Navistar Rolls Outs Electric Truck Prototype

Oct. 1, 2009
Navistar showed off a prototype of a light-duty all-electric delivery truck to members of Congress during a special event held here yesterday here on Capitol Hill

WASHINGTON. DC. Navistar showed off a prototype of a light-duty all-electric delivery truck to members of Congress during a special event held yesterday here on Capitol Hill. The truck was designed and built in part with the help of a $39-million grant from Dept. of Energy (DOE).

Navistar executives said they intend to build 400 of these all-electric delivery trucks next year at the former Monaco coach factory in Elkhart County, IN. They expect within a few years to be producing several thousand such vehicles annually as the market for all-electric delivery trucks grows.

Shane Terblanche, vp-strategic marketing for Navistar subsidiary Workhorse Custom Chassis, told FleetOwner that the vehicle has been designed inside and outside to specifically function in urban areas. Workhorse will directly handle design and production of the truck.

“The narrow nose with a windshield providing 180 degrees of visibility meets the maneuverability needs of trucks operating in tight, narrow streets,” he said. “We’ve also designed it to be very ergonomic for the driver. For example, they easily slide in and out of the driver seat, while entering and exiting the cargo compartment directly from the cab. That will minimize the daily stress and strain of opening and closing heavy rear doors.”

Terblanche noteds that the batteries powering this truck – located between the vehicle’s frame rails for added safety – can be swapped out in 15 minutes to be recharged separately from the vehicle. “Obviously, there’s added cost to purchasing two battery packs, but that allows the fleet to avoid the truck being completely idle during the nominal six to eight hour battery recharge period.”

With a GVWR of 12,000 lbs, the as-yet-unnamed electric truck can carry up to 3,600 lbs of payload, travel 100 miles on a single battery charge, attain speeds of up to 50 miles per hour, and has a 50-degree wheel cut that gives it a 36-ft turning radius.

“This all-electric truck is a concrete example of advanced technology that can be swiftly brought to market with government incentives, just like diesel-hybrid trucks and school buses,” said Greg Elliott, Navistar senior vp. He noted that the U.S. House of Representatives recently passed legislation allowing for a program of research, development, and commercial application of clean vehicle technologies at DOE (H.R. 3246, Advanced Vehicle Technology Act of 2009) and said that bill is now headed to the Senate.

“The message here is that we, as a manufacturer, can’t do it alone,” Elliott said. “This is why government support is so critical – it helps us bring such technology to market faster and more efficiently.”

Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) voiced strong support for Navistar’s all-electric truck at the event, in part because building these trucks is creating jobs in his home state-- but also because of its implications for the nation’s energy future.

“We expect to create 400 jobs initially from building these trucks, which over time could increase to 700 well-paid permanent jobs,” Bayh said. “That’s a very significant thing with the U.S. economy being as challenged as it is right now.

“But this is important for our energy future,” he added. “We currently send way too much money to the Persian Gulf, Hugo Chavez [president of Venezuela] and other places for our energy needs, particularly for petroleum. These vehicles are being powered by electricity produced here in the U.S. The electrification of our vehicles, both cars and trucks like we see here today, will go a long way to ensuring energy security for America’s future.”

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Sean Kilcarr