Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Smith Electric Vehicles re-launch Zero-emission Commercial Vehicles

Smith Electric Vehicles are a little-known company from the North-East of England that has an extensive history of electric vehicle production. For over 70 years the company has been developing electric milk floats and lighter weight vehicles. In the early 2000's the company made a launch into commercial vehicles (CV's), and may set a new standard for electric CV's - while bolstering a homegrown industry.

Though unfortunately Smith Electric had to pause its operations in 2014 due to low market demand (a consequence of being an early innovator), with market demand for EV's now steadily growing, it is developing a strategy for a strong comeback.

Smith Electric says the fully electric, zero emission CV's are best suited to inner city, localised operations, where emission zone fees are highest, and the journey distances can easily be met by battery range. The company’s two main product lines, the Newton and the Edison, come in a range of sizes, from 7.5 tons to 12 tons.

Their current battery ranges are between 30 and 120 miles, depending on the battery chosen and route requirements. One down side is charge times can be as long as 8 hours for larger batteries.

Smith have been able to optimise battery range by drawing on extensive data it has collected through its many years of operation. With over 13 million miles covered by their trucks, global sales manager David West claims; “Nobody has more expertise, more trucks, or more mileage.” Every component on a Smith vehicle was designed and developed by the company, achieving a highly-integrated design.

Smith offers a prior assessment service with which they record and analyse a customer’s typical duty cycle and conditions, to then match the optimal size and type of battery for their needs. In doing so they ensure no unnecessary weight is added while matching capacity.

The company is preparing an innovative production model with decentralised, local manufacturing hangars in European centres where it intends to do business.

This local assembly model has two key benefits. First, the components for trucks are sent un-assembled from the US greatly reducing their size in shipping. As Freight in the City Magazine reports; ‘The new hangars will enable one container to ship out enough components to build 20 vehicles at a local destination’, achieving financial and carbon savings.

The local hangar approach also means the skills and facilities for repair services become embedded in the local area, which not only improves customer experience and trust, but contributes to regional industrial development. Smith hangars are planned for the North-East, London, Norway (where the EV market is expected to boom thanks to legislation requiring all vehicles to be emission free by 2020), Sweden and Denmark.

Adoption of Smith trucks and other E-CV's is getting a helping hand from the government’s Plug-in Van Grant, that provides a 20% discount on new purchases - bringing Smith’s £96,000 trucks to less than £75,000.

As of February 2017, due to funding issues the company is still waiting to launch its new strategy, but they remain confident that demand is nearly sufficient, with an expected launch sometime during 2017.

A widespread uptake of electric commercial goods vehicles will surely be welcomed by all urban residents, with these large diesel engines being some of the largest contributors to urban air pollution.

This is a summary of an article in Freight in the City, November 2016.

This post was compiled on behalf of Weald Technology by Hugh Reed, April 2017.

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