Smith Electric Vehicles Awarded $10 Million Grant From DOE

“Today the Obama Administration demonstrated its commitment to this fast-emerging industry and to green fleet vehicle technologies that will define the future of American automotive manufacturing. We are honored to be among the DOE grant recipients and commend the Administration for its leadership and shared vision that we can create a viable, sustainable industry and deliver green fleets today,” said Bryan Hansel, CEO of Smith Electric Vehicles, a company producing all electric trucks.

[social_buttons] Smith Electric Vehicles was awarded a $10 million grant today by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The money is to be used for the production of all-electric, zero emissions commercial trucks for a nationwide demonstration project. The goal is to validate the performance of these vehicles across a range of climates and locations.

Also this morning, President Obama announced that the government, as part of the Reinvestment and Recovery Act will fund $2 billion in research to develop advanced battery technologies. This comes on the heels of an announcement several weeks ago that the government will support the accelerated development of electric vehicles, and the money is now flowing as demonstrated by the grant Smith received.

The grant was announced at an event held with Smith’s customer, Kansas City Power & Light. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke announced the grant on behalf of the administration, and Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, II and Mike Chesser, chairman, Kansas City Power & Light, were also on hand to discuss the program.

Hansel noted, “This project is an endorsement of the electric commercial truck industry and begins to provide the resources needed to quickly increase production volume, which in turn will lower costs, increase demand and create more jobs. We have the potential today for tens of thousands of electric trucks in the fleets of corporate America. This demonstration fleet will allow major corporations to evaluate the technology at greatly reduced cost, which we expect will rapidly accelerate the shift from trial phase to volume orders.”

The purpose of the program is to hasten vehicle deployment and consumer adoption (aka purchases) through incentives that will reduce the cost of the commercial vehicles. Customers of the trucks currently include AT&T, Coca-Cola Enterprises, Frito-Lay, Kansas City Power & Light, Pacific Gas & Electric Company, and Staples. Representatives of these companies were presented with the keys to the first U.S. Smith Newtons last week in an event on the National Mall.

In keeping with the tradition of American made vehicles, Smith plans to open a new production facility in Kansas City. Some of the funds from the grant will be used for new equipment and to accelerate the hiring of the green collar manufacturing employees.

The Smith vehicles feature the latest in Lithium-ion battery cell technology, power management and direct drivetrains. The grant program supports demonstration fleets of two Smith vehicles: the Smith Newton and a Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) version of the Ford Transit Connect, which is built through a partnership with Ford Motor Company.

The Smith Newton is fuel-emissions-free, runs without noise or vibration, and stores electric energy during stopping through a process called regenerative braking. It has a top speed of 50 mph, a range on one battery charge in excess of 100 miles and a payload of over 16,000 pounds. The Newton is also the first commercial all-electric truck to achieve new vehicle emissions certification in California. The truck has been selling in Europe for three yeas.

The Transit Connect BEV is a new urban vehicle that can go up to 100 miles on a single charge of its all-electric power system, carries payloads up to 1,600 pounds and has a top speed of 70 mph. The vehicle requires no shifting and is faster from zero to 30 than its traditionally-powered equivalent.

Joanna Schroeder

Joanna is a writer and consultant specializing in renewable energy and sustainable agriculture issues.