Sometime in the not-too-distant future, you could be walking down a city street when you suddenly realize there's something different about the delivery truck that just whizzed past. A block or two later it will hit you: The otherwise ordinary-looking vehicle was virtually silent, and it emitted no foul-smelling exhaust.
Smith Electric Vehicles (SEV) U.S. Corp. is hoping that scenario will soon become a common one. The joint venture of U.S. investors and a European maker of electric-battery vehicles will soon begin production of a quiet electric-battery commercial truck on this side of the Atlantic. The vehicles will be the first zero-emissions commercial trucks in North America, SEV says.
The company's first U.S. model will be the Smith Newton, which has been in use in Europe for more than three years. Described as the world's largest electric-battery-powered truck, the Newton boasts an on-board battery charger, a range of 100-plus miles per charge, and a payload of more than 16,000 pounds. Its top speed is 50 miles per hour. Meanwhile, SEV's U.K. partner, The Tanfield Group Plc, is working with Ford Motor Co. to begin production of an electric-battery version of the Ford Transit Connect light-duty van in 2010.
SEV will target companies that want an environmentally friendly way to deliver parcels and larger shipments in urban areas. Several fleet operators reportedly have expressed strong interest in acquiring the trucks for their fleets.