Voltia is a European e-mobility specialist based in Bratislava, Slovakia. Launched in 2015, with the mission to help make commercial e-mobility effective and affordable, it supports OEMs by broadening the usability of their mass-market electric LCV models. Silvester Pullman is sales director at Voltia. Topics discussed include: 

  • Why did Voltia decide to use Nissan NV200 vans and how did they become an official Nissan partner?
  • What is the best strategy to use EVs in commercial fleets?
  • Are electric vans only greener or more economical as well?
  • How important is culture change, education, sustainability strategy in EV deployment?


Can you please summarize what Voltia does and what is the story of the company?

Since 2011, we have had the idea that commercial vans in cities should be electric.  It makes sense – not only because electric vans should help to preserve nature and be green BUT they should save money and be the main economical solutions in the coming years as well. That was a revolutionary idea a decade ago. First we put together 10 tech & IT companies and built a consortium with one goal – to start the first “operator” company in history that specialized in electric vans. We succeeded with it! We even used a pay per km model (pay as you go) for our customers. From an automotive point of view, we started to convert Citroen Jumpers to electric as every tenth car in the EU falls into this category. In terms of numbers, it translates to 32 million trucks/vans that weigh up to 3.5 tons. Somebody has to switch these fleets to electric, so we asked: “Why not us?”

However, the business model couldn’t be brought to scale on an EU level and the vans were very expensive, around EUR 100,000 at that time. Based on the knowledge we gained from this experience – from customer needs to electric cars & vans to knowing how to build infrastructure for charging, we managed to understand specific customer needs. With this know-how, we were able to build even a spin-off company named GreenWay, which is now the largest charging infrastructure provider in Central & Eastern Europe.

But you did not give up on the electric vans either…

Yes, Voltia continues working with commercial vehicles as well. Our goal was always to deliver the perfect van to our clients for the best price, best warranties & OEM standard aftersales support. At that time our clients were Schachinger AT, DB Schenker AT , Medart SK and  Slovak DPD – mostly companies from logistics & last mile delivery. We used to test all electric vehicles which came to the market but none of them were good enough. Then in 2013, Nissan announced the NV200 electric version- which was a perfect van but too small for our clients. In 2015, after a lot of testing, the decision was made to use this already electric, small van but to make it as big as possible – to double the cargo space without killing the payload. That was a difficult task for the team of engineers but after six months of trying they found the right recipe. That is basically the van you see today: the XL.

This became your key product?

With this van we are now present in 17 countries and last year we became an official partner with Nissan so you can purchase this in most European countries from Nissan dealers. What was called Voltia XL is now the Nissan XL.

Silvester Pullman, Sales Director of Voltia

Do you provide other services as well besides van conversion?

Yes, basically Voltia today has three pillars. The first, Voltia Automotive which is currently a second stage producer of electric vans, has already been mentioned.

We also have a product which is called Voltia Leasing. It is a special product developed for commercial electric vehicles. Maintenance costs for example are rapidly growing in diesel models every year but with an electric van they are relatively stable and low. Also looking at the lifecycle, we realized that traditional leasing is usually 3-4 years but if you have an electric van with a standard battery warranty of eight years, it makes more sense to have a leasing period of six years. We made several other changes as well to the models for one single reason: EVs are still more expensive but if you lease them, you can pay 500 Euros per month, and depending on the country, even 400.  That is already the same as diesel. We can give you a van that has a better cost of ownership on the long term and costs less from day one. It is now offered to customers by major leasing companies, for example Arval and LeasePlan.

The third pillar is Switch to Electric services, which is one of the keys to CEE markets as well. Over the last several years we developed the capability to understand most of the issues fleet managers can come up with. One element of this service is suitability analysis: we take city routes and tell the customer where it is economical to use electric vehicles and where it is not. It is hugely successful in Western Europe where companies care about sustainability anyway. We can show them that by switching to electric you will not only create less CO2, but you can also save 3000 Euros per year on one route as well. This is the part where everybody starts listening. We also have experts who can help clients in how to build charging infrastructure most effectively. Charging companies might tell you that you need 20 fast chargers for 20 vans, at 10,000 Euros each. But this is not true. For this amount of vans, five wall-boxes might be enough with some additional regular plugs. With this service we saved clients hundreds of thousands of Euros. This service is very useful in the CEE region because we are still a bit behind in terms of electrification.

Who ares your typical customers in the CEE region?

