Passing the Torch

The impact of mass production of Electric Commercial Vehicles

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By Luka Keck

The impact of mass production of Electric Commercial Vehicles

As I began researching material for this article, I looked for all the quotes I could find, credited to Henry Ford, to see if anyone had ever asked him, while he was first inventing the automobile and bringing it to market, what effect he thought his product was going to have on the world. I didn’t find any evidence to indicate that that specific question was ever asked of him or what, if any, was his response. I find that very interesting.

Could he have imagined that almost a century later, the U.S. would be the home of over 250 million “horseless carriages;” that, alone, the U.S. Interstate Highway System would be long enough to wrap almost two times around the globe? Could he have ever dreamed that in order to keep all these versions of his innovation running, the U.S. would have to produce over 9 million barrels per day of gasoline; that we would have hundreds of nationwide chains devoted to the care, servicing and customization and protection of these strange new “horseless carriages.” I don’t think so. I don’t believe any inventor fully comprehends the scope of his creation prior to its mass production but once mass production of an innovation is achieved, one thing is certain, you will have new industry.

The invention of the internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle created a need for paved roads, highways, parking garages, gas stations and mechanics. The end result of these needs was the creation of dozens of industries that without the innovation of the automobile would never have existed.

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The mass production of electric commercial vehicles probably won’t have as wide a ranging impact on the world as that of Mr. Ford’s first vehicle, because in reality it is an improvement of an existing product. Electric vehicles can travel the same roadways as internal combustion vehicles. With relatively inexpensive modifications what we now call gas stations could be equipped with battery chargers, propane, LNG and CNG, paving the way for longer hauls made by HEV’s that are capable of Auto Regen using propane or natural gas which burn cleaner and with less waste. So what will the impact be of ECV’s (electric commercial vehicles) be then?

The simplicity of an ECV’s power train when compared to that of an ICE is monumental. The vast spectrum of regular maintenance issues and petroleum products that can be reduced or even eliminated by converting their fleets to ECV’s is also an extremely attractive added benefit for any potential owner.

The technology now available in the ECV and HCV market opens the door to fleet conversions for nearly all commercial and utility route vehicles. Mail and parcel delivery trucks, school busses, city busses, garbage trucks, tow trucks, maintenance vehicles–virtually any light to medium duty vehicle can now be purchased with an electric or hybrid drive train.

Twenty years have passed since we outlawed leaded gas completely and as a result I believe our environment is in a much better condition than it would have been if we had not. However, the time has arrived to make another change, a bigger change, the gradual but consistent change from unleaded and diesel to electricity LPG, LNG and CNG.

Of course there will be obstacles and stumbling blocks during this transition just as there were during the development of the infrastructure and support services markets for all ICE vehicles, but the return on the investment will have a lasting effect on the impact that we as a culture have on the ecosystem.

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The future of T&D hinges on many successes in technology, security, renewables and demand response–to name a few. One great tactic to succeed technologically and financially is to electrify your utility fleet. The advantages are numerous in converting a fleet to plug-in battery electric vehicles (BEV) or plug-in hybrids (PHEV), not to mention you can lease the batteries. The beauty about leasing is that you can forecast your operating expenses for years amidst a backdrop of volatile oil price swings. As well, you will be able to utilize a battery’s “second life.” Batteries for electric vehicles must be discontinued once they have diminished to 80 percent of their initial power, and these discontinued large-format batteries can be utilized for UBS and stationary energy storage applications. Going electric will give any utility a leg-up on their experience with Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) interaction as well. As your fleet recharges at night, you will gain a remarkable sample pool of energy storage to draw research from.

Imagine what our world would be like if all our vehicles made little or no noise and had little or no emissions and needed only one-tenth the maintenance and auxiliary supplies that ICE vehicles use. The hazy clouds hanging over each of our major cities could be diminished. Dependence on foreign oil could be reduced or possibly even eliminated; the variables and incidental expenses involved in running a fleet reduced exponentially. No air filters, mufflers, catalytic converters, oil pumps, fuel pumps, fuel filters, or carburetors.

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There is no time like the present to buy new electric utility vehicles or to convert existing ones. Billions of federal dollars from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) are going towards transportation electrification, smart grid and energy efficiency. Specifically for your fleet, the Clean Diesel Emerging Technologies Program component of the ARRA will provide unheard of financial incentives that can make a loan recipient have better than market rates or conditions for the purchase of EV equipment.

Electric Vehicles International, a multinational manufacturer of electric and hybrid commercial vehicles, has the ability to create EV’s or HEV’s to fit virtually any specifications ranging from LSV’s all the way up to Class 6 Commercial Trucks. They can even offer the option of converting your existing fleet to EV or HEV, which combined with the current state and federal tax incentives can greatly reduce initial costs

Over the past 20 years EVI has made strategic partnerships which have formed a powerful vertically integrated manufacturing system with LE’s high quality motors at the heart of their trucks, AlphaCom’s controllers at the head and Valence Technology’s state of the art Lithium Phosphate batteries as the driving force. These partnerships combined with their timing and position in the market not only bring them to the table with an impressive product to offer, but they can do so at a price that is at last financially viable for virtually any fleet.

Just as Henry Ford could have had no idea to what extent his invention was going to change the world, I don’t believe anyone alive today can accurately forecast all of the long term effects, both positive and negative, that will come from our gradual transition from gas and diesel to Electric, LPG, LNG, and CNG. The short and long term benefits that we are certain of now make the project well worth the time and effort.


About the Author:
Luka Keck has helped facilitate EVI’s 2009 U.S. launch. Joining EVI in late February, her experience in sales and marketing has yielded much success from a very receptive marketplace.

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