Electric trucks pick up speed
While the delivery of the first Nissan Leaf electric car to a California buyer over the weekend made headlines, thereâ€™s been relatively little attention paid to the small but growing electric truck and bus market.
As the workhorses of the economy, delivery trucks, city buses and other heavy-duty vehicles donâ€™t carry the cachet of, say, a Tesla Roadster electric sports car. But electrifying urban fleets could go a long way to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and pollutants as well as helping wean the United States off imported oil.
Itâ€™s a huge potential market, as overseas companies have recognized. For instance, on Sunday, Chinaâ€™s BYD acknowledged it was in talks to supply battery-powered buses to the city of Los Angeles. Â And on Monday, the U.S. licensee of the United Kingdomâ€™s Smith Electric Vehicles announced it had sold electric trucks to the U.S. Marines.
â€śDiesel is great for the highway but it is not very good for efficiency or pollution in urban environments,â€ť Robert Kanode, chief executive of battery maker Valence Technology, Â said in an interview. â€śWhen youâ€™re going down the street and stopping three times on a block, electric delivery trucks really make sense.â€ť
Valence, based in Austin, Texas, makes lithium iron magnesium phosphate battery systems for electric trucks manufactured by Smith Electric and other companies.
â€śWe always felt that fleets would be first as we didnâ€™t know when electric cars would show up,â€ť said Kanode about Valenceâ€™s decision to make truck batteries when the company started 20 years ago.
Buyers for corporate delivery fleets generally donâ€™t suffer from range anxiety when it comes to electric delivery trucks, according to Kanode. He said the different battery systems Valence sells to Smith give trucks a range of 30 miles, 50 to 60 miles or 110 to 120 miles.
â€śTheyâ€™re very popular with buyers like Pepsi or Frito-Lay because they only want delivery trucks with a 25- mile to 30-mile range,â€ť Kanode said.
(Photo courtesy of Smith Electric Vehicles.)