Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp., a division of Portland, Ore.-based Daimler Trucks North America, hopes to move into mass production this fall of an all-electric delivery van called the E-cell.
According to a report by the Portland Tribune, the company is still experimenting with its first handful of the step vans, but anticipates selling 3,000 E-cells in the next 30 months, says Ron Anders, technical sales manager of the custom chassis operation, based in Gaffney, S.C.
Many delivery trucks operated by the likes of Fed Ex and UPS are only driven 40 miles a day on predictable routes, Anders says. Freightliner may make two versions for that niche, one that lasts 50 miles in one charge and another with twice that range. The expectation is that the trucks will be recharged overnight.
The delivery trucks will be 12 to 14 feet long. They will be manufactured in South Carolina, not Portland.
“The main hindrance of people adopting this technology is really the acquisition price,” says Jonathan Randall, marketing and sales director for Freightliner Custom Chassis.
Though the company isn’t talking openly about its price points for the E-cell, Randall says it might cost an additional 70% to 80% more than a comparable standard diesel that sells for $50,000 to $60,000.
To encourage purchases, the company is offering a new Green for Free financing package. Buyers would pay about the same cash price as they do for a traditional step van, then get a loan for the incremental price for the electric version. Loans would be repaid via savings in fuel costs and maintenance.
Freightliner expects that E-cell buyers will recoup the extra costs in three to five years, due to lower operating costs, Randall says. “They’ll keep these trucks 10, 12 years.”