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Smith Electric Vehicles has suspended production

Smith Electric Vehicles, a centerpiece of the Kansas City area’s once high hopes for a wave of green industries, quietly suspended production at the end of 2013 because of a shortage of cash.
File photo Smith Electric Vehicles arrived in Kansas City in 2009, setting up offices and a production facility near Kansas City International Airport. It marketed its electric vehicles to businesses that make deliveries and snagged some notable customers, including Coca-Cola, Staples and Frito-Lay.
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Long history, uncertain future

Smith Electric has roots in Great Britain, where electric trucks delivered milk for decades. Electric vehicles are particularly suited for daily urban delivery routes, whose length can be handled on a single charge. And the delivery vehicles can be recharged overnight at a central facility.

But with current technology, the trucks still need large, heavy batteries. That and the lack of a big initial market have made upfront costs for the vehicles high and in need of subsidies to compete with other delivery vans.

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The move was disclosed in a report for the last quarter of 2013 filed with the U.S. Department of Energy, which in 2010 awarded the company a $32 million grant. Smith Electric said it stopped delivery of its Generation 2 trucks and vans because of the “company’s tight cash flow situation.”

The company didn’t respond to requests for comment. The Energy Department in an email said it is working to ensure that a demonstration project that is supposed to have 510 Smith Electric vehicles placed in fleets across the country will be successfully concluded.

“DOE continues to work with Smith Electric on the path forward for the remaining vehicle production,” the federal agency said Thursday in the email.

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