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CA Energy Commission awarding Wrightspeed $5.789M grant for retrofit range-extended electric powertrain for medium-duty commercial vehicles

Wrightspeed’s Geared Traction Drive integrates an electric motor, a two-speed gear box and an inverter. Source: Wrightspeed. Click to enlarge.

The California Energy Commission CEC is awarding Silicon Valley startup Wrightspeed a $5.789-million grant for Advanced Vehicle Technology Manufacturing. The grant is part of the CEC’s Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program. CEC also awarded $1,815,123 to Zero Motorcycles; $10 million to Tesla Motors; and $2,230,595 to Quallion LLC out of the same program.

The CEC grant funds are to accelerate manufacturing of Wrightspeed’s Route retrofit powertrain for the medium-duty commercial fleet market (earlier post). Funds for Zero Motorcycle are to expand its manufacturing capability in California; Tesla’s award is for the manufacturing line for the upcoming Model X; and Quallion’s funds are to expand battery management system integration facilities for lithium ion battery modules.

All four awardees received the amounts they requested. Eight proposals passed but were not funded; three proposals did not pass. Wrightspeed received the highest application score of all the applicants. The scoring criteria were: project feasibility; project budget; match funding economic benefit; qualifications of project team; and market development.

Wrightspeed. Wrightspeed, founded by Ian Wright, who worked for Tesla in the early days for a short while, initially focused on extreme performance electric supercars, and produced a prototype, the X1. Wrightspeed is currently building electric powertrain technology for two high-power markets: medium-duty fleet trucks (the Route system) and ultra-performance supercars (the Circuit all-wheel drive system). The engineering team has particular strengths in control systems, high-reliability software, and high-power analog electronics.

The Route retrofit drive system includes:

  • Range-extending generator. Wrightspeed is using an open generator architecture; a Route system can use any number of on-board power generation options, including micro-turbines and piston engines.

  • Geared Traction Drive. The GTD integrates an electric motor, a two-speed gear box and an inverter; there are two per drive axle, providing direct traction control at drivewheels. GTD delivers 200 hp (186 kW) (continuous), and 10,600 lb-ft (14,372 N·m) total axle torque. Top speed (limited) is 75 mph (121 km/h). Regen braking power is 400 hp (298 kW), with slip limiting.

    The GTD uses clutchless gear shifting. Traditional multi-speed transmissions use clutches (synchro rings, multi-disc wet clutches, twin-clutch arrangements) to achieve synchronization before engagement; this makes them heavy, expensive, and less efficient. Electric motors, however, can have the motor speed controlled so precisely, and changed so quickly, that the shifter dog-clutches can be engaged without clashing.

    Wrightspeed has shifted the sync function that used to be performed by mechanical means into software control of electronics, driving the electric motor with precision. The system is therefore lighter, cheaper, and more efficient.

  • High-power plug-in battery system with active cooling.

Wrightspeed made its first conversion kit for the Isuzu NPR. With its conventional diesel powertrain, the NPR averaged about 12 miles per gallon in testing with a metro drive cycle. With the Route Range-extended Electric Vehicle (REV) powertrain, under the same test conditions, Wrightspeed measured 25-40 miles per gallon (on a cost equivalent basis, drive cycle-dependent).

During 2010 and 2011, Wrightspeed raised $10 million in private investments, some of which was used as matching funds for the company’s prior CEC grant for $1.2 million. Since cutting the ribbon on their San Jose facility 7 April 2011, Wrightspeed has built and tested a large amount of IP, including their 250 hp 2-speed Geared Traction Drive (GTD) with clutchless electronic shifting (an industry first), 200 kW inverter, battery pack and management system, and patent-pending vehicle dynamics control system.

Wrightspeed has proven their technology in several engineering prototypes that will now go out for customer validation and testing. While continuing to meet payload, power, and range expectations of fleet operators, the Route offers a 3-5 year return on investment.



The California Energy Commission is only one of many California Commissions, agencies, boards,etc that continues to leak money like a sieve.

$20M awarded by a bunch of politicians that went thru school aiming for a career in a rock band and now waste other people’s money.

Awarded to some companies owned and operated by people smart enough to know how to appeal to these idiots.

Will this advance the state of the art?
Three chances: fat, slim and none.

Maybe this will pay off in savings?

Good enough for me!

As long as it is possible that it might, maybe.

Savings for the award recipients.


This is a great move by the California Energy Commission. California needs to start creating real green jobs and this program is perfect for doing it. The CEC has funding from a few dollars each on the registrations of unsustainable gas cars, and should be doing everything they can to get us off of fossil fuels so we will still be able to breathe and not rely on petroleum for 94% of our transportation fuel. I applaud what the CEC is doing and congratulate Wrightspeed, Telsa, Zero, and Quallion for getting these grants.


micro-turbines !!

What !! no mention of photovoltaics, stirling cycle engines or hydrogen fuel cells ? Just as well, I woudn't want to be reaching out for the blood pressure pills.

Any more than I'd want to be reaching out for that two speed gearbox if bringing down the top speed from 75mph to 65mph could make that disappear. And, jog my memory, but didn't Tesla abandon their own two speed box to save the company.

I'm funny that way, if I see something mechanical like that then I start to think that if something can go wrong it will go wrong, and like ice dropping on the wings of the Spaceshuttle, failure won't be graceful.

The software may be ironclad but what if a faulty sensor or a stiff actuator..... ? Can anyone be that sure ?
I'd guess at those times investors will no longer seek out Mr Wright, they'll be looking for Mr Close Enough.

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