Electric Trucks: Tesla Co-Founder Exploring The Possibilities
Tesla may have a monopoly on the luxury electric car market, but one of its original co-founders is branching into the commercial truck industry. Ian Wright might have left Tesla in 2005, but his company Wrightspeed has developed an electric solution for city-based trucks that lead lives stuck in stop-and-go situations. Wright has set his sights on delivery and garbage trucks, already having a contract with FedEx for 25 trucks and Ratto Group, a California-based waste service for 17 trucks.
Wrightspeed’s system works like many other gasoline/hybrid systems, except in this case, a proprietary microturbine generates power when the massive bank of batteries is depleted. Running at a constant rpm, the turbine generates electricity, which is then fed back into the batteries.
Wrightspeed’s turbine is unique in its design, and is some 30 percent more efficient than other miroturbines. What’s more the unit weighs a mere 250 pounds; will run on diesel, CNG, LNG, biodiesel, propane, and heating oil, among others; and has a life expectancy of 10,000 hours. The large, plug-in battery pack offers a range of roughly 30 miles before the turbine kicks on. This effectively doubles a truck’s efficiency.
Foregoing all the trouble of building trucks from scratch, Wrightspeed simply replaces an existing truck’s powertrain. This keeps costs down, not only for Wrightspeed, but also for is customers. Ratto Group runs trucks that struggle to pass California’s strict emissions standards. By replacing the diesel powertrain with Wrightspeed’s turbine/electric unit, the company saves the cost of a new garbage truck – which typically runs around $500,000 – in favor of a $150,000 to $200,000 retrofit.
"You can take this truck that you’ve invested all this money in and it’s still in good shape, and you can swap out the powertrain for our powertrain and suddenly you’re emissions-compliant," Wright said in an interview with AutoBlog.
Wrightspeed is already growing to meet the demand by moving to a larger facility in the near future. Wright says his company will also be hiring up to 250 new employees within the next three years.
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(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez) Image Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS | Courtesy of Autoblog
Why It Matters
Diesel engines work well in medium- and heavy-duty trucks on long-haul routes, but aren’t nearly as efficiency when confined to stop-and-go routes in city traffic. Replacing diesel powertrains with turbine/electric units nearly double the truck’s efficiency, cuts down on noise, reduces emissions, and extends service intervals.
Saving the cost of buying new trucks and reducing emissions is a win-win. It will be interesting to see how the Wrightspeed company performs over the next few years.