At one of the plants where workers learned about two years ago that they would be laid off at Monaco Coach Corp. in Warsaw, Ind., Navistar Inc. unveiled its new electric truck Thursday (May 13).
And that truck could soon be delivering a FedEx package to your door, according to the South Bend Tribune.
The Navistar eStar runs solely on electric power and can go 100 miles on one charge. It has no tailpipe and can reach 50 mph. Batteries can be replaced in about 20 minutes but take six to eight hours to recharge.
A total of 40 employees will be involved in the initial production in Wakarusa. The plant is expected to produce 400 vehicles this year and several thousand per year in coming years.
Navistar acquired the factory during its 2009 acqusition of some of bankrupt Monaco Coach assets, and Monaco brands now are produced by Navistar subsidiary Monaco RV LLC.
Fresh off a congratulatory phone conversation with Vice President Joe Biden, Shane Terblanche, general manager and vice president of Navistar-Modec EV Alliance, beamed as he saluted his team.
The work that the operators have done getting the vehicles done, the work the engineers have done in preparing the vehicles for production, just absolutely tremendous stuff,” Terblanche said. “Many of you would recall an event we had back in August of last year where President Obama announced the $39.2 million grant. We have acted upon that with absolute diligence.
“Here we are today to launch our brand. We are going to talk about creating jobs. We are going to talk about transportation electrification. We are going to talk about partnerships.”
The government grant required a matching one by Navistar, which purchased Monaco assets out of bankruptcy.
The vehicles, which cost about $150,000 each, have no emissions, near zero noise pollution, a 36-foot turning radius and a payload of up to two tons.
Terblanche said the partnership demonstrates how the public and private sectors can work together to create jobs and “develop technologically advanced vehicles that are environmentally friendly.”
Terblanche said 700 employees would be added nationwide to the Navistar chain, including those working at suppliers to the truck.
“As we ramp up production, we will obviously be needing more operators on the production line,” he said. “I don’t know what those numbers are today.”
FedEx is the first company to purchase the trucks and has let drivers test drive them at stops along Route 66, en route to Los Angeles.
“It’s very smooth and very quiet,” Deborah Willig, of FedEx, said during an earlier teleconference. “Our team members love driving it.”
Besides Los Angeles, trucks are planned for delivery this year to dealers in Portland, Seattle, Chicago, Sacramento and possibly Indianapolis.
“This is what Elkhart County does,” said Phil Penn, president and CEO of the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce. “We have been on our knees before. We have come back many times.
“We have been through a number of different morphs of industry.
“And here we are now, another opportunity for a new industry to start up and be the electric capital of the world for vehicles.
“If these vehicles take off, like I am convinced they will,” Penn said, “I think we have a great opportunity to add hundreds if not thousands of jobs down the road.”