Wrightspeed Inc., a developer and manufacturer of advanced range-extended electric vehicle (REV) powertrains for heavy-duty applications (earlier post), is gearing up for a commercialization push with the appointent of four advanced engineering and commercialization executives. Tim Dummer, Greg Anderson, Erin Sawyer and Vlad Kalika are joining the Business Operations, Production and Engineering teams respectively. Recently relocated to an 110,000 ft2 manufacturing space in the emerging Alameda Point technology center, Wrightspeed is expanding to meet growing demand for its award-winning The Route REV powertrain systems.
The Wrightspeed Route is a Range-extended Electric Vehicle (REV) powertrain designed for original or retrofit applications that can be customized to fit a variety of heavy-duty platforms, replacing the engine, the transmission and the differential systems. The Route electric powertrain drives more low-end torque to the wheels than conventional diesel engines, with less fuel, less emissions, and less noise. The on-board microturbine generator, the Fulcrum (earlier post), is fuel-agnostic and eliminates range anxiety.
Wrightspeed, founded by Ian Wright, one of the original co-founders of Tesla Motors, is growing rapidly. The company recently showcased its powertrain technology alongside Mack Trucks at Waste Expo 2016 in Las Vegas and signed a $30+ million deal with NZ Bus, signaling multinational and multimodal demand for the company’s powertrain technology. In June, the company was named a Technology Pioneer by the World Economic Forum (WEF) and Wrightspeed CEO Ian Wright was an invited presenter to the International Business Council of the World Economic Forum. Wright will be keynoting at the upcoming SAE 2016 Range Extenders for Electric Vehicles Symposium in Knoxville, 2-3 November.
We’ve entered a pivotal phase in the company as we scale production to meet global customer demand. As we deliver our powertrains to new customers throughout the commercial transportation sector, Tim, Greg, Erin and Vlad bolster our commercialization capabilities and will be instrumental in expanding our industry and global footprint.—Ian Wright
Tim Dummer, Chief Business Officer. With experience from GE and DuPont, Dummer has led the commercialization of 10+ world-first technologies ranging from advanced materials, electrical systems & biotechnology. Most recently at Rennovia and Solazyme, he has forged strategic global partnerships and negotiated technical, commercial & distribution agreements worth up to $20+ million/year, resulting in new businesses with $ 100+ million / year revenues. Dummer will oversee all aspects of strategic partnerships, customer relationships and product growth at Wrightspeed.
Greg Anderson, Vice President of Manufacturing. With deep expertise in the advanced manufacturing sector, most recently at Restoration Robotics, Anderson has led manufacturing from inception to mass commercialization and has been instrumental in implementing the methodology required to bring products from proof of concept to commercialization. Anderson will combine his experience and skill with knowledge of high-performance vehicles to manage all aspects of Wrightspeed’s supply chain and production.
Erin Sawyer, Supply Chain Director. Bringing more than 15 years of automotive and controls expertise from Tesla Motors and Ford to Honeywell and Cummins, Sawyer has led teams geared at improving efficiency and fuel economy in the commercial vehicles space. In her most recent role as the Head of Purchasing for Core Technologies at Tesla, Sawyer developed strategic sourcing and procurement strategies to scale production for the Model S and X. Now, at Wrightspeed, Sawyer will spearhead strategic sourcing, global supply chain management, and product development as the company commercializes its powertrain technology.
Vlad Kalika, Director of Engineering. As one of the first hires at Bloom Energy, Kalika was key in accelerating the commercialization of the company’s solid oxide fuel cell technology. Now, at Wrightspeed, Kalika will bring his talents in optimizing efficiency to lead engineering developments for Route powertrains.
The Wrightspeed range-extended electric powertrain is optimized for heavy-duty frequent-stop drive cycles. Wrightspeed designed its own motor, motor controller, clutchless transmission, and vehicle dynamics software (the Wrightspeed GTD drive system), as well as its own multi-fuel turbine generator, the Wrightspeed Fulcrum.
The Wrightspeed GTD features a four-speed clutchless gearbox using software controls in place of heavy and complex traditional transmission components, saving on weight while delivering an exceptional range of power and speed. The gearbox magnifies the already high torque of the electric motors for brisk starts, even on hills when fully loaded, and also allows efficient cruising speed for highway segments. Unlike some EV powertrains, the GTD delivers equal or greater power to the wheels as the diesel piston-engine systems it displaces.
The Fulcrum microturbine is the on-board generator, running at peak efficiency to charge the batteries. The Fulcrum is designed to run on diesel, compressed natural gas (CNG), liquid natural gas (LNG), liquid propane (LPG), or sour gas (landfill gasses).
The Fulcrum only runs when needed, eliminating idle consumption. Even when running the system is quiet—comparable to a household vacuum cleaner, Wrightseed says. It’s possible with the integrated control system to keep the turbine off in high priority zones, if desired, although the Fulcrum surpasses current CARB emissions regulations without any aftertreatment. The Fulcrum generates fewer emissions per kWh than average for grid power in the US.
Further, Wrightspeed’s Vehicle Dynamics Control System (VDCS) controls each GTD separately, optimizing slip rate for ultimate traction on any surface, all the time.
Wrightspeed sources battery cells and builds its own battery packs. The company is to a certain degree battery chemistry and supplier neutral; it currently is sourcing from Japan.
The Route powertrain kit, complete with the Fulcrum turbine generator and Wrightspeed GTD reduces fuel consumption, emissions, and noise pollution. With fewer moving parts and drastically reduced brake wear, maintenance costs also go down
Wrightspeed has packaged this technology into three platform configurations:
The Route 250 powers urban or suburban delivery and is especially suited to hilly routes.
The Route 500 powers city buses, beverage trucks, or other heavy delivery trucks making frequent stops.
The Route 1000 for heavy refuse truck applications.
Wrightspeed is currently focusing mainly on heavy-duty applications, with orders for city buses (NZ Bus) and garbage trucks (the Ratto Group) being the two most publicly prominent. The company has a $40-million order backlog, running through the end of next year, Dummer said in an interview with Green Car Congress. The backlog provides the company with the needed early revenue stream and the learnings that enable scaling, he said.
In addition to the booked orders we’ve talked about, we have a significant multi-hundreds of millions pipeline of business that we are currently negotiating with global players. We've received queries ranging from powertrains for urban beverage delivery to drayage trucks. As soon as we have the bandwidth, there are endless related heavy-duty opportunities. Over the next two to three years, we will adapt the powertrain systems that we have already developed to other variants.—Tim Dummer
Dummer noted that the Wrightspeed equation—using a minimum number of batteries, complemented with the range-extending microturbine—avoids the inevitable spiral faced by all-battery-electric heavy-duty systems of needed to pack in more batteries for more range, raising issues of cost, weight and packaging.
When we look at potential [electric vehicle] competitors, for example, for city buses, we see no one that can compete without subsidies. Yet in many areas of the world, there is no subsidy—the technology has to stand on its own right. We offer great engineering with a sound economic business case combined with environmental benefits—the big three.—Tim Dummer