Hauler Hopes to Have 17 Converted Collection Trucks by Year-End
As Conversions Call for Three Batteries and Four Motors Per Vehicle,
Turbine-Extended Electric Drive Firm Relocating to Alameda Hangar
Wrightspeed, developer of electric drivelines with fuel-flexible turbine engines for indefinite range extension, has a deal to convert 17 refuse collection trucks for the Santa Rosa, Calif.-based Ratto Group. Concurrently, Wrightspeed is relocating from San Jose, Calif. to Alameda, on the other side of San Francisco Bay.
This item was initially posted on January 21
Wrightspeed is commercializing its range-extended electric powertrains for garbage and delivery trucks as well as for delivery vehicles (a development project with FedEx was announced last year).
“It makes the most economic sense to focus energies on a sector where you can displace the most fuel,” Wrightspeed found and CEO Ian Wright said in a published report last week. “When you switch a garbage truck to electric power, you’re saving about $50,000 in fuel and $30,000 in maintenance a year.”
Wrightspeed Targets the Fuel Guzzlers
“For every dollar of product shipped we save ten times as much fuel as an electric car,” he told F&F. Wright, who also works on battery electric race cars, is generally described in the press as a Tesla co-founder.
Wrightspeed’s deal to convert 17 model year 2003-2006 Freightliner and Condor collection trucks operated by Ratto – the “Unicycler” – to mostly electric operation calls for a far heavier drive.
The work for Ratto is Wrightspeed’s largest deal ever, as the collection trucks will each require three 26-kilowatt-hour batteries and four drive motors. The 25 delivery trucks for FedEx, rebuilt MT-45 trucks from Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp, have a single battery pack and Wrightspeed’s standard two-motor drive. The vehicles also differ in that Wrightspeed uses a two-speed gearbox for the delivery trucks, while the heavier drives for Ratto will have a four-speed box.
‘Commercially Future-Proof,’ A123 and Capstone
Wrightspeed said in announcing its collaboration with Ratto last year that its plug-in drivetrain technology – dubbed “The Route” – surpasses the California Air Resources Board’s “ever-tightening emissions standards by 1000%.” Wrightspeed said that its drives “are not only hyper-clean, they are commercially future-proof.”
Wrightspeed uses lithium iron phosphate batteries from A123, and continues to employ a Capstone Microturbine for range extension.
“The benefits are across the board,” Ratto COO Lou Ratto told F&F. Based on modeling projections, he expects the trucks to operate 60% and as much as 80% solely on electricity (the firm is investigating a solar installation to help supply it). Brake maintenance expenses are expected to drop by 70%, helping offset conversion costs that could reach $250,000 per truck – a justifiable expense too because the Wrightspeed technology is allowing the company to keep trucks in service that would otherwise have to be replaced.
According to the January 20 announcement, Wrightspeed will invest $3 million in the City- owned 110,000-square-foot historic Hangar 41 at the former Alameda Naval Air Station. Wrightspeed is backed by a manufacturing grant from the California Energy Commission.
“It’s true recycling,” Ratto says, noting that the first truck from Wrightspeed will be an existing Ratto vehicle with a blown diesel engine that would have needed to be dealt with anyway.
Ratto says he expects to receive that first of the Wrightspeed-converted vehicles this spring. “I’m cautiously optimistic that I can have all of the trucks by the end of the year,” he says.
The Ratto Group has about 300 vehicles all-told.
“Moving to hangar 41 will facilitate Wrightspeed’s creation of 280 new Bay Area jobs by 2018,” states an Alameda release.
“The big push this year is to get into production,” says Wright.
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Source: City of Alameda and published report with Fleets & Fuels follow-up