By WILLIAM PAINE
On Monday, Congressman Morgan Griffith, who represents Virginia’s ninth district, paid a visit to Volvo Truck’s new assembly plant in Dublin.
After touring the plant, Griffith was invited to drive a full-size electric truck at the company’s newly expanded test track, an offer which he gladly accepted. When originally constructed, the test track was 1.2 miles in length. Volvo recently expanded the track, which now forms a three-mile loop.
After completing his test run, Congressman Griffith, climbed out of the big rig and met the press.
“It’s a smooth ride,” Giffith said of the electric freight hauler. “It’s got a lot of pick up but the electric truck is a lot quieter than the diesel.”
Griffith had driven on this track before but on that occasion, he was behind the wheel of a Volvo diesel powered truck.
“Both the diesel and the electric trucks are both very smooth,” said Griffith. “The technology is amazing.”
When asked why he decided to visit Volvo, Griffith had this to say.
“I like to come here because they’re always doing new stuff. Last time I saw robotic painting. I mean, they’re always doing new stuff. I’m staying in touch with what they’re up to and making sure I understand what their needs are to figure out what the capabilities are of the various trucks that they’re making. I think Volvo is the largest private employer in the district and they’ve got a new building.”
The congressman was given a tour the newly constructed plant but the press has yet to be given access to the new facility. When asked whether there the new plant was now in production, a Volvo official simply responded, “We don’t talk about the new plant.”
Griffith, however, did mention the new plant in some of his remarks.
“I thought it was very interesting when I toured the plant today,” said Griffith. “Their line is going to be comprehensive, so they can build diesel, build electric and they’re prepared to go hydrogen. So, their line is going to be ready to do whatever comes along because they want to be diversified and it’s great for the community because it shows that they’re going to be here a long time. If fuel cells come along strong, they’re ready for that. If hydrogen becomes a major factor, they’re ready for that, too.”
Is legislation needed to make electric vehicles more feasible?
“The key is getting in the right spots,” Griffith responded. “Most of your trucking is locality to locality and state to state, so that we will work in truck stops to do that and there is some money out there for doing that. When you’re looking at electric cars, it doesn’t make a lot of sense. Because when you look at the 9th District of Virginia, that has a landmass larger than several states and we are not going to get charging stations sufficiently distributed for cars.”
“Trucks are a little bit different because they’ve got their routes and you can figure out where they need to be. Going city to city like from Roanoke to Wytheville, you could probably do it overnight. You make your run and you come back and you can charge up at your plant/facility. So, that makes a lot of sense.”
Griffith was asked if he would rather spend money on “other things” instead of expanding the infrastructure for electric vehicles.
“Here’s the dilemma that you get,” Griffith responded. “They make these promises in Washington DC, and they tell the people of Lee County that we’re going to have electric cars for you in 15 or 20 years. When you start looking at the topography, when you start looking at the current battery technology, when you start looking at having the charging centers available, it’s not going to work for big chunks of the 9th District for day-to-day travel. We even had an expert from NC State last week tell us he’s worried about mobility in extreme weather situations because if everybody’s electric, they’re not going to be able to get out to get recharged.”
“I don’t think you’re going to get rid of fossil fuels for driving vehicles by 2030, 2035 or even by 2050,” Griffith continued. “I talk to car manufacturers because I’m on the Energy Committee. Electric cars are not going to work in a district like mine. And if you suddenly banned the sale of gas-powered vehicles, what you’re going to see is used car prices are going to go up and we’re gonna look like Havana and the 1970s. The people in rural America are not going to switch over 100% to electric because they’re not reliable in some phases. Others will, and that’s great. So, we have to make sure we’re moving forward and we’re not putting all of our eggs into one basket. Keep it diversified.”
When asked about the United Kingdom’s intention of reaching Net 0 carbon emissions by 2050, Griffith said this.
“They’re banking on hydrogen. I talked to folks from the U.K. about a year ago and they’re banking on hydrogen. The Europeans are way ahead of us on hydrogen but if it doesn’t come through, they won’t make it. They’re banking on new technologies when they say that.”
Apart from energy related topics, the United States Congress has been dealing with several additional issues. In recent days, Congresswoman Margorie Taylor Greene has called for the impeachment of President Joe Biden. Is Griffith supportive of such a move?
“I’d like to see the evidence before committing to make it a vote,” Griffith responded. “That being said, there’s a political dilemma. That is, if he’s impeached, we end up with Kamala just in time for her to run without a record. And I’m not sure the country is not better off to see what you get with a liberal Democrat administration with a fair number of socialists thrown into the various agencies. I think we might be better off just to leave it be until the election.”
Many in the Republican party have stated that there is credible evidence Joe Biden accepted bribes when he served as Vice President under Obama.
“There is credible evidence,” Griffith responded. “But credible evidence does not mean proof beyond a reasonable doubt and I have to take a look at that.”
After the congressman departed, the press was invited to take a spin in the heavy-duty electric Volvo.
Two aspects of the ride were immediately noticeable.
First, there is no sound associated with starting an electric motor. All the gauges light up but the big electric motor needed to push this rig around the track is essentially silent.
Secondly, it’s very quick off the line. Much more so, according to my riding companion Marcus Thompson, than a standard diesel truck of the same size.
When the driver takes his foot off the accelerator, the vehicle is geared to slow down and this, in turn, charges the battery. The degree to which this braking action occurs can be adjusted. This big truck only has two gear settings but changing from 1st to 2nd gear is nearly imperceptible for the driver.
“When customers are driving on these tracks, they’re driving fully loaded tractor trailers,” said Thompson. “So, when they go through these turns, the customers get a sense of the turning radius, the comfortability of our product, the quietness of the ride. They learn more about the safety of our product. It’s all about customer experiences.”
Customer experiences seem to have been positive on the whole. Currently Volvo Trucks makes about half of all heavy-duty electric trucks sold in the United States.