Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Freight Fleet Managers Should Take A Look At Electric Commercial Vehicles

Smiths Claim 10+ Year Battery Life for Vans and Trucks!
Shipping News Feature

UK – It is no secret that we at Handy Shipping Guide are always keen to promote new cleaner technology, nor can it be avoided that, as Britain’s biggest seller of trucks and vans powered exclusively by electricity, Smiths Electric Vehicles clearly have a vested interest in promoting their products. New information gathered by the company from its own and its customers’ records regarding possible battery life nevertheless makes persuasive reading.

Smith’s has conducted extensive trials on the lithium-ion phosphate (LiFePO4) batteries in its Smith Edison and Smith Newton commercial vehicles and believes its tests demonstrate that the vehicles should lead productive working lives for at least a decade. The Edison is based on the Ford Transit and the Newton is a general truck range going up to a gross vehicle weight of 12 tonnes.

According to Smith’s figures the estimated life for the power packs has been underestimated by themselves and their battery suppliers, probably fearful of painting too bright a picture for such a new product and thus erring on the side of caution.

Smith Electric used to use Sodium Nickel Chloride (Zebra) batteries, but moved to LiFePO4 for its longer life, durability and better performance. Smith now guarantees its batteries for five years, as opposed to the 3-year warranty it could offer on Zebra batteries. And because the drive train on a Smith vehicle is friction-free, it does not wear in the same way as an internal combustion engine.

As Kevin Harkin, Sales Director for Smith Electric Vehicles, commented:

“The battery condition reports delivered much more impressive figures than we ever expected, demonstrating far lower levels of battery degradation than even the manufacturer forecast. Our own research - and independent tests that we commissioned - have verified that the battery should still have a minimum of 80 per cent capacity after 3,000 cycles. So even if the vehicle uses a full battery cycle, every day for 300 days a year, it will still be 80% efficient after 10 years. For example, a vehicle that had a 100-mile range brand new will still have an 80-mile range, a decade later.”

Harkin points out that the new generation batteries extend the operating life of the vehicle to as much as a decade and, this in itself brings about a whole new set of formulae for the potential purchaser. What will the optimum resale time and value be if one invests in a new truck? Smiths foresee a fleet manager operating an electric vehicle (EV) until its range capabilities decrease below their requirements; then sell the vehicle into an application that requires lower mileage.

Harkin continues:

“This opens up enormous potential for secondary markets, particularly with tradesmen working in London or other large urban conurbations. A small trader can’t see the whole life cost benefits at £60,000 for a new electric van. However, a £15,000 van that will save them £5,000 a year in fuel, tax and Congestion Charge is a very attractive prospect.

“Similarly, airports have been buying refurbished electric vehicles for decades and fully understand the concept. They don’t need 100 mile range for airside operations. Several operators have already indicated that they would welcome the opportunity to purchase pre-owned vehicles.”

Although battery technology will undoubtedly improve as the EV industry matures, Smith does not expect that this will render older technologies obsolete. The company expects the value of older vehicles will be linked to their displacement of diesel costs – therefore, every increase in pump prices or congestion charging enhances the worth of an EV. There are road-going electric commercials built by Smith 30 years ago that are still working vehicles.

“It is incredibly difficult for managers to set resale values because they have no historical data – the new lithium-ion battery packs have only been in the field for three years. We have sold more pre-owned electric vehicles than anyone else. Recent sales of ex-demonstration models have justified our views on where the resale valuation can be set.” concluded Harkin.

So the challenge is out there, the bigger logistics companies already are trialling numerous new technology freight delivery vehicles in urban situations and it is only a matter of time before these pioneering vehicles appear as ‘previously enjoyed’ models, usually one would expect as part of a trade in deal. Once the all important fuel and congestion calculations are made it seems inevitable that for a certain part of the supply chain city based hauliers will switch to electric.

Photo: A Walker Delivery Truck Built in Chicago in 1909, sold last month at auction for $44,000 and apparently still going strong! 15 mph with a 40 mile range we’ve only started to realise what was possible. For more details check HERE.