Ryder is moving into the electric-truck business, an early sign that a market for commercial electric vehicles is beginning to take shape.
Miami-based Ryder System Inc. announced a deal Monday with new Los Angeles-based company Chanje as the electric-truck maker’s exclusive sales and service partner.
“We believe electric vehicles will play a major role in the future of commercial transportation,” said Dennis Cooke, president of global fleet management at Ryder, in a statement.
Ryder, one of the nation’s largest medium-duty truck fleet management companies, will buy trucks from Chanje, then lease and service them through its extensive network. Leases will include fleet deals and one-off rentals to customers who want to try out the electric trucks.
Medium-duty trucks are used mainly on delivery routes that run less than 100 miles, meaning they can run a full day using today’s battery technology before needing a recharge. Think of UPS or FedEx parcel delivery vans, for instance, or smaller trucks at urban grocery stores delivering dog food or snack crackers.
Chanje recently showed off its first product: an all-electric delivery truck equipped to haul up to 6,000 pounds of goods in 580 square feet of cargo space with a 100-mile range. The company plans other vehicle configurations too.
Electric trucks like Chanje’s exist, but almost all were designed for diesel engines and then customized for batteries and electric motors. Chanje trucks were designed for all-electric powertrains from conception.
The Chanje trucks will be imported from China until the company opens an assembly plant in the United States. It’s scouting for a site in the Western states. When that plant opens, it will import kits of partially assembled truck parts from a factory in Hangzhou, China, for final assembly here.
The China factory is owned by FDG, a Hong Kong maker of electric vehicles, battery packs and battery cells. Chanje is a joint venture between FDG and Smith Electric Vehicles Corp., a U.S. company. Chanje vehicles will be sold in China under the brand name Chang Jiang.
About 300,000 to 500,000 new medium-size trucks are sold in the U.S. each year. That’s not a huge market, but successful penetration could be lucrative for a newcomer.
Electric cars are struggling to gain a foothold in the U.S. market. Companies such as Tesla are planning to introduce electric-powered big-rig haulers, which will need to overcome the issue of limited range.