Electric and hybrid cars are a sure-fire way to improve transportation's eco-footprint. But it's not cars that bring the most pollution to roads, it's trucks that cross thousands of road miles every year with large fuel-slurping, emission-heavy engines. And now two companies aim to change that.
At the Work Truck show in Chicago this week, Electric Vehicles International rolled out what it calls the first line of "road-ready commercial transport electric vehicles." These are goods hauling vehicles in the class 3-6 category, and they come with electric or hybrid-electric engines.
As EVI points out, a truck fleet with electric or hybrid engines brings a number of benefits—starting with the lower cost of delivering goods thanks to the higher dollar-per-mile efficiency of electric vehicles versus gas or diesel ones. And with fluctuating fuel prices that affect those costs on a daily basis, a hybrid fleet saves on all the complex budgeting and planning that currently takes place to maximize profits from any given transport run.
The trucks come with a 100kW motor and either lithium-ion or lead-acid batteries, and a choice of natural gas or gasoline hybrid drives. The class 3 and 4 vehicles have a top speed of around 60mph while the larger class 5 and 6 can manage 55mph.
Simultaneously, Smith Electric Vehicles announced the arrival of its Smith Newton commercial truck to the U.S. It's an all-electric design, can carry up to 16,280 lbs and its 120kW motor gives it a max speed of 50 mph. Fully recharging the vehicle takes six-to-eight hours, equivalent to an overnight stop, and it has a range that's respectable, getting 100 miles on a single charge. The Newton's been used in Europe for over three years, and in bringing it to the U.S. Smith is targeting the same depot-centric delivery journeys that the vehicle's been used for overseas—post delivery, highway maintenance and so on. Since it needs such a long stop-over between runs, the depot-center model is perfect.
Smith's also announced that it will partner with Ford on an all-electric Transit Connect light van, that will go into production in 2010.
And from an eco-standpoint, of course, an electric truck is a no-brainer—especially considering the number of Transit-like vans continually circling the roads from depot to delivery and back. Even the American Trucking Association is aware of the gargantuan environmental impact of all those vehicles wending their way across the U.S., and last year proposed a lower speed limit for trucks, which could reduce CO2 emissions by 31.5 million tons per year. Running an all-electric or hybrid motor consumes even less non-renewable fuel, ejects less CO2 into the atmosphere, and also dumps less of the unpleasant pollutants spewed out by diesel engines onto the environment.