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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.



It is one thing to sell a glorious concept.
It is another to build a profitable company from a new technology - probably requiring different skills (if the car indeed works as described).

The company may go bankrupt - or the initial shareholders may lose their shirts, but the work is nonetheless done and, if good will stand.

Consider the channel tunnel - the initial shareholders lost their shirts, but the tunnel got built and is running.


Martin Eberhard was an arrogant SOB for someone who didn't deliver a single car. All he did was put down others who were actually putting working models on the street. He needed to go.

Bob Uppendown

Guys, there are Tesla articles on this website. Surely that's the place for Tesla chat? We seem to be straying from what is a pretty astounding story here.

Does anyone have views on what reaction (either obstructive or welcoming) Smith can expect across the US? 10,000 trucks a year by 2010 is a bold target. I am looking forward to how the trade journals report this. The fleet magazines etc. In the UK these trucks have been in use on the road for a year now. Logistics firm TNT, having initially trialled one, then 5, have subsequently ordered 50 more and are talking in hundreds.


There are certainly applications for this truck in the U.S...primarily the typical inner-city route drivers and parcel delivery that these would shine at. No mention of cost though which has me suspicious. Customers will reason, why should I pay considerably more for a delivery truck that has a boxed in range, vs. a normal business as usual deisel truck? I think this is a great thing, and you got to start somewhere, but they certainly will have their work cut out for them.

Suggestion: Hamburg, PA for the factory location. It is immediately adjacent to I-78, nearby I-81, and is about 1 1/2 hours West of NYC, which will probably be this vehicle's largest market opportunity. Labor is relatively cheap and plentiful. Real Estate is still reasonable in that area too. Just a thought, (and a plug) :)

T.S. Seshadri


The problem of air pollution can be tackled easily provided the respective governments show interest.I have here a zero emission dual powered hybrid drive road transport vehicle ( Three wheelers and above) running on battery and trolley wire electric traction using only electricity as an energy source.You start with battery power from your house, main roads you use trolley wire traction in straight lanes with the help of bow collectors at the top of a collapsible pole which is itself fixed on top of the vehicle. For turnings, overtaking and parking use battery power. The limitations of the battery alone powered vehicle is set right.It is to be noted that the batteries gets charged while using trolley wire traction. My vehicle requires only electricity which can be generated by nuclear power OR by bio-electricity and dependence on crude oil products is nil.

Electricity for my dual powered vehicle can be generated in an eco-friendly manner through Bio-Mass(Wood)- combustion and steam generation route not gasifer route repeat not gasifier route.Energy plantations of trees with high calorific value like Juliflora is recommended with regular planned harvesting and planned replanting. Since bio-mass is a renewable fuel we can generate electricity so long as the earth exists. This is not the case of coal or nuclear since both are non renewable. In toto my idea generates electricity in an eco-friendly way so also my dual powered hybrid drive vehicle runs with zero emission. With fire wood,fire,water and copper along with other metals/plastics used in the vehicle it is easy to run the transport system so long as the earth exists.Four volumes of wood can replace one volume of coal for the same calorific value in thermal power plants and 2kgs of wood is equal to one kg. of coal for the same calorific value.

Running in the dual mode is
better with my innovation since the road transport vehicle can go on all roads using electricity generated by bio-mass or bio fuel plants installed in the land and fed to the trolley wire traction laid as per design. It is difficult to lay trolley wire traction at junctions,turnings. At Junctions, turnings and curves battery power is used automatically. This is a marked difference when compared to trolley buses which can go only where the trolley wire traction is laid and not on all roads.

T.S. Seshadri, Hyderabad, India.

Schmelz -- I am guessing that Smith Electric Vehicals will go to wherever offers them the greatest subsidy and greatest tax concessions, on both labor and premises. That's what they did at their main Vigo HQ in north-east England. They got a clean newish 250,000 sq ft factory which had been abandoned by a tv maker, and negotiated 18 months rent free, because the local community needed to see the place brought back into use.


Unknown poster:
Regarding tax concessions, subsidies, etc., agreed and good point. It isn't normally enough to have just a good location, and a good, available workforce, the tax breaks need to be there too or they will go elsewhere.

Someone mentioned Modec earlier...Are there any plans for them to come to the U.S.? I don't know much about them.

Paul D.

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

Look at the kind of batteries Smith is using: they're high temperature (250 C) cells containing molten sodium, not lithium ion cells. They wouldn't be using these batteries if the advantages (cost, I suspect) over Li-ion cells weren't decisive. This also explains the focus on delivery trucks, where the more regular schedule means the batteries can be kept hot.

Henry Gibson

All electric vehicles should have at least a one-horse power engine generator installed for emergency operation from gasoline or diesel. For gasoline, Butanol could be substituted for long storage life, but the generator must be able to run on gasoline and be able to be refilled at ordinary service stations. NO battery, including the liquid hydrogen fuel cell, will ever be able to have nearly as much energy density as tank of hydrocarbon with an engine. Fuel cells now cannot even match the well-to-wheel efficiency of the best diesels and are a very long way from matching the price. Instant starting high-power fuel cells can never be built. OPOC is a diesel operated engine that can give about one horsepower for one pound of machine. One gallon (six-pounds) of fuel could give more than forty miles of car operation with an engine efficiency of 25%. Even a small RCV model airplane engine, invented in the UK, attached to an alternator/starter and modified to run on petrol could eliminate the limited range arguments about electric vehicles. Multiple small engines could be used for high reliability, but a single piston engine has the highest efficiency for any rated displacement. The largest diesel engine produced has only fourteen cylinders, but each could hold several men.

