The automotive industry is of great importance to the Swedish economy. At the same time, the transport sector accounts for around 30 percent of Sweden's environmentally hazardous emissions. Niklas Wahlberg is head of system solutions and partnership at Volvo Group and believes that sustainability is a key issue for Volvo today.
- We go very hard into the sustainability work and we do it very seriously. It is not greenwashing of the Volvo brand.
Volvo is well aware that the demand for transportation in the world is increasing and about the need to find new sustainable solutions. Therefore, major investments are now being made in technology areas such as electrification, automation and connectivity - with fossil freedom as the long-term goal.
By 2030, it will be possible to offer fossil-free solutions for all “segments”, ie trucks, buses, marine vehicles and industrial engines in a variety of brands. Volvo also wants to help increase the efficiency of the global logistics system, from transporting iron ore to parcel deliveries.
Electricity - the future of public transport
This development work is nothing Volvo can do alone. To develop new solutions that will work in, for example, an urban environment, an intimate interaction with many different actors. ElectriCity in Gothenburg is an example of a project where actors from industry, research and society have come together, with the goal of developing new solutions for the future public transport. Since the start in 2012, they have been working towards target points that are three years away.
- The first goal was 2015, when it was the goal of Volvo Ocean Race in Gothenburg. Then the goal was to be able to launch a fully electric city bus line in Gothenburg, says Niklas Wahlberg.
Today, the project is in its third target cycle and is investigating the possibility of electrifying passenger ferry traffic. Through a live dialogue, it gradually emerges what different parties need to develop to achieve the set goal in time, such as charging infrastructure, electric buses and review of laws and regulations.
- It is a unique and very exciting collaboration where all parties collaborate towards a common objective and a larger whole, without any transactions between the parties, says Niklas Wahlberg.
Already today, the results project have spread and Gothenburg is one of the cities where you will see many electric buses in the near future.
Another place where Volvo is involved in developing future solutions is in the mine. SUM, Sustanible underground mining, is a mining project in Kiruna where LKAB has joined forces with ABB and Volvo, among others. The initiative originated in LKAB's realization that they must renew their core mission - to break iron ore. Methods and processes need to be developed to mine ore at greater depths and make the entire mining process safe and carbon free.
LKAB realized early on that they could not specify their needs themselves. Instead, they merged with a number of parties with the right expertise to jointly test and develop new solutions. The goal is high-productivity, carbon dioxide-free mining that is safe for man and machine.
Everyone sees the need for change
All industries today see that they need to develop their activities in a sustainable direction, and the solutions developed in project such as SUM and Electricity can be used in other sectors. It can be about the steel industry, the forest industry and agriculture. The insight on the need to change is found in business as well as in politics, which, among other things, pushes through the Fossilfritt Sverige initiative.
- There is a great pressure and a willingness to change now. From all directions. And everyone sees that this is good for business as well. So all the stars are right, says Niklas.
He sees several challenges to succeed in the transition, not least to find the right technical solutions and access to the right skills. But the most important key to succeeding in real-time change, Niklas believes, above all, lies in partnership and collaboration:
- Collaboration is required between industrial parties as well as with society, the public sector and academia. And with all levels of politics.
Sweden in the world
International competition in the transport area is stiff. Niklas emphasizes that Sweden's strength lies in the systems perspective, finding solutions that work in reality:
- It's a thing to showcase a new product whether it's a car or a mobile phone. But putting it in a larger system, that's where the secret or innovation will lie. And there I think we in Sweden have a very good position.
Should Niklas decide, Swedish transport solutions will be fossil-free in 2030. He thinks that is possible, but requires cross-border cooperation and a joint societal decision.