in operation early next year.