Electric trucks have benefits, but still struggle against economics.

 
There’s still a spark of interest in electric trucks. As a fuel, electricity is cheap, and on the street, vehicles that use it are extremely clean. There is no internal combustion engine to maintain, so operating costs have been low. Drivers love them for their quickness and quietness, and clean-air advocates embrace them for their pollution-reduction potential.

But electric trucks still cost two or three times the price of conventionally powered trucks, needing government support for purchases to make decent business cases. Meanwhile, moderating fuel prices have reduced the potential savings needed to pay off any extra investment.

One start-up company, Boulder Electric Vehicles, shut down its California factory and Colorado headquarters over the summer, according to the Los Angeles Daily News. CEO Carter Brown told the newspaper slow sales were to blame. But Boulder is not filing for bankruptcy and is still servicing the trucks it has sold. Brown hopes changing market conditions will allow the company to be resurrected.

electric trucks

EVI assembled 100 electric-drive vans for UPS using FCCC glider kits, and 15 cab-chassis trucks for Frito-Lay from Freightliner M2 gliders.


Boulder chose to develop a complete vehicle, including a chassis and a lightweight walk-in-type cab. This was expensive, says Tedd Abramson, president and CEO of Zero Truck in southern California, which converts Isuzu NPR low-cab-forward trucks to electric power.

“We remove the engine and transmission and sell them, and put in our own powertrain,” Abramson explains. The battery is a high-energy lithium polymer type, made in the U.S. by Xalt.

Zero sold its first truck in early 2010 to the City of Santa Monica, where it’s still in use. The company is now processing orders for 12 trucks that will go to municipalities and fleets.

“We don’t like to see any of the electric vehicle companies go out of business, because it affects the perception in the marketplace,” Abramson says.

He contends there’s enough business for everybody. “There are 88,000 large municipalities all over the U.S. that have fleets, and most of their trucks drive less than 80 miles per day. The economics of an electric truck are very positive.“

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