Lightning eMotors Capitalizes on Federal Electric Truck Incentives

A batch of Lightning eMotors electric class 3 vans
A batch of Lightning eMotors electric class 3 vans delivered to GoBolt. (Lightning eMotors via Associated Press)

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Lightning eMotors, a Loveland, Colo.-based manufacturer and seller of electric vehicles for commercial fleets, has been certified under the “buy America” program, making its products eligible for federal grants designed to help electrify the nation’s transportation.

Lightning eMotors said its Class 3 passenger van, which can accommodate up to 10 passengers and a wheelchair, was also recently certified by the Larson Transportation Institute’s Bus Research and Testing Center in Altoona, Pa., which tests vehicles for safety and durability.

Chelsea Ramm, the company’s vice president of global supply chain, said the certification under the third-party audits means customers can apply for Federal Transit Administration grants for low- and no-emission vehicles.

The company is seeking certification for its Class 4 passenger van, which can carry up to 16 passengers.

The move to increase the number of electric medium- and heavy-duty trucks on the road has accelerated with the incentives in the federal Inflation Reduction Act. It includes tax credits for vehicles and charging equipment. Heavy-duty vehicles are eligible for tax credits of up to $40,000.

Nick Bettis, Lightning eMotors’ vice president of marketing and sales operations, said the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to make $1 billion in grants available in April for zero- and low-emission school buses.

Lightning eMotors has teamed up with school bus manufacturer Collins Bus Corp. to produce electric school buses. The company has sold vehicles to more than 40 fleet customers, including DHL, Amazon, ABC Cos. and Fluid Trucks.

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Under an agreement reached in 2022, Lightning eMotors will electrify medium-duty General Motors truck platforms, which can be used for school and shuttle buses and delivery and work trucks.

President Joe Biden has set a goal of electric vehicles making up 50% of all vehicles sold in the U.S. by 2030 as part of efforts to address climate change. The administration’s “made in America” policies are meant to spur domestic manufacturing of electric vehicles, chargers and batteries.

At the state level, one of the goals is to have at least 35,000 electric or hydrogen-fueled medium- and heavy-duty vehicles on Colorado roads by 2030. Another target is that 100% of the new sales in the category be zero-emission vehicles by 2050.

Electrifying commercial fleets and heavier-duty trucks is seen as important because they produce 22% of the greenhouse gases emitted by vehicles while making up less than 10% of all the vehicles on Colorado roads, according to the state department of transportation.

The Colorado Air Quality Control Commission will consider rules for reducing emissions from trucks.

A technician works on the Lightning eMotors assembly line

Assembly technician Rachanna Xiong works on the electrical harness on the accessory sled for an electric vehicle at Lightning eMotors in Loveland, Colo. (Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post via TNS)

Ramm said Lightning eMotors is expanding its financing and grants team to help customers navigate through the various federal and state grant programs and incentives.

“I think people are still trying to understand what all the funding means. There are billions of dollars available in the market, but a lot of people just aren’t aware how much is applicable to their situation,” Ramm said.

Bettis said the company is working with transit agencies on what federal funding is available. The company also helps with installing charging equipment for customers.

Lightning eMotors, founded in 2008, has expanded its production space to about 241,000 square feet on an industrial park formerly owned by Agilent Technologies. Bettis said the park has a total of roughly 1 million square feet.

“There’s plenty of room to expand,” Bettis said. “When I started in 2019, I was employee 63. We’re at 330 employees now.”

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