Volvo VNR electric truck in Coke Canada Bottling's red and white colours
Volvo Trucks North America customer Coca-Cola Canada Bottling is buying six Volvo VNR Class 8 electric trucks to service the fleet’s beverage delivery routes throughout greater Montreal. Source: Volvo Trucks

Coke Canada will start using the trucks for customer deliveries in the Montreal area later this year. The announcement came two days after rival PepsiCo unveiled its first 18 Tesla Semis at a bottling plant in California

Call it a Class 8 electric truck taste test.

Last week at Coca-Cola Canada Bottling’s distribution centre in Montreal, the beverage company’s delivery drivers got their first chance to take the wheel of a Volvo VNR Class 8 battery electric truck.

“The feedback was very positive,” says Marissa Wener, Coke Canada Bottling’s communications manager for corporate social responsibility, in an email interview with Electric Autonomy. “Much of the feedback was about how enjoyable the vehicle was to drive, as it felt quite smooth and quiet.”

Good thing, too. Coke Canada Bottling and Volvo Trucks North America also used the “Demo Day” event to announce that Coke Canada is buying six of the electric trucks. The purchase is part of a pilot program to serve delivery routes in the Greater Montreal Area starting this summer.

Delivery this year

The six trucks are the first Class 8 battery electric trucks in the distributor’s fleet of 650 heavy-duty vehicles to service customers in the region. All will arrive in 2023, once the company installs three 150 kW DC fast chargers at its Montreal distribution centre. This will likely happen in June.

“The electrification of our fleet is a key component of our plan to reduce direct carbon emissions,” said Todd Parsons, Coke Canada Bottling’s CEO, in a press release. “We’re extremely proud to partner with Volvo Trucks to be the first Canadian food and beverage manufacturer to use battery electric trucks.”

The electric VNR design is modelled on Volvo Truck’s diesel VNR, which it launched in 2017. As an electric vehicle, it comes in multiple configurations. The vehicles that Coke Canada Bottling is buying have an expanded six-battery system. They offer a maximum range of 440 kilometres on a single charge.

150-km round trips

Coke Canada Bottling says the electric trucks will deploy on existing routes. The routes chosen are where drivers make daily 150-km round trips from the distribution centre to customer locations.

“We will be looking to review their effectiveness over the winter 2023/24 to determine if the pilot achieved our goals,” says Wener.

Along with completing the charging infrastructure installation by early summer, Wener says Coke Canada Bottling has “multiple activities planned to ensure the success of the pilot, including driver training and dispatch management to ensure we leverage and test these trucks as much as possible.”

Coke Canada Bottling is tapping into the federal iMHZEV and Quebec Écocamionnage incentive programs to offset the cost of the electric trucks. It says the vehicles will contribute to its goal of reducing carbon emissions from direct sources. As well they will reduce emissions from supplied energy by 46.2 per cent by 2030.

Wener says the company is also “looking forward to working together with Volvo Trucks on opportunities to expand this pilot in years to come where it makes sense.”

A new Cola Wars battleground?

Coke Canada Bottling claims it will be the first food and beverage manufacturer in Canada to use electric trucks. But its rival PepsiCo last week unveiled a fleet of 18 Tesla Semis at its bottling plant in Sacramento, Calif.

The reveal was a long-time coming for PepsiCo, which was the first company to order Tesla Semis in 2017. Tesla began delivering the Semi in December. With last week’s unveiling, PepsiCo became the first company to show the truck in company livery.