Volta Trucks — the Swedish electric vehicle startup that believes it can build better urban delivery vehicles and other trucks that are safer and take up a smaller carbon footprint than their gas-guzzling, more clumsy, existing counterparts — has closed a big round of funding to help it through that last mile of work before its Volta Zero trucks go into commercial production later this year.
The company has raised €230 million (around $260 million), a Series C round of funding that appears to value the company at just over $490 million (€433 million). Volta will be using the money to fund engineering and business operations ahead of its first trucks rolling off the assembly line, on the back of what looks like a healthy list of customers: Volta said that its pre-order book for its all-electric Volta Zero — said to be the first fully electric, purpose-built commercial freight vehicle designed for urban freight distribution — is currently totaling over €1.2 billion, covering more than 5,000 vehicles. Volta’s wider business strategy will be based both on selling trucks as well as offering its vehicles on a trucking-as-a-service model.
New York-based Luxor Capital, which led the company’s €37 million Series B in September 2021, is also leading this round. Real estate investment firm Byggmästare Anders J Ahlström (like Volta, based in Stockholm), supply chain services giant Agility, and B-FLEXION (formerly Waypoint Capital) also participated. While Volta has not disclosed its valuation, Pitchbook data notes that it is now just over $490 million — a figure that we have now confirmed also with sources close to the company.
Volta’s growth, and the large amount of capital it has now raised — over $325 million to date — are part of a bigger sea change in the automotive world. Startups, tapping into new manufacturing techniques, new batter technology, and new energy infrastructure, see a ripe opportunity to build new vehicles to disrupt the current status quo with safer and cleaner alternatives.
Investors — likely wowed by the success of electric efforts like Tesla’s with smaller cars — are putting their money behind these ventures to give them more firepower, and more credibility with would-be customers. These are all essential building blocks for catapulting cars into the next wave of technological innovation, where trucks like Volta’s become hardware platforms capable of gathering and working with massive data sets to help the vehicles and the businesses using them operate at new levels of productivity.
That is the theory, at least. The process of getting there inevitably ends up being slower, and more costly, than initial rosy projects, which is another reason why it’s important for companies in the space to raise large rounds and corral together groups of strategic backers to help them get to market.
Volta’s roadmap this year will include investing in its engineering and production operations to build prototypes to verify its designs for the Volta Zero.
These in turn will be rolled out to early customers for pilots in London and Paris, cities where delivery trucks are commonplace but also dangerous, given traffic congestion, narrow streets and the proliferation of cyclists and other micromobility users, making them ideal markets for Volta’s trucks, which claim not only to produce less emissions — the first trucks will have a pure-electric range of 150 – 200 kms (95 – 125 miles) and eliminate an estimated 1.2M tonnes of CO2 by 2025, the company claims — but have significantly better visibility (220 degrees, with the driver sitting in the center of the front seat) for its drivers. Initially, what they will not have, it seems, are self-driving capabilities.
“We are investigating autonomy / self-driving for the future but as a vehicle that’s specifically designed as a city centre distribution and delivery vehicle, the goods within the vehicle will need delivering from the vehicle to their end destination. As a result, the purpose of the vehicle will always need a person involved, making self-driving less relevant for this type of vehicle,” said a spokesperson.
Volta said it will also use some of the funding to continue developing smaller 7.5- and 12-tonne full-electric Volta Zero derivatives (the first model will be 16 tonnes), and eventually a larger 18-tonne model.
The company is building a production facility in Austria, with plans to produce 5,000 vehicles in 2023; 14,000 trucks in 2024; and up to 27,000 trucks in 2025.
“The successful and oversubscribed conclusion of our Series C funding round gives us a positive external validation of our journey,” said Essa Al-Saleh, CEO of Volta Trucks, in a statement. “As an innovator and disruptor in commercial vehicles, we are working at industry-leading pace and have significant ambitions. Today’s closing of the Series C funding round, bringing €230 million into the company, gives us the financial runway to be able to deliver on all our goals as we transition from a start-up to a manufacturer of full-electric trucks. The confirmation of our orderbook of over 5,000 vehicles with an orderbook value exceeding €1.2 billion, gives us and our investors, confidence that our pioneering product and service offering is both wanted and needed by our customers.”