Volumes Validating a Supply Chain that Can in Turn Support Volumes,
LoI for Joint Venture In Taiwan for Several Thousand Units Is Expected
Smith Electric Vehicles, says CEO Bryan Hansel, is moving beyond a stubborn phase where low volumes prevented low prices from suppliers – prices that would allow Smith to lower the cost of its finished battery electric trucks.
“It has been a supply-constrained environment,” he says. But now, “We’re at a point where scale is available to us.”
A big boost in demand could come as soon as this week. Smith is to announce a letter of intent with a Taiwanese automotive company that’s expected to lead to thousands of vehicles sale over the next three years, among them municipal garbage collection trucks.
‘Off the Shelf’ Is Out
Making a difference too is Smith’s development of its own key vehicle componentry. Rather than buy off-the-shelf drivelines from firms like Enova Systems, for example, Smith has lined up suppliers – in Malaysia in the UK – for its drive motors and electronic control units, both of which are manufactured according to a Smith design and combined to yield the “Smith Drive.”
Likewise with iron phosphate-type lithium ion phosphate batteries: Smith uses lithium cells from A123 and is validating four other suppliers, Hansel says. “We see the cell itself as a commodity,” he told F&F. Smith integrates into Smith Power modules and battery packs, replete with a proprietary BMS (battery management system).
Packs are currently available in five sizes: 40, 60, 80, 100 and 120 kilowatt-hours. The Smith Power system is designed for flexibility, to be able to accommodate future battery chemistries as they become available.
Charging and Telemetry
Smith Link is a proprietary telemetry feature “that monitors and transmits the vehicle’s vital statistics by general packet radio service (GPRS) to a central server, allowing remote vehicle monitoring, diagnostics and reporting.”
Smith’s EVs also come with a fully integrated on-board charging system.
“We finally feel that out destiny is in our own hands,” Hansel says.
Beyond its headquarters facility in Kansas City, Smith still intends to assemble its battery trucks in New York City, with production at a dedicated facility in the Bronx “months away.” The New York Truck Voucher Incentive Program, formalized just this month for the state and expanding with even more money for New York City in the coming weeks (F&F, August 12), will help.
‘A Demand-Based Model’
“It’s a demand-based model,” Hansel says. New York production will start when purchase orders are received. Plans for assembly in Chicago will likewise come to fruition when orders are received.
Smith recently trumpeted the production milestone of 700 pure battery electric vehicles that have logged a collective 5 million miles (F&F, June 16).
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Source: Fleets & Fuels interview