All-Electric Trucks Roll Out in DC

All-Electric Trucks Roll Out in DC

Coca-Coca Enterprises, AT&T, Frito-Lay, Staples, Pacific Gas & Electric and Kansas City Power & Light each took delivery of an all-electric truck from Smith Electric Vehicles today at the Capitol Reflecting Pool on the National Mall.

Bryan Hansel, the CEO for Smith Electric Vehicles U.S., U.S. Senator Kit Bond of Missouri and Carol Browner, the assistant to the president for Energy and Climate Change, hosted the event to showcase the new technology. With climate change legislation now under consideration in the Senate, the Capitol was a figurative as well as literal backdrop for the launch.

Bond, who serves as the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Green Jobs and the New Economy, praised Smith and the companies that received the keys to the electric trucks called Smith Newtons.

"...We must have a comprehensive solution including investment in alternative energy technology if America is ever to be in control of its own energy future," Bond said in a statement. "Smith Electric Vehicles U.S. is responding to the challenge. And so too are the companies here today who are switching from gas to electric-powered vehicles."

Coca-Cola Enterprises' new Smith Newton all-electric truck. Photo courtesy of CCE. Courtesy of CCE.


The six trucks were made by Smith Electric Vehicles in the United Kingdom, but future all-electric trucks for the U.S. market are expected to come from Kansas City in Bond's home state, where the company set up its U.S. headquarters this year. A new assembly line, in a former TWA hangar at the Kansas City International Airport, is expected to create 120 jobs by next year.

The Smith Newtons are powered by Lithium-ion batteries and a 120kw electric motor, reach a top speed of 50 mph, can travel more than 100 miles on a full charge and have a payload of about 16,000 pounds — attributes that make them good vehicles for deliveries and other work in urban areas. The trucks’  regenerative braking system enables them to reclaim energy during stop-start operations, which turns a disadvantage of urban driving into a benefit.

The trucks are the largest to be powered by an electric battery and are the first commercial all-electric trucks to earn new vehicle emissions certification in California.

In an interview with Fox News [video], Hansel said the trucks currently cost about three times as much as a standard vehicle of comparable size (a source told GreenBiz.com the price tag would be about $170,000) but that the figure is expected to come down as demand and production grow.

Although the four firms and two utilities each received a single truck today for pilots by their companies, at least one — Coca-Cola Enterprises — plans to get more.

AT&T also is conducting a trial of a Smith Newton. Photo courtesy of AT&T. Courtesy of AT&T


The largest bottler of Coke beverages, CCE expects to receive three more trucks for its pilot of the all-electric delivery vehicles, probably by fall, company spokesman Fred Roselli told GreenBiz.com. Two of the trucks for the trial program will go to New York and two will be deployed in Washington, D.C. The trucks for CCE are expected to run about 150 miles on a full charge.

Roselli acknowledged that the sticker price for the trucks is high, but said his company is looking beyond the immediate cost and short-term ROI to evaluate strong candidates for its green fleet.

"We're acting as advocates to help lead the charge toward cleaner, greener vehicles," Roselli said.

With 327 hybrid trucks, CCE has the largest hybrid delivery fleet in North America. It also has one hybrid truck operating overseas and 150 hybrid cars in the company's sales fleet.

Asked about AT&T's expectations for ROI, Vice President of Fleet Operations Jerome Webber told GreenBiz.com: "We believe this truck has the potential to allow AT&T to further decrease emissions and increase our overall fuel savings."

"Through our trial, we will be looking at a number of performance issues — repair and maintenance costs associated with an electric battery vehicle; maximum and average mile range between charges; energy costs to operate an all electric vehicle; acceleration and performance of the truck; and, driver feedback on the overall performance," Webber said in a statement provided to GreenBiz.com "Knowing these performance issues will help us determine the ROI of this vehicle and help drive further investments in this type of truck."

AT&T also is evaluating a range of vehicles for its green fleet, and its investment for the Smith Newton is separate from the $565 million commitment to more eco-friendly vehicles that the telecommunications giant announced earlier this year. AT&T said the sum will go toward deploying 15,000 alternative-fuel vehicles in the next 10 years.

"The 15,000 vehicles, while significant, only actually represent about 20 percent of our total fleet," Webber said. "For the other types of work vehicles we use, there are simply no fuel-efficient choices currently available from U.S. automakers.  And that is the reason why we are extremely excited about the Smith Electric's Newton."

A privately held company, Smith Electric Vehicles U.S. is owned by Private Investors Management and the Tanfield Group Plc, based in Washington, Tyne & Wear, U.K.. Tanfield also is the parent company of Smith Electric Vehicles in the U.K.