Friday, January 22, 2010

Large Scale Electric Freight Truck Project In US

Postal Service may lead the way for Delivery Vehicles
Shipping News Feature

US –In the past few months we have carried many articles on the increasing numbers of electric vans and trucks being developed and trialled throughout the world. Larger companies face the problem that, despite the low running and maintenance cost promised, the initial cost of a new vehicle is comparatively still quite high at a time when investment in plant and machinery is bound to be depressed. Now the US Postal Service is on a serious quest to gain the long term benefits of electric drive trains whilst retaining their existing delivery fleet.

Don’t expect to be run over unexpectedly by a silent white van just yet however. The plan is for the chosen vehicles to be tested for some while around Washington DC and is only one of several options the Postal Service is considering. The advantages of an all electric urban delivery fleet however are manifold. USPS run the largest civilian delivery fleet in the world and electric trucks fit their remit exactly. This week they announced a joint venture between AC Propulsion, acknowledged leaders in the EV field already, and lesser known Autoport Incorporated to produce a prototype vehicle for assessment.

The prize contract for a successful trial will be the enormous vehicle fleet which USPS run daily (quoted statistics range as high as 260,000). AC Propulsion claim figures of 60mph and a 300 mile range for their AC-150 drive system although whether this will be as effective in a truck carrying a full load of mail remains to be seen. The units will be initially fitted to a conventional Grumman LLV long life vehicle by Autoport who are specialist vehicle converters and finishers. If that conjours up an image of a back street garage don’t be fooled.

Autoport have their main plant at New Castle, Delaware with its own rail terminal capable of turning round up to around 100 Norfolk Southern rail freight cars a day plus direct river access to the Port of Wilmington with whom they have a contract until 2018. From here they ship the 100,000 automobiles, trucks and oversized rolling stock units annually exported to Middle Eastern, African and Mediterranean markets.

With fuel price rises always a bone of contention a fully electrified fleet for USPS would seem to be a no brainer. The vast majority of the company’s mail movements are via round town, shortish routes conducted in daylight hours. The AC Propulsion unit is claimed to produce around 200 kilowatts, that is to say over 260 horsepower with a recharging time somewhere in the region of four hours and with technology from the company who gave us the power for the Tesla Roadster and Mini-e a successful trial seems likely.

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