Volvo aims to sell electric trucks in North America by 2020

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Volvo is seen on the front grill of a Volvo truck in a customer showroom at the company's headquarters in Gothenburg, Sweden, September 23, 2008. REUTERS/Bob Strong/File Photo

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Volvo VOLVb.ST, the world's second-biggest truck maker, plans to begin selling electric trucks in North America by 2020, it said on Thursday, as it signed a partnership with California that will allow it to show-off the vehicles.

Under the deal, Sweden’s Volvo will deploy eight multi-configuration battery Class 8 electric demonstration units and 15 pre-commercial and commercial units throughout California’s South Coast Air Basin next year, it said.

Truckmakers are driving full speed to secure a corner of the electric and autonomous drive markets, with other contenders in North America including Tesla's electric semi truck, Ford F.N and Daimler DAIGn.DE.

This year, Volvo began producing its first fully-electric truck for commercial use - the Volvo FL Electric - which is expected to be sold next year for urban distribution operations in Europe.

The company said on Thursday the North American truck would be based on the same drivetrain technology, but a spokesman said it was too early to say how similar the two trucks would be in the end.

The Volvo LIGHTS project, anchored by Volvo and California’s South Coast Air Quality Management District, will involve 16 partners and electrify freight operations at the facilities of U.S. trucking fleets DHE and NFI.

The project has been awarded $44.8 million by the California Air Resources Board. A Volvo spokesman said the company planned to separately invest $36.7 million over the next couple of years.

Reporting by Esha Vaish in Stockholm; Editing by Mark Potter