EV truck manufacturer Volta files for bankruptcy

Volta Trucks, which had planned to begin selling its heavy EV trucks in the US this year, has filed for bankruptcy in Sweden. A short statement from the company paints a pretty grim picture, with some of the blame laid at the feet of Volta’s battery supplier Proterra, which filed for bankruptcy itself in August.

Volta had indicated it would begin “scale” US production of bodies for its Zero trucks in 2024, and the company had taken committed orders for over 300 trucks globally as of January.

Volta cites tight capital markets in its release announcing the bankruptcy, which can’t be a surprise to anyone. Many electrification startups are likely experiencing the pain of high lending costs right now, and a general evaporation of venture capital investment to support scaling of operations and production. It’s unclear what Volta’s path to profitability looked like, but clearly it wasn’t coming soon enough for anyone to offer a financial rescue for the firm.

Trucking is a capital-intensive space to enter, with individual order values dwarfing those of passenger vehicles by double-digit magnitudes. Like cars, heavy trucks also must go through labyrinthine regional certifications and testing to be sold in most places worldwide, making global distribution a tough hurdle to clear. Volta’s plans to come to the US seemed promising, but like most unprofitable startups, things that look promising today can be utterly infeasible tomorrow.

Volta’s business was based on a simplified “Trucks as a Service” (TaaS) model in which vehicles and charging infrastructure could be procured by customers at a fixed monthly cost (as opposed to buying assets and services separately, and managing the accounting that goes with both). It was an interesting idea, and by no means has to die with Volta.

It’s unclear what comes next for Volta, but the statement doesn’t leave a lot of room for optimism. The board says that employees will be affected (meaning layoffs), and that it will file for insolvency in the UK as well. It’s very possible someone will buy up the company’s assets and intellectual property, though if anyone had the intention of doing so while continuing on with the company’s mission, they’d likely have done so prior to today’s news. At this point, the Volta brand is damaged goods.

The full release is below.

Volta Trucks accomplished a great deal from a standing start in 2019, revolutionising commercial vehicle operations for a sustainable future. 

We created the world’s first purpose built 16-tonne all-electric truck, including a unique cab and chassis design, that would have contributed to decarbonising the environment and enhanced the health and safety and air quality of urban centres. Piloting in five countries in Europe, we received fantastic feedback, which led to a strong pipeline of highly reputed customers who wanted to introduce our Volta Zero Trucks into their fleets.

However, like all scale-ups in the EV manufacturing sector, Volta Trucks has faced challenges along the way. The recent news that our battery supplier (Proterra) has filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy, has had a significant impact on our manufacturing plans, reducing the volume of vehicles that we had forecast to produce. The uncertainty with our battery supplier also negatively affected our ability to raise sufficient capital in an already challenging capital-raising environment for electric vehicle players. 

With deep and sincere regret, the Board has therefore taken the difficult decision to take steps to file for bankruptcy proceedings in Sweden. The main trading entity of the Group, Volta Trucks Limited, will shortly file for administration in England, with insolvency practitioners from Alvarez & Marsal anticipated to take office. Other Group entities will also shortly file for insolvency proceedings in the relevant jurisdictions. 

The Board has not taken this course easily or lightly and is fully aware of the significant impact this will have on the organisation’s dedicated workforce, as well as customers and partners. We would like to sincerely thank the Volta Trucks team and are incredibly proud of their pioneering work to deliver such an innovative zero emission commercial vehicle.

Volta trucks board of directors

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