Amazon Volvo VNR Electric truck.

Amazon Volvo VNR Electric tractors are now operating in California in the company’s ocean freight operations from San Jose to the Port of LA.

Photo: Volvo Trucks North America

Amazon is building a fleet of Volvo VNR Electric Class 8 heavy-duty battery-electric trucks operating at and around the Port of Los Angeles and Long Beach — the e-commerce giant's largest electric truck fleet yet.

A recent delivery of eight VNR Electric trucks are part of a fleet of nearly 50 that will be operating in Southern California by the end of the year.

The purchase of the trucks was announced earlier this year, and the new Volvo VNR Electric tractors are now operating in California in the company’s ocean freight operations from San Jose to the Port of Los Angeles. They have started hitting the road at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, with a dozen expected by the end of the year.

The new Volvo electric trucks will haul cargo containers and customer packages in Amazon's first- and middle-mile operations. The VNR Electrics are joining hundreds of last-mile Amazon electric vans already delivering packages across the state.

"This is the first-ever electric truck in Amazon's ocean freight operations, so this is a huge milestone for us," said Adam Baker, vice president, NA/EU Transportation & Global Mile at Amazon, at a May 7 event.

Amazon is also deploying 35 heavy-duty electric trucks for middle-mile movements, to move customer orders within this region, going between fulfullment centers, air facilities, delivery stations, and other sites around the Inland Empire, Baker explained.

Earlier in May, Volvo announced that it had sold 41 new VNR Electric trucks to 4 Gen Logistics, another Southern California-based drayage fleet.

A New Application for Amazon Electric Trucks

Combined, Amazon said, these trucks are expected to travel more than 1 million miles each year with zero tailpipe emissions.

Amazon driver charging an electric truck.

Amazon has installed 45 DC fast charging stations across California to support its new Volvo VNR Electric trucks.

Photo: Volvo Trucks North America

First mile, or global logistics, is where goods are moved from where they are manufactured, through customs, across oceans, into ports, and then into Amazon's fulfillment network. That's the part of the logistics chain where Amazon’s new electric drayage trucks have started hitting the road at the ports of Los Angeles and long Beach.

The company said a dozen are expected to be in operation by the end of the year.

The electric drayage trucks transport containers from the ports to an Amazon facility in Santa Fe Springs, California, where items are prepared for the next leg in their journey — middle mile.

Trucks in middle mile move customer orders between Amazon’s fulfillment centers, sort centers, air facilities, and, finally, delivery stations, where packages are loaded into last-mile vans to be delivered to customers.

To power the electric trucks, Amazon has installed more than 45 direct current (DC) fast chargers across 11 sites.

“Heavy-duty trucking is a particularly difficult area to decarbonize, which makes us all the more excited to have these vehicles on the road today," said Udit Madan, vice president of Worldwide Amazon Operations.

"We’ll use what we learn from deploying these vehicles as we continue to identify and invest in solutions to reduce emissions in our transportation network, and to impact sustainability in the trucking industry more broadly.”

An Emphasis on Safety

The battery-electric Class 8 Volvo VNR Electric trucks have a range of up to 275 miles and a gross combination weight of 82,000 pounds.

The heavy-duty vehicles are also equipped with safety features including active collision mitigation, blind-spot detection, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, and adaptive cruise control.

Amazon truck driver.

Amazon insisted on a full suite of active safety systems on its new Volvo VNR electric trucks.

Photo: Volvo Trucks North America

Amazon said drivers are excited about these electric trucks, highlighting their impressive power, significantly lower noise levels, and ergonomic cab design.

"The drivers also shared that they would choose these vehicles over their diesel counterparts anytime," Baker said.

“The Volvo VNR Electric was built on the already proven regional haul VNR platform, which makes it well suited for drayage and middle-mile operations, particularly in areas of dense population and moderate to heavy traffic volumes,” said Keith Brandis, vice president, partnerships and system solutions, Volvo Group North America.

“We are thrilled to work with Amazon's expansive fleet on their electromobility transition and help to pave the way for a more efficient and sustainable future.”

The Demand for More Data

In a separate interview with HDT on the importance of the Amazon electric truck deployment, Brandis noted that Amazon and Volvo share core values that emphasis safety and environmental sustainability.

“I think that’s why our trucks fit so well with their operations,” he said. “And we will continue to work with Amazon to focus on how to make our trucks the most robust and reliable trucks possible that can meet their route requirements.”

Amazon is, at its core, a data analytics company, Brandis added. That's why Volvo Connect telematics capabilities were of key interest to Amazon when it evaluated the VNR Electric for its operations.

“They insisting on having Volvo telematics on every single truck,” he said. “Amazon is very smart in how they retrieve and use data.”

And while some fleets struggle to manage the amounts of data they receive from vehicle telematics systems, Brandis said Volvo Connect has only whetted Amazon’s appetite.

He said Amazon is looking at specific information from the trucks regarding battery performance, normal system health checks and early alerts, charging cycles, peak power demand rates and smart-charging procedures.

“They want even more data,” he said. “Because these are all-new vehicles. So none of the information coming off of these trucks has ever been seen before.”

Article was updated at 5:30 p.m. EDT on May 10 to correct an error in the number of trucks joining the Amazon fleet.

About the author
Jack Roberts

Jack Roberts

Executive Editor

Jack Roberts is known for reporting on advanced technology, such as intelligent drivetrains and autonomous vehicles. A commercial driver’s license holder, he also does test drives of new equipment and covers topics such as maintenance, fuel economy, vocational and medium-duty trucks and tires.

View Bio