The United States Marine Corps purchased two Smith Newton electric trucks, it announced yesterday, making it the first military organization to do so. The Newtons, which are put out by Smith Electric Vehicles , have been making inroads into the U.S., after having gained in popularity abroad. The trucks will be built in Smith Electric's Missouri plant and should arrive at Camp Pendleton, California, the Corps' biggest training facility on the West Coast, by February.
For all the talk of electric cars, it's the gas-guzzling commercial trucks that really deserve our attention . The Smith Newton has zero tailpipe emissions, is virtually silent, and ultimately emits 75% less greenhouse gas than a typical diesel truck; it has a range of about 100 miles on a single charge and hits a top speed of 55 mph. The Newton is the only medium-duty ("class 4 -7") all-electric commercial truck on the schedule of the General Services Administration, which handles government contracts with suppliers.
In September, the Center for a New American Security, a young but influential think tank in Washington, D.C., called upon the armed forces to end dependency on petroleum fuels by 2040. The Marine Corps is forward thinking in this regard, and has announced plans to be 25% reliant on renewable energy by 2025.
Kudos to the Marine Corps. But did it have to be bested by a snack chip company? Back in September, PepsiCo's Frito-Lay  North America division announced plans to have the largest commercial fleet of electric trucks in North America--176 of them by 2011. Five such trucks hit the streets of New York a few months ago. Staples, Coke, and AT&T are among the other corporations that beat the Armed Forces to the punch.