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Voltia: fully electric delivery vans as a service

In 2016, the Slovak company Voltia opened its Benelux Regional office in The Hague. We spoke to co-founder Juraj Uleha and Benelux Regional Manager Manolo de la Fuente about their green ideas and setting up in The Netherlands.

Voltia COTM
For those who don’t know Voltia, what is your story?
“Voltia started in 2011. I (Juraj) love engineering and my co-founder and I are both passionate about renewable energy and our planet, so we combined those interests. After some research, we targeted the 2-3.5-ton segment of the market (light commercial vehicles) because it was underserved for the amount of pollutants it emitted.

We always had the idea of leasing the vehicles as-a-service, rather than selling them. We noticed a lot of customers are hesitant to move to electric because of the financial and technical issues that were present in the early days of electric (rest value, spare parts, maintenance, high up-front costs, reliability).

We started by retrofitting diesel vans to electric, taking into consideration the frustration of customers with the existing electric van options. We made it possible for drivers to extend the range by pulling up and swapping the batteries in under 7 minutes at regional battery swap stations.

Now we offer a lease concept for fully electric delivery vans including all necessary advising and services such as implementation planning, analysis of charging infrastructure, 24/7 support, insurance, loading infrastructure, maintenance and repairs. Fully electric delivery vans are still relatively expensive and options vary. We are the only company that is offering these vans as a service, thereby reducing the barriers for companies to choose electric.”

How important is the European market for Voltia?
“Right now, we have chosen to operate on a European scale.  Common European standards for vehicles help immensely, especially getting our converted vehicles to customers in other countries. Thanks to the Paris Climate Agreement and the European Strategy for Low Emission Mobility, many European countries are encouraging low emissions mobility and delivery options. We think this is really important for air quality and to reduce CO2 levels, as well as for our work.”

Why did you choose The Hague?
“The Netherlands is the logistics capital of Europe and The Hague is an international city located in the middle of it. We’re equidistant from Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport and the Rotterdam The Hague airport, and very close to many potential clients in the Randstad. Our new Benelux office is walkable from public transport and also close to the highway, so our customers can easily visit us and our eVans can quickly deploy. This is the perfect setup for our company.”

What are the cultural differences between doing business in Western Europe and Eastern Europe?
“In Western Europe, the people are more accepting of environmental reasons for things, like low emissions zones or carbon fees. Governments in Western Europe are also faster to pass these laws and have them be more readily accepted by the public. In Central and Eastern Europe, the people don’t view this as such a priority and government is much slower to pass such laws or regulations.”

What springs to mind when thinking of The WestHolland Foreign Investment Agency?
“Helpful. Welcoming. They helped us with a smooth landing in The Netherlands with e.g. finding the right partners to establish a company and setting up of the administration.”

How do you see the future of Voltia?
“The company’s expectations for The Netherlands are high: by the end of this year, we’d like to have the same performance as in our offices in Austria and Eastern Europe, which have been around longer.  With over 25.000 (semi)public loading points and over 100.000 electric vehicles, The Netherlands is a perfect place to expand our activities.”

How are thing going since the start last year? New partners/clients in The Hague since setting up?
“Things are going very well. It took some time to break into the space and establish ourselves but we did it. We had some good visibility and now we have three vehicles being piloted by clients on Dutch roads. A big client is going to be using our service starting pretty soon. I won’t say who that is yet – but stay tuned for some major announcements!”

Deliver Smart. Go Green! www.voltia.com

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