$35 Million Joint Venture Means ‘Stability, Capital, Capacity’
As FDG Will Supply Smith and Capitalize on Smith’s Past Work
For Expanded Line of Fully Battery Electric Commercial Vehicles
With 12 million on-road miles on its all-electric delivery truck fleet, Smith Electric Vehicles is transitioning from demonstration phase to scale, with the announcement the week of ACT Expo 2015 of a $35 million joint venture with Hong Kong-based battery and vehicle producer FDG Electric Vehicles Limited.
The JV allows Smith to “go to our partners and say, ‘We have stability, capital, capacity,’” business strategy and process VP Terry Pageler told F&F-powered ShowTimes in Dallas.
Smith Electric Vehicle ‘Newton’ truck operating in Frito-Lay’s Dallas-area fleet was shown at ACT Expo 2015. It has 36,000 miles on its odometer.
Smith’s customers include Coca-Cola, FedEx Express, Staples and Frito-Lay, Smith’s largest customer, whose 88-kilowatt-hour 2012 Smith Newton was shown at ACT Expo. It’s one of 265 Smiths in the company’s national fleet, says Mike O’Connell, Frito-Lay senior director of fleet operations.
Smith Resumed Production in January
“The trucks have been great. Drivers like them. They meet all our needs.”
The JV trucks will incorporate Smith’s platform, control software and subsystems in a new 12,000- to 16,500-GVW range truck with FDG’s batteries. A modular approach will let customers choose battery capacity of roughly 20 to 160 kilowatt-hours, depending on their unique needs, Pageler said in Dallas. The trucks will be assembled in Kansas City.
According to the FDG announcement, Smith restarted production of its re-tooled Newton line of commercial battery electric trucks in January, and “expects to scale up manufacturing operations in the United States over the coming 18-24 months commensurate with the launch of this new product.”
The new JV company “is to bring world-class next generation technology to accelerate commercial fleet electrification in the U.S. market.” In addition to Smith’s Newton truck, it will offer the Smith Drive, Smith Link and Smith Power subsystems, as well as the new all-electric commercial EV, lithium ion batteries and all-electric powertrain, “as well as infrastructure, energy contracts and financing.”
A New, ‘Ground-Up’ Platform
The new 12,000- to 16,500-GVW Smith-FDG truck is promised in multiple configurations including cab/chassis, van, including step-through van, and transit. “Unlike existing offerings in this GVW range, which are modified versions of passenger vans or require a separate upfit, this platform has been designed, from the ground-up, exclusively for long-life commercial applications like postal and parcel delivery and people transit,” the announcement says.
Smith Electric Vehicles has long been making the case for battery-powered commercial vehicles. This image is from a Smith Newton technical manual from September 2012.
“It will complement the existing all-electric Newton platform, which is currently offered in the 14,000- to 26,000-GVW range.”
“The JV will contract exclusively with Smith Electric for product development services, vehicle manufacturing, service and support, and with FDG for the supply of lithium ion batteries and SKD [semi knocked down] kits.”
Smith’s existing Newton trucks are based on chassis from Avia Ashok Leyland in the Czech Republic.
‘The Time Is Now’
“We believe the time is now for market acceptance of commercial electric vehicles,” Smith CEO Bryan Hansel says in the JV announcement. “We are seeing all of the indications that the market that we helped establish has now turned the corner from the R&D phase to the commercial phase.
“In establishing this JV, we believe this will accelerate our new technology platform development,” Hansel said. “The new company leverages FDG’s ground-up commercial all-electric vehicle designs and its electric vehicle manufacturing facility, which can produce up to 100,000 vehicle per annum, as well as Smith’s 12 million-plus miles of commercial vehicle experience to offer a complete fleet electrification solution.”
“FDG believes that the electric vehicle is the future mainstream of the global automotive industry and that’s why we are a pure electric vehicle company,” said FDG executive chairman Cao Zhong.
‘Mutual Recognition of Each Other’s Technologies’
“We deeply value our relationship with Smith and the formation of the JV represents the mutual recognition of each other’s technologies, the mutual respect for both teams’ professionalism, dedication and passion for electric vehicles. The combined force will be well positioned as a global leader,” he said.
FDG, which is listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, is described as “a vertically integrated electric vehicle and lithium-ion battery manufacturer engaged in the R&D, production and distribution of all-electric vehicles.”
FDG has EV plants in Hangzhou and Kunming and lithium ion battery plants in Jilin and Tianjin.
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Source: FDG & Smith EVs, Fleets & Fuels at ACT Expo 2015 in Dallas