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Smith Electric Vehicles Launches in US; Targeting 10,000 Electric Trucks per Year by 2010

The US version of the Newton.

At EVS-23, Smith Electric Vehicles the world’s largest manufacturer of road-going electric vans and trucks, introduced the Newton electric truck to the US. It also announced that it will establish a major production facility in the US with the capacity to produce up to 10,000 electric trucks per year, from 2010. (The expected output for the UK and Europe by 2010 is 5,000 vehicles.)

The Newton is the world’s largest high-performance electric truck, weighing in with a Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) of more than 24,000 lbs. A Zebra battery pack and a 120 kilowatt drive system from Enova propel the vehicle up to its top speed of 50mph.

Fully charged, the vehicle has a range of up to 150 miles, while the regenerative braking system returns power to the batteries every time the vehicle slows or stops.

Automotive manufacturers are telling us that the technology for mass-produced electric cars is some years away. But the larger sized commercial vehicle—and the truck in particular—is perfectly suited to electric technology that is available today.

There are millions of commercial vehicles in North America that work in urban areas, within defined low mileage zones or routes. All of these machines, from light postal vehicles to heavier duty distribution trucks, can be replaced with our new technology electric vehicles. And these congested, densely populated urban areas are exactly where vehicles with zero tailpipe emissions can make the biggest improvement to air quality.

—Kevin Harkin, Sales Director for Smith Electric Vehicles

The vehicle has a payload capacity of up to 15,800 lbs and is available in US truck Classes 5 through 7.

Smith Electric launched its 2nd generation electric vehicles, Edison and Newton, earlier this year in Europe and is on course to ship 250 units in 2007. Customers already signed up in the UK include DHL, Starbucks, the Royal Mail, TK Maxx, and CEVA Logistics, plus many household names yet to be announced. The Newton is designed for urban, intra-city operations, including home shopping delivery; 3PL logistics; post and parcel distribution; and municipal duties.

Smith is not trying to sell its electric trucks to everybody—it is targeting customers with a disciplined drive cycle, a disciplined route, and that are depot-based to allow for the overnight charging.

Electric vehicles offer a next-generation automotive industry for America. Ten thousand vehicles a year is a substantial commitment, but we believe that is just the start. Our initial research shows that there is an addressable market in the USA of around 200,000 units a year for our commercial electric vehicles.

—Darren Kell, CEO of The Tanfield Group Plc, the company that owns Smith Electric
The Modec.

Another UK-based electric truck manufacturer—Modec—also officially introduced its product to the US market at the event. The Modec electric truck supports a 100-mile range at speeds up to 50 mph with a payload of up to 4,500 lbs.

The Modec also uses a Zebra Sodium Nickel Chloride battery pack, although both it and Smith are working with lithium-ion for the future.




This is probably the best news on the viability of EVs that have been released so far by any company. This really rocks. It rocks because Smith is about the only company that actually has experience in producing hundreds of EVs and because they have experience with customers that there is a market for what they offer to the price they charge. They have overcome the uncertainties of prototyping and consumer response and this is why it is realistic to believe that they will prevail making 15000 EVs in 2010 for the US and the EU markets. I would still like to know a bit more about where they get their batteries from. It can’t be Zebra. They will not be produced in volume at any time in the future so they must be very confident that they can make it with lithium batteries from Axeonpower (if I remember correctly that was the supplier).



I really like the looks of the MODEC. I think it's perfect for Fed-Ex or UPS.

Stan Wellaway

I agree. There are those who, for whatever reason, like to kick EVs into the long grass, and tell us we must accept some other alternative that they prefer. It is good to see a company dismissing the excuses and just getting on with it - by cleverly targeting an area of the market where EV limitations are of no consequence. By building a customer base among fleet managers in this way, they position themselves to extend their market as battery development progresses.

The share price of Smith EV's owner, Tanfield Group (LSE ticker TAN) has climbed sevenfold in the past year.

Stan Wellaway

Agree with Henrik is what I meant - though I am pleased to see Modec getting a mention too ;o)

The fact that two separate UK companies, working independently of each other with different vehicles, are both apparently succeeding, reinforces the notion that EVs are viable and practicable in the commercial vehicles field.


Yes, and the French post service is so keen on recently trialled EVs they are expecting to put in a huge EV order soon. Commercial EVs may well precede the passenger car EV expansion.


EVs of one form or another are perfect for urban delivery.
They are most efficient in stop/start driving, and they produce very little (/none) local pollution.

It is the obvious place for them to start.

Over time, you would like to see all delivery vans going xEV (say over 10 years to get to 70%).

As the ranges get longer, the vans become less effective, or you go to range extended PHevs - perhaps making the BEVs aftermarket adaptable.

There should be plenty of space in or under a van.


One of the main attractions of going to electric delivery vans is the cost stability/predictability it gives the businesses that use them.

Stan Wellaway

Very fast away from each standing start too. I have a video clip of a BBC tv interview in which the 7.5t version of the Smith Newton is said to be capable of 0-60mph in under 5 seconds - though for commercial use a restrictor is fitted to favour distance rather than speed.


It would be better if they bumped the maximum speed of these vehicles up from 50 to 55 MPH. Most delivery vehicles in my area drive on the freeway for several miles to get from their depots to their local delivery areas. Although legal to drive as slowly as 45mph on the freeways, there would be alot of enraged drivers cursing every time one of these vehicles pulled in front of them even for A short distance on A freeway.

On A different note... Why hasn't GCC put up A story about A123's new prismatic batteries yet? There is A picture of one on the Chevy Volt site, and the products area of the A123 site isn't working currently. As if they are updating that area of their site.


I'm curious, why wouldn't they try to partner with Valence, A123, Altair, etc. going forward?

I live on a golf course and see that as another significant market for EVs. Mowers and tractors should have adequate margins to absorb the extra up-front cost of batteries. The reduced noise of electric motors (in place of an ICE and hydraulics) would allow maintenance crews to begin working earlier. EVs would also alleviate the headache of maintenance and sourcing fuel.


I agree with coal_burner, 50mph is a problem.
I would think that the 50mph limit is set purely by software to preserve the 150 miles range.


This is good news. Now for the bad.

Tesla Motors founder Martin Eberhard FIRED!


Jim G.

All I'm waiting for is an EV that does 45 mph for 40 miles on a charge. Anything else I'm happy to rent a car.

I can see that maybe this is most useful in a dense urban area like Philadelphia, Atlanta, San Francisco, etc., than a really vast sprawling areas like Phoenix and Las Vegas, but 50 mph for 100 seems well into the goldilocks zone to me.


The Tesla news is horrible all around.

Apparantly there is very high turnover amongst engineers and lower executives as well.

Not exactly the sign of a company with an exciting future...

Stephen Boulet

The news about Martin Eberhard, while of course personally bad news for him (and I wish him well), may not necessarily be bad news for Tesla. As reported elsewhere, visionaries don't necessarily make the best CEOs, and Tesla did not make its 2007 deliverables dates. To thrive, they need to produce quality cars, in volume, and on time.


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