Why Volta Trucks chose the UK for developing its electric truck

Updated: Nov 10, 2021

When seeing the fast expansion of Volta Trucks, it is hard to believe that the brand barely existed two years ago. Founded in 2019 in Gothenburg, Sweden, the electric trucks company has grown to employ around 100 people, aiming at 200 by the end of 2021. We spoke to Kjell Waloen, one of the two brains behind the brand, about the rapid growth, the drivers behind the development of the electric vehicles industry, and why the UK was the ideal location for the launch of the first Volta Truck.


“If you succeed in London, the rest of the success will follow by itself. And with the subsidies and support that the Department for International Trade provided us, we were able to be very active directly from the beginning,” says Kjell Waloen, Co-founder of Volta Trucks.

The birth of Volta

The Volta Truck is a child of its time. Co-founder Carl-Magnus Norden came up with the initial idea of an electric truck during the upsurge of electric vehicles. There was a rapid advance seen in this area of technology whilst the demand for renewable energy was growing, creating huge success for brands like Tesla.


“Carl-Magnus first got the idea of an electric truck when seeing the strong trend in the business of passenger cars, with Tesla being the prime example, and the following explosion on the market of electric vehicles. But no one seemed to think of creating an electric truck.”


Carl-Magnus saw an opportunity in this gap and grasped it quickly. He started researching the market and different methods to produce electric trucks, finding that there was an existing market of converting diesel trucks into electric trucks, but saw a lack of more modern electric trucks.


“He thought that the concept of vehicle conversion was nothing but a quick fix solution. There was a current market boom in the sales of Tesla cars, but these converted diesel trucks were not really the same style at all. In the truck industry, no one seemed to be aiming to create a Tesla. This is where we got in touch and started building on this idea.”


From idea to prototype

Kjell and Carl-Magnus decided to start from scratch and design a vehicle for electric propulsion. This way, they could take advantage of the benefits coming with the electric motor – for instance, it being much smaller than a diesel engine leaving more room to play around with. However, with the new possibilities came a lot of new challenges as well. The industry was young, and there were still a lot of questions around basic things such as how drivers could handle the need to recharge the trucks.

“These issues were particularly tricky when it came to long distance transportation, where the recharging issue might be a bigger obstacle, leading us to the decision to focus mainly on trucks operating in cities and urban areas. The city centres are the areas where the electrical vehicles could make the biggest difference as well – with their low CO2 emissions and noise reduced engines.”


Having concluded the benefits of launching the truck with a clear city centre-focus, Kjell and Carl-Magnus started looking into the other needs in such areas, and how to make the vehicles as compatible for them as possible. And they found several opportunities – for example, the possibility to create better working conditions for the drivers by simply adjusting the vehicle design. “We did not just want to create an electrical truck, but a modern truck with a lot of benefits – one of them being that it is electrical, but also more adjusted to modern society, safer in terms of awareness of surrounding, CO2 emissions and pulling down fatalities.”


"The UK was a great go-to destination. I remember receiving a lot of support from the Department for International Trade, at zero cost, along with useful information and market analysis."


The UK – an easy choice

When Kjell and Carl-Magnus were ready to set up Volta Trucks, the decision to do it in the UK was fairly easy. They already had their eyes on London to be one out of two launch markets, so it was a natural step to set up in the UK – a decision they have not regretted. “The UK was a great go-to destination. I remember receiving a lot of support from the Department for International Trade, at zero cost, along with useful information and market analysis. The result was very successful.”


Having made its first footprint in the UK, Volta Trucks was still fairly small and without any employees. But thanks to a good relationship with Transport of London, they were continuously receiving feedback that they could continue to build on.


The first Volta Truck

In September 2020, about a year after they first started the project, Volta Trucks successfully launched the first vehicle. “When we launched the first Volta Truck, it was very well received – by customers, the industry, media, everybody. After this, we could easily raise the capital required to start the development of the real product.”


Thanks to the success of the first launch, Volta Trucks was able to start expanding and hire from the team that had worked with the prototype. They still think that the support they received from British authorities played an important role in their immediate success.


“Having seen the result, we are happy that the choice fell on the UK. Our initial purpose was to use the British engineers, but now we have even considered doing the manufacturing in the UK as well”.

After the successful start, the duo decided to put the head office in the country as well. The location is in the outskirts of London, making it convenient for both people traveling from London and from the engineering regions of the Midlands.

In the UK, and here to stay

With less than two years spent in the UK, Volta Trucks is not planning on going anywhere, and Kjell is hoping that they will continue to expand. “When Volta Trucks entered the UK, it was only me and Carl-Magnus. In the end of 2020, we had expanded the team to around a handful of people, and last year we received the funding and started hiring, leading to the team now consisting of around 100 people. Next team target is to have 200 people by the end of the year.”


But Volta Trucks is not only expanding in terms of employees, but its complete presence in the country is increasing. Kjell thinks that the physical presence in the UK has played an important role in the company’s success. “The fact that we decided to place our office and development here allows us to have a better relationship with the authorities, but also a more positive reception by the British media and customers”.


He says that the UK has a lot of benefits compared to the Nordic region, not least for new businesses trying to set- or scale up. “I would say that it was much easier than I expected. We received immediate and continuous support from the DIT, and there are a good number of a programmes where you can apply for grants for developing. They are available also for foreign companies with an office in the UK.”


Another advantage of the UK, according to Kjell, is the competent workforce and the flexible job market.


A promising future

When it comes to Kjell’s own industry – the electric vehicle sector – he thinks that the curve will continue upwards, alongside other industries focusing on a climate friendly future.

“There is a lot of activity now in this field, and it is an industry that is developing quickly with new demands appearing all the time. Not least in the battery industry, where there is a lot of activity going on as well. Looking at my own industry, the next questions are surrounding a lot of practicalities like charging, as well as opportunities in how to find and transform already used vehicles.”

About Volta Trucks


Year of establishment

Sweden: 2019 / UK: 2019

Headquarters

Gothenburg, Sweden

UK offices

London

Number of employees

About 100 in total, expanding

to 200 by the end of 2021



Key sectors and opportunities for Swedish business

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Clean growth & Smart City technology

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Life Sciences:
Healthtech & medtech

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Tech: Fintech & games development

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Advanced engineering:
Electric vehicles