The fact that these delivery vans will be used in the US is a great leap forward for the electric vehicle market but also gives lie to the US automakers position that batteries are not available for electric vehicles yet.

A production ZEBRA battery from MES-DEA via ROLLS-ROYCE could be installed tomorrow to operate in conjunction with the regular hybrid battery in a Toyota Prius by CALCARS if they were given enough money. It would have a range of about 100 miles, electric alone, at 200 watt-hours per mile. It would weigh less than the first CALCARS PRIUS PLUS. CALCARS has done a superior task in proving that plug-in-hybrid technology was available years ago and still available now for production cars. If the ZEBRA had not been kept hot while being left in an airport parking lot, The computer would have the driver operate the vehicle in normal hybrid mode until the battery is brought into service. In an open airport parking lot the computer could have kept the battery hot by charging it by operating the engine.

Personal and public garages and parking spaces could have simple automatic computer controlled robotic arms built into the pavement to connect a car for charging. Big induction coils reinvented at MIT could do the same with high losses. Or a driver could pick up a simple magnetic connector and put it in the right spot. Control circuitry could determine if the connector were connected to the right circuit before any real voltage or power was delivered to it....

Plug-In-Electric hybrid the only way to go....HG....

Henry Gibson

These trucks use the well proven, but ignored in the US, XEBRA battery, and shows that a working, time-tested, battery technology is available for electric vehicles.

The very recent announcement that the first new TH!NK car is going to be comming off the actual production line gives additional credibility to the ZEBRA battery that has been tested and used in cars and buses for more than ten years.

The ZEBRA batteries are in small scale commercial production and are being sold into the naval market by ROLLS-ROYCE. The maintenance of all ZEBRA cells is zero and they are now, after development, easy to make. The initial development of the solid electrolyte for the XEBRA was done for the Sodium-Sulphur battery at FORD but ignored by Ford. Several power stabilization batteries of the sodium Sulphur type have been installed in Japan and at least one in the US. Small versions might be used for the very high power requirements of rapid charging of these truck batteries.

Iron, Nickel, salt and Alumina are the major components and very available. A ZEBRA battery that has lost enough capacity to make its use in trucks or automobiles not viable, could then be used in stationary service for UPS or solar or burst charging of electric vehicles perhaps after being charged with cheap power at night. The cells fail mostly in a shorted condition that allows the battery to continue operation at a slightly lower voltage and capacity. A very large number of cells would have to fail before the electronic drives would not function, as the voltage varies widely under normal operating conditions anyway. For stationary operation, a case that can be opened could allow for the occasional replacement of failed cells with new or still working used cells. The life in stationary service could be thirty or more years, as was the case with large Nickel-Iron or Nickel-Cadmium cells.

MES-DEA rescued the commercial production of the ZEBRA battery from oblivian a few years ago because there were a few customers for the product including ROLLS-ROYCE. There has not been a single chemical runaway problem with a ZEBRA cell that has endangered any person. The non-combustible nature of all of the components of the battery render it non-hazzardous in the hottest gasoline fueled fires of automobile crashes. The insulating case that is required for operation at high temperature is also a protection for the public. The high operating temperature allows for operation at the highest climatic temperatures, even in very hot deep oil wells, and the already required insulating case permits operation at the lowest temperatures. Short overloads and very simple cooling are facilitated by the high operating temperatures. There is no doubt that versions could be built that have high power heaters, so that operation from a cold start can be achieved in an hour or less. Single cell units in a vacuum flask (thermos bottle) could be the most reliable longest lived battery for stationary emergency lights as they are always connected and at temperature.

The major cost of a ZEBRA battery is the manufacturing, but if nickel became a substantial part of the cost, iron could be substituted as it is already being used to improve performance. Only a fraction of the nickel used in NiMH is required for the same capacity in a ZEBRA.

For the people who want to use hydrogen, I now propose a competition to inventors: Make a device for automobiles that takes the carbon out of hydro-carbons and yields pure hydrogen and carbon dust. Pure hydrogen can be filtered through hot paladium foil. Some hydrogen will have to be burned to provide enough energy for the separation process. The carbon dust can be left at the service station. This is the cheapest and highest energy density way to obtain, store, transport and produce hydrogen. Others have proposed the decomposing of ammonia to produce hydrogen. This is very good idea except that ammonia must be produced at high cost from hydrogen.

Methanol can be made from coal and used in this process. Most methanol is made from natural gas, but it has now become too expensive. Methanol is a distant relative of sugar. Heating up sugar in a closed container would probably produce some methanol. Wood heated in a closed container was the way first used to produce large quantities of methanol. Methanol can be used as a food source for small organisms and was used once to produce cattle feed in the UK. (PRUTEEN) Its continued production and use instead of sheep brains for cattle feed would have prevented the outbreak of mad cow disease.

Perhaps we can figure out a way to inject hydrogen into Humans and other animals and plants so that they will not produce CO2. If Europe introduced an exponentially increasing CO2 production tax on humans and enforced rationing on the amount of CO2 a person could expell from his lungs in a week, some of the obesity problem could be reduced or eliminated as well as some heart disease. Just before WWII the French were compelled to kill all pet animals because of their threat to the human food supply; working dogs were exempt. Perhaps Europe should now prohibit the keeping of pets or have a very high CO2 production tax on it. It may even come to prohibiting leavened bread (Pet Yeast), beer or (horrors) wine. How much CO2 is produced by the wine industry by all its pet yeasts that are eating up food that could be used by starving humans.

At least, in France most electric cars are nuclear powered, and in Norway hydro-electric powered....HG.....

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