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Workhorse Group to Deploy N-Gen Electric Delivery Vans in San Francisco

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【Summary】Workhorse Group, the Ohio-based company specializing in electric delivery vans and trucks, is launched the first real-world testing of its lightweight, electric delivery van. The company announced that it is testing four N-Gen vans in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Eric Walz    Mar 30, 2018 10:37 AM PT
Workhorse Group to Deploy N-Gen Electric Delivery Vans in San Francisco
author: Eric Walz   

Workhorse Group, the Ohio-based company specializing in electric delivery vans and trucks, is launched the first real-world testing of its lightweight, electric delivery van. The company announced that it is testing four N-Gen vans in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The carbon-fiber and plastic vans weigh just 5,500 pounds but can carry a one-ton load and have a range of up to 100 miles from a 60-kilowatt-hour battery pack. Conventional gas and diesel vans can weigh thousands of pounds more, reducing their fuel efficiency and carrying capacity.

The N-Gen vans will be used by a local package delivery firm, which is leasing them from Workhorse's distribution and service partner, Ryder System.

The companies are not disclosing the name of the delivery business "because they want to really test the vans before going public," said Steve Burns, Workhorse's chief executive. "But these are real vans, not concepts, and they will be delivering hundreds of packages a day," he told Trucks.com.

United Parcel Service (UPS) said in February that it was partnering with Workhorse to build electric delivery vans that could replace tens of thousands of vehicles in the package delivery company's fleet.

UPS said it would lease 50 larger N-Gen vans with 1,000-cubic-foot bays and as much as 5,000 pounds of cargo capacity. Those Class 5 trucks should be ready by late this year. UPS said the vans could be the first of thousands of electric vans it will place in its fleet.

"We see this vehicle as being a game changer in the electric truck arena," Carlton Rose, head of global fleet management and engineering for UPS, said in a February interview with Reuters news service.

Workhorse unveiled its new N-Gen van late last year, promising to launch real-world testing in the first quarter of this year

Workhorse has explored using the van along with its ,u>HorseFly drone for rural, or last-mile package delivery but that won't be part of the current test, Burns said. The company plans to begin testing more vans later this year in a second California city as well as in Ohio, where Workhorse is based.

"I'm not concerned about the lack of the drone. It makes more sense in rural delivery areas, so maybe they'll do it in the Ohio tests," said Antti Lindstrom, a trucking industry analyst with IHS Markit.

The cost effectiveness of the electric powertrain in a lightweight van "is the bigger issue and I think they are making a good choice by putting together that package, pushing the price competitiveness versus internal combustion to the forefront of the discussion," he said.

The vans in the San Francisco pilot have 500 cubic-foot cargo bays and a gross vehicle weight rating of 7,500 pounds. Workhorse also has 10,001-pound GVWR versions of the N-Gen ready to put on the road, and a third truck is in the works, Burns said.

Workhorse hopes to have as many as 2,000 N-Gen vans on the road by the end of this year, Burns told Trucks.com.

It's "big news" said delivery industry analyst Cathy Morrow Roberson of Atlanta-based Logistics Trends & Insights. "This could help lower delivery costs in the long run, and certainly could make deliveries faster – and that's the key. Time is money in the delivery space."

Burns said the N-Gen vans being tested now can earn back their cost premium in less than three years, primarily through fuel savings.

Truck makers Daimler AG, Volvo and Navistar International Corp. are each developing electric powertrains to replace gasoline and diesel engines when possible to reduce pollution from vehicles and save on fuel costs.

Many electric truck makers are focusing on the local delivery market, maintaining that trucks and vans with short daily routes are a natural for electrification. Their batteries won't need to be recharged until they the end of delivery shift. In addition, charging can be done at the vehicle operators own facilities, eliminating the need for expensive roadside charging stations.

Electric delivery trucks also are seen as a way to slash maintenance costs. Electric motors and transmissions are much more reialble and do not need oil changes, filters, exhaust treatment systems or tune-ups.

Another start-up EV maker Chanje has partnered with Ryder, has sold 125 of its vans to the logistics supply company. The medium duty vans for Los Angeles-based, Chinese-backed Chanje are built by China's FDG Electric Vehicles.

In addition to electric vans and drones, Workhorse is also developing a two-passenger gasoline and battery-powered personal helicopter called the Surefly.

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