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Electric Trucks May Shift EV Perceptions

Electric vehicles are having a rough time lately in the court of public opinion. Hurdles like battery technology, charging-station infrastructure, entry cost and reliability are making what is supposed to be a solution to our oil dependency look more and more like an unlikely option.

Sales of vehicles like the plug-in Chevy Volt, Nissan Leaf and Toyota Prius make up a tiny fraction of new-vehicles sales, and they aren’t expected to get much higher over the next 10 years. Yet both political parties are using the vehicles as a football to make some good and bad points about the viability of the current and future technology. Unless there is a practical, predictable and reliable way to use the technology, an electric powertrain may not be a worthwhile solution for people who use their cars simply as transportation.

But there may be another way to make inroads: work trucks that use electricity as a fuel and a tool.

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Electric motors, electronics & smart on-board charging technology. the past several years, we’ve seen some electric powertrian strategies that seem to show promise in making a work truck much less expensive to operate over the life of the truck’s duty cycle. Up to this point, most are all about extending existing range and lowering the overall cost of ownership, two key issues important to fleet managers.

Pacific Gas & Electric, a huge utility for Northern and Central California, recently took possession of two electric trucks made by Via Motors, with plans to buy 400 to 500 new trucks per year starting in 2013. These are basically GM half-ton trucks with small engines (usually the V-6) that provide power for the newly installed battery packs that run a compact and powerful Remy electric motor. These particular PG&E trucks will also be equipped with a 15-kilowatt gas-electric generator.


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