Electric Vehicle Update May 24, 2012
By Bob Difley
FedEx owns and operates 40,000 vans and trucks to run their package delivery business, using 300 million gallons of fuel per year. That’s the reason they purchased 34 electric trucks that they will operate out of their facility in Menlo Park, California to service the San Francisco Bay area, as well as another 53 trucks to go elsewhere in the country.
What does this have to do with RVs? The trucks are being built by Navistar partnering with Smith Electric Vehicles. Navistar is also the owner of Monaco, the upscale motorhome builder, as well as the builder of the Workhorse motorhome chassis, one of the few built from the ground up specifically for RVs.
FedEx chose this particular vehicle partly because it gets 100 miles to a charge, and since the average delivery route in the SF Bay Area is about 88 miles and doesn’t change fro0m day to day, the trucks can return safely each night to the Menlo Park depot and charge up overnight for the next day’s run. So fuel costs are zero except for the much lower cost for the electricity used to recharge, and that is overnight when electricity costs are the lowest.
The trucks cost two to three times what they normally spend but cost 70 to 80 percent less to operate than their diesel trucks, and they are quiet, require less maintenance, and are non-polluting. So if the program works out it’s likely that Navistar will be looking to develop a similar chassis for the RV market.
As an RVer three important future developments will determine how acceptable an electric RV is to the general market: (1) How low mass production–or at least increased production–will reduce costs, (2) Whether emerging battery technology can bring the price of batteries–which is the biggest cost factor–down to competitive levels, and (3) whether support for electric vehicles comes from a consumer acceptance and demand for electric RVs (and whether RVers will take shorter trips between recharging), and campgrounds upgrading their electrical infrastructure to offer recharging of electric vehicles–which could also be an additional revenue stream for them.
I believe electric, hybrid-electric, and plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles will become a part of the RVing market, but how long it takes for cost reductions and consumer acceptance to grab hold is guess work at best. And the first electric RVs to gain acceptance will most likely be smaller Class Bs and Cs.
For more RVing information and tips take a look at my Healthy RV Lifestyle website and ebooks: BOONDOCKING: Finding the Perfect Campsite on America’s Public Lands (PDF or Kindle), 111 Ways to Get the Biggest Bang for your RV Lifestyle Buck (PDF or Kindle), and Snowbird Guide to Boondocking in the Southwestern Deserts (PDF or Kindle).