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Volta Trucks Gets Approval to Produce, Sell EVs in Europe

Electric commercial vehicle manufacturer and services provider Volta Trucks got a major victory that brings it a step closer to it bringing its automobiles into mass production in Europe.

The Stockholm-headquartered EV startup revealed early Monday that it has received European Whole Vehicle Type Approval for its 16-metric ton, all-electric, zero-emission Volta Zero vehicle.

The European Community Whole Vehicle Type Approval (ECWVTA) certification allows Volta to produce and sell the Volta Zero at scale. The certification is used to ensure that all vehicles meet the stringent and relevant environmental, safety and security standards.

Volta’s win is significant, especially when accounting for the future of delivery in one of its major markets. The U.K. government proposed an effective ban on fossil fuel vehicles by 2030, forcing fleet operators to test and buy electric commercial vehicles to deliver parcels in crowded urban environments.

Last month, the European Parliament followed the U.K.’s lead in formally approving its own law to effectively ban the sale of new gas- and diesel-powered cars in the European Union in 2035.

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The official announcement of the approval came just a week after Volta CEO Essa Al-Saleh told Reuters the company is in advanced discussions to raise as much as 250 million euros ($267.9 million) ahead of a potential initial public offering (IPO) in 2024.

Volta has already won over many investors, raising approximately 240 million euros ($257.7 million) in a Series C funding round in February 2022, before adding another 60 million euros ($64.4 million) in capital in October.

The certification of Volta Zero also comes ahead the company’s awaited delivery of its second-generation “production verification” prototypes across Europe, as part of its pilot fleet of vehicles. In January, the company announced it locked in customer orders for over 300 Volta Zero trucks, expecting to see revenue totaling over 85 million euros ($91 million).

The company has 1.5 billion euros ($1.6 billion) worth of pre-orders for this and future models for the coming years, according to Al-Saleh. Volta is also planning to begin electric truck sales in the U.S. by 2024, beginning with a pilot program in Los Angeles later this year.

“Receiving the European Community Whole Vehicle Type Approval is a huge milestone for Volta Trucks, and our mission to make city center streets safer and more sustainable for all,” said Al-Saleh in a statement. “We’ve developed a completely new vehicle from the ground up, and it’s a testament to our engineering and developments teams that the Volta Zero has passed these stringent and demanding tests so quickly.”

These vehicles will be loaned to customers for extended periods of time, with the intent to give fleet operators a better grasp of how the all-electric medium duty truck will integrate into their operations.

Volta Zeros are due to start rolling off the line of the company’s contract manufacturing facility in Steyr, Austria, in the “early second quarter” of 2023. Alongside the Austrian facility, the company has also established a network of Volta Trucks Hub service and maintenance facilities in its launch markets. The first four already announced are in Bonneuil-sur-Marne, to the south of Paris; in Tottenham, London; Duisberg, to the west of the Rhine-Ruhr region in Germany; and in Madrid.

To achieve the required accreditation, Volta worked with motor vehicle approval bodies including the U.K. and Luxembourg branches of ATEEL and another Luxembourg-based approval authority, The Société Nationale de Certification et d’Homologation (SNCH).

These approval bodies oversaw the testing and reports to secure the certification of the Volta Zero. The vehicle underwent multiple systems and individual component testing on areas such as braking, steering, lighting and glazing, along with the vehicle safety systems, the manufacturer said.

The Volta Zero was designed to reduce the environmental impact of freight deliveries in city centers. With an operating pure-electric range 95 to 125 miles between charges, the vehicle is projected to eliminate an estimated 1.9 million metric tons of CO2 by 2026.

Since the trucks themselves don’t have an internal combustion engine, the operator of a Volta Zero sits in a central driving position, with a much lower seat height than a conventional truck. This combination, plus a glass house-style cab design, gives the driver a wide 220-degrees of visibility, which is designed to minimize dangerous blind spots.

Beyond the EVs, Volta Trucks also offers “Truck as a Service” capabilities in an effort to assist in the financing and servicing of its commercial vehicle fleets. Truck as a Service offers a single, monthly fee that provides access to an all-electric Volta Zero, and all its charging infrastructure, servicing, maintenance, insurance and training requirements—all in an effort to maximize uptime and operational efficiency.

The electric vehicle market is continuing to see new players get funding, with U.K.-based EV startup Arrival getting $300 million equity financing line from Westwood Capital as the firm looks to start U.S. production of its van in late-2024.

But concerns do remain in the wider field at large as far as potential for profitability, with Arrival warning last year that it may not have enough cash to keep its business going towards the end of 2023. In January, the company named Igor Torgov as its CEO and laid off half of its staff, or approximately 800 employees.

At the end of 2022, the company had approximately $205 million in cash and cash equivalents, With the funding in hand, Arrival is implementing more cost-cutting measures, targeting a quarterly cash-burn rate of $35 million by the second half of 2023.

Both luxury EV manufacturer Lucid and Rivian are examples of companies that are banking on being propped up by backers with deep pockets as they both continue to lose money on sales. The former is getting $915 million in cash from its majority owner, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, as part of a $1.5 billion equity round. And the latter, which counts Amazon as its largest shareholder, is planning to raise $1.3 billion via a sale of convertible notes to help fund development and launch of its R2 series of electric trucks, which have been delayed to 2026.

Despite its partnership with Amazon, Rivian is hoping that the two parties can amend their exclusivity clause so that it can court new customers to buy its fleet of EVs.

Under terms of a 2019 agreement, Rivian is required to sell all of the vans it makes to Amazon. In recent months, Amazon notified Rivian that it wanted to buy about 10,000 vans this year, which was the low end of a range Amazon had communicated earlier to the auto maker.

Amazon said it remains committed to buying 100,000 vans from Rivian by 2030, which were the terms outlined in the original agreement. But Rivian is seeking new areas of capital if Amazon keeps slowing its pace. The Irvine, Calif.-based EV maker burned through $6.6 billion in 2022, after starting the year with more than $18 billion. During an earnings call last month, Rivian executives said they have enough cash to last through 2025.

Like Amazon, which is undergoing significant cost cuts in 2023, Rivian emphasized that the EV maker needs to focus on vehicles and projects that are profitable. The company has seen high-profile executives depart in recent months, including the head of supply chain and the vice president overseeing body engineering.