Obama to Visit Smith Electric Truck Plant in Missouri, Highlight $32M Federal Grant

In the United States, Smith Electric Vehicles—headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri—is a relatively obscure commercial electric truck builder that’s only been around for a few years. But in Europe, Smith Electric Vehicles UK has been building electric vehicles for more than 80 years. In fact, they are currently the largest manufacturer of commercial electric vehicles in the world.

So it’s no surprise that a company with such a track record was chosen by the U.S. Department of Energy earlier this year to receive a $32 million dollar grant (as in never has to be paid back) to speed the deployment of demonstration commercial electric vehicles around the United States. And on Thursday (tomorrow), President Obama will be visiting the Smith Electric Vehicles plant to tout the benefits of plug-ins in our effort to wean ourselves off oil.

In March, when the $32 million award was announced, Smith Electric and the DOE indicated that the money would be used to “offset the company’s future vehicle development costs and to incentivize Smith’s customers to participate in a commercial electric vehicle demonstration program.” The details of the demonstration program are still not finalized, but the purpose is to gather data on vehicles placed in service in “different regions of the country and in a broad range of applications.” As part of the program, any customers that choose to participate will receive a subsidy towards vehicle purchase and operation.

The first commercial vehicle from Smith to hit U.S. shores—the Newton—is already on sale. While specifically aimed at commercial delivery, the Newton can be tailored for a wide variety of uses including aerial utility trucks, box trucks, and passenger haulers. Depending on configuration, it can carry as much as a 16,280 pound payload. The trucks also have a range of 100 miles, though they are limited to a 50 mph max speed. Smith says the batteries can be charged from empty to full in about 6-8 hours.

Smith’s future plans include expanding their 50 employee Kansas City factory to 100 employees by 2011, and then eventually opening 20 other factories around the U.S. as demand increases.

Source: Detroit News

Nick Chambers

Not your traditional car guy.