Usually it starts either with a big fan of e-mobility who has a small company and buys few cars initially and then slowly more and more. Or, it’s the international groups which have subsidiaries in CEE and the goal comes from, let´s say Paris, that everybody must have at least five electric vans in their fleets.

However, times are changing because interest is now really big in this region as well.

Now pretty much every fleet manager is seriously looking at e-cars as an option.

Generally speaking, our clients are mainly courier, logistics and postal services

What is the best strategy for fleet managers when it comes to EVs?

With passenger cars it can be easy. In the UK there are now even companies where the policy is to only have EVs. People are happy about it because you get to work, you get home and you can charge it at both places.

With vans it is a bit more difficult. Our typical client delivers packages: they are looking for bigger spaces than what we offer.

The best strategy is to start with the city. If you have anything outside the city, keep it for later. Start in your most populated areas with the most stops and shortest distances. There, even the smallest battery should be enough and it is the most economical. One of my clients in London drives for 3 pennies per mile with the EV and diesel vans are doing 20 pennies per mile.

The city should be your starting point and by the time you get out of the city center, there will be even better EVs.

If a customer wants to buy an EV why should it be Voltia?

From the current available models, the Nissan NV200 is the best and most reliable. There are few vans in the mid-size section, plus, we offer it for a very reasonable price. One category above and the prices are ridiculously high – 100-200% more. So now we are almost as big as the big vans and almost as cheap as the small vans. Voltia today is a very easy choice for clients. But things are changing fast so we know we will have to come up with something new in the future.

Our strength is that for delivery services, mid-size is enough. 8-10 m3 capacity is needed and car manufacturers still do not realize this. Our vans are not necessarily pretty but they are extremely practical and they have the OEM warranties and full after sales network because of being part of the Nissan catalogue.

How big is the demand for commercial EV vehicles in Europe and in the Central &Eastern Europe region and how much can it grow in the future?

There is huge demand and companies are coming out every week with new plans. DHL has a target to have 60% of city vans EVs and DPD wants 100%. Even small companies start to show interest as well, even though sometimes it is only because they see their competitor using EVs.

If we speak about the demand for our own products, Voltia is present in 17 countries in Europe. Our biggest customer is Chronopost (part of DPD Group) in Paris. They purchased 400 cars from us. In general, most of our customers are in parcel delivery an e-commerce business, or postal companies. Our biggest customer is DPD which will have Voltia cars in eight countries in the future.

How many cars do you sell in total in a year and what is your capacity?

We sold roughly 1,000 cars cumulatively so far. The new 10m3 version is very popular.This year selling 500-800 of the 10 m3 version is planned. The future is clear for us, we would like to cover up to 5-7 percent of the European electric van market in cooperation also with other OEMs next to Nissan.

Production capacity is not a limitation in this. Now we have 3 production facilities via our huge TIER 1 & 2 OEM partners. The first one is in Trnava, Slovakia. The company Gruau in Laval (France) is Europe’s biggest conversion company with the largest facility and they are our partner as well. In the UK we have a partner too which supplies the UK and Ireland. If necessary, we can have a production capacity of up to 10,000 yearly.

How important factor is their sustainability/ESG strategy for your customers when they select EVs instead of diesel cars?

Pledges are important indications to make people realize that this is coming. Once these commitments are made, it makes not only the people inside the company but also the competitors and the whole ecosystem realize that this makes sense and they start looking at it. I would not call sustainability pledges game changers but they are a very important factor.

There is also another interesting aspect though: you cannot ignore the drivers. We had a big customer ordering vans, we started to deliver and suddenly a letter came asking the deliveries to stop. We did not understand. What happened was that there was no communication campaign with the drivers, and every single van was parked in front of the depot. Drivers just refused to use them, it was complete revolution. They actually had to realize that

educating the drivers and changing the culture are important.

Later the whole order was delivered without a problem, but this caused a delay and the reason was only that a strategic decision was made by the management without speaking with the drivers. So pledges are important but it is also important to communicate them and not as an order, but as an explanation of benefits and getting employees’ buy-in.

To summarize, what was the key to your success?

This is a company that started a decade ago with two keen founders who had the idea to change the world of electric vans. They had to – on a daily basis – change the impossible in to the possible. This is not a guarantee for success of course. Today we are a well-known company in most of Europe and have our customers in London, Paris, Dortmund , Vienna and in many more European cities. I think this is because these two founders saw the possibility in commercial EVs long before the others did.