Sweden’s electric grid capacity – not energy – the bottleneck in decarbonizing transport

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Data collected from Volvo trucks’ movements around Sweden has been used to create a clear overview of current and future energy demands for electromobility and transportation solutions in a research project run by Volvo Group. The data, which show where electric charging infrastructure will be required, also highlights the need for informed discussion around the investment needed to develop an electricity grid capable of meeting the demands that the charging infrastructure will generate.
Volvo Group's three-pronged approach
Volvo Group displays it's three-pronged approach to decarbonizing transport

Volvo Group has been producing a range of electric trucks at for some time now. The products are already available, and Volvo Group is leading the way in terms of market share in electric trucks. The same goes for Construction Equipment, Buses, and Marine and Industrial solutions. And we have already showcased our hydrogen fuel cell solutions, which will be available to customers by the end of this decade. Like many OEMs, we have committed to the Paris Agreement, aimed at limiting Global Warming to within 1.5° C. With this commitment we have invested in a three-pronged approach to fossil-free transportation, based on pure battery electric (BEV), hydrogen fuel cells (FCEV) and combustion engines capable of running on renewable biofuels.


Fossil-free mobility

As this journey towards fossil-free transportation and infrastructure  continues, and as more electric trucks, buses and construction machines hit the road, the demand for charging to sustain them will increase exponentially. But that is not the only challenge as we move to a fossil-free mobility system. Energy, and more importantly the distribution of power, is central to this whole equation. Without the capacity to produce and distribute enough electricity to satisfy growing demands we would have a problem. Thankfully, Sweden is blessed with a range of fossil-free energy sources – from hydropower to nuclear, down to wind and solar. So fossil free power generation in and of itself, is not a short-term problem.

At Volvo Group we are setting our sights on a fossil-free transportation and infrastructure system. The products and solutions already exist today, but to ensure a smooth roll-out we need to factor in another element – power transmission to charging infrastructure via the national, regional, and local electric grid. Without the required capacity to support a growing fleet of electric trucks, buses, and construction machines, alongside the existing needs of both industry and peoples’ homes, adoption of electric solutions will fall short of what is required to limit emissions and help to keep global warming below 1.5° C.

Actionable insights on power

Now, thanks to a ground-breaking project conducted by Volvo Group, we can clearly identify where charging hotspots need to be built and the amount of power these charge points will require, based on real-life data.

“We saw a need to provide actionable insights, built on robust real-world datasets that will support the adoption and use of electric trucks. The intention is to provide this to both governments and utility companies in Sweden to begin with, but also across the EU, where the data exists, and in other parts of the world,” said Anders Berger, Director of Public Affairs at Volvo Group.

Utilizing the onboard positioning fleet management system of Volvo trucks in Sweden, which monitors position, time, fuel consumption and other parameters, data scientists at Volvo Group have built up a clear picture of where charging stations should be located and how much power they will need to supply daily. The result is a map of required charging points, the power they will require and the energy they will need to deliver as the electric fleet grows in the coming years.


Investment in grid infrastructure

The output from this project highlights the type of investment needed to ensure that Sweden’s electric grid can transmit the required power to keep Sweden’s battery electric truck fleet, estimated to be around 15-20% of the total fleet by 2030, on the road. This real-life data will support the Swedish government and the utility companies to gauge investment requirements and build a robust plan for the rollout of the required charging and grid infrastructure over time on a national scale. Using already available Volvo Group data, reports could be produced for any country with a large enough fleet of Volvo, Renault, or Mack trucks, to provide a similar roadmap for infrastructural investment planning.



“Our approach to the transition to fossil-free transportation and the infrastructure required to make it a reality, is based on collaboration and partnerships. We want to drive prosperity and help society move toward net-zero emissions in the near-term. We can only do this if we fully understand the requirements and demand that this will place on national infrastructure, OEMs, and of course our customers, who will benefit from a well-designed charging network. This project is just one more step we are taking to ensure a smooth transition to electric trucks in Sweden, and in our major markets around the globe,” said Martin Lundstedt, President and CEO of Volvo Group.

The ambition is to broaden the scope of this project to cover countries across Europe in the near-term, based on available data, and additional locations over time, and is open to supporting both utility companies and national policymakers with available anonymized datasets to help the timely development of a robust charging infrastructure.

Facts about the project

  • The roll-out/adoption of electric trucks, buses, and construction equipment will happen gradually.
  • Data used in this simulation is based on trucks using data collection and which are active in Sweden.
  • Data and location/route taken from the software of these trucks and the diesel fuel consumed, as a source of energy requirements, provides daily mileage, vehicle weight, topography etc.
  • This location and energy consumption data provides a map of expected energy demand over time and location, based on the expected adoption of electric trucks mainly for regional haul and construction, but also some interregional and long haul.
  • The calculations assume trucks leave their depot of origin fully charged and then charge the minimum number of times needed to complete their daily transport mission.
  • The map shows all charging needs: both overnight charging and 'additional' or opooortunity-based charging during driver breaks.
  • The results of this analysis are scaled-up from Volvo Group to the rolling fleet from all vehicle manufacturers, based on market shares and representation in the data. For the Swedish market, the scaling is around a factor of ten.
  • The vehicle mix in the analysis contains two different vehicle specifications for energy storage as well as possible and available charging power, to reflect different transport segments, movement patterns and daily range etc.
  • Using Sweden as a base to understand how this data can be applied in real-life, Volvo Group built a ‘demand map’ of the country to identify charging hotspots that will need infrastructure (both charging stations and power delivery via a reinforced electricity grid). The results show not only the expected demand for power delivery, but also peak times when it will be required in greater amounts (load profile).
  • As expected, major cities with large urban populations stood out as demand hotspots, with peak charging times starting in the afternoon as trucks return to base between 3-4 pm and continuing until around 4 am. When the method was applied to an expected rolling fleet of 20% battery electric trucks it was possible to determine the expected energy that would be required from the grid, and where it should be delivered to meet charging needs.
  • The maps indicate where power and charging infrastructure will be in highest demand, with Gothenburg, Malmö, Stockholm, Uppsala, and Sundsvall standing out as overnight charging hotspots.
  • Day, or ‘opportunity charging’ was indicated across a broader range of locations that one might assume represent half-way points on delivery routes to other major population centers. Allowing for some flexibility for charging locations, the possibility was investigated to use charging infrastructure and available power in a slightly more dispersed manner but which would still fulfill requirements. It would however mean that trucks would need to travel to access charging (up to around 16 km). Assuming the possibility of such detours had the effect of reducing the number of needed charging locations by up to 50%.
  • By understanding the range, weight, topography, energy consumption, power availability and the ideal location of charging points, we can help utility companies, charging station operators and authorities to understand the energy and power transmission requirements that will need to be met as electric trucks continue to replace the existing diesel fleet.
  • For Sweden, this equates to a requirement for around 4 GWh energy for charging during a typical weekday (3 GWh at night, 1 GWh for opportunity charging).
  • According to Statistics Sweden total use of energy in Sweden has not risen dramatically between 2001-2021 – going from 168,799 GWh to just under 177,000 GWh for the entire year, meaning a requirement of 485 GWh per day on average.
  • Taking these figures into account, it highlights the need for an increase in the total energy produced by just over 1%, with a primary focus on building out the transmission capacity of the grid in specific areas to support the transition to electric transports.