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E&MU: Electric Trucks Reach the Market

But Battery-Powered Delivery Vehicles Face Hurdles to Achieving Mainstream Acceptance From Fleets

By Mindy Long, Contributing Writer, Special to E&MU

This story appears in the May/June 2011 issue of Equipment & Maintenance Update, a supplement to the May 16 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

It appears that the time for electric commercial trucks has arrived. After years of an­nouncements promoting concepts and prototypes, several suppliers have introduced battery-electric production models.

As with other alternative power systems, such as hybrids or natural gas trucks, electric trucks are not the silver bullet that will reduce all of a fleet’s operating costs.

Electric trucks have significant limitations. They cost a lot and have limited operating range, and their power source is a developing technology.

Nevertheless, they may find a home in some fleet and business applications as battery technology evolves and prices fall.

With just a handful of commercial suppliers, the number of available models is low. However, each unit is highly customizable, giving fleets the ability to create vehicles tailored to their operations, industry executives said.

For example, ZeroTruck, Irvine, Calif., starts with the Isuzu N Series chassis, then configures the battery box and body based on a fleet’s payload and range requirements, said Tedd Abramson, president and chief marketing officer.

Smith Electric Vehicles, Kansas City, Mo., manufacturer of the Smith Newton battery-electric truck, offers several different sizes and payloads. “We sell a cabin

chassis, and it can be used on vehicles with boom trucks, shuttle buses or a 24-foot van body,” said Bryan Han-sel, Smith’s CEO.

Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp., Gaff-ney, S.C., and Mor-gan Olson, Sturgis, Mich., have partnered to produce the all-electric MT-EV walk-in van, which will be available later this year.

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