Stockton electric truck company scores big with UPS

United Parcel Service plans to swap 100 of its delivery trucks for versions that never need to refuel with diesel.

They will, however, need to plug in.

Stockton, Calif.-based Electric Vehicles International finalized a deal with the package delivery company that will likely be viewed by many as a breakthrough for commercial electric vehicles.

"EVI's vehicle met our requirements in the test phase," said Mike Britt, UPS's director of vehicle engineering, in a statement. "Now we will operate these vehicles in the real world and help establish the future viability of this technology."

Trucks join electric market

The electric vehicle roll-out largely has been dominated, at least on the media front, by Nissan's Leaf and General Motors' Chevy Volt. But there are other players in the plug-in field, and the emerging commercial truck market appears to be one to watch.

David R. Baker of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that other electric-vehicle companies are looking to get into the commercial truck market. He writes, "Frito-Lay last year agreed to buy 176 trucks from Smith Electric Vehicles U.S. Corp., based in Kansas City, Mo." Staples, he says, purchased 41 plug-in trucks from Smith and Ford, with Azure Dynamics, have sold 30 of their electric vans with more planned.

Segment shows promise

Smith advertises its trucks by promoting fuel savings of 75 percent over diesel-burning counterparts, zero emissions, "slashed" maintenance costs "because there is so much less to maintain," less noise and being "perfect for urban deliveries."

And it appears expansion is in the works. The Kansas City Business Journal reports that earlier in 2011, Smith raised $58 million, "which it planned to use to pay for the recent purchase of its British counterpart, Smith Electric Vehicles UK, and to build up its supply-chain and manufacturing capabilities."

California Energy Commission Vice Chairman James Boyd says the purchase by UPS of the EVI trucks benefits all involved and pumps up the state economy. Boyd says the deal "improves public health by reducing air pollution," adding that EVI's decision to establish a new manufacturing facility in Stockton provides much ­needed jobs and sales revenue to the San Joaquin Valley.

Future growth

The electric and hybrid market remain less than 2 percent of new vehicle sales, and commercial truck sales are a fraction of that. However, numbers in the segment are expected to increase steadily. says the most pessimistic forecasts predict that sales of electric cars, including plug-in hybrids and fuel cell vehicles, will reach 3 percent of all new cars while the most optimistic show the market segment growing to about 15 percent.

The site did predict that sometime during the next decade EV and hybrid sales "will rapidly rise to a near 100 percent." For more on the topic, go to this previous post.