My First Modec EV Sighted Near Vacaville

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This morning I stumbled upon one of the first production Modec electric vans in the US, fresh off the new Indiana assembly lines.  Navistar (in a joint venture with British EV pioneer Modec) makes the eStar all electric van that was quietly awaiting its moment of glory this morning at PG&E’s switch-pulling ceremony at the new solar plant outside Vacaville. These are the coolest looking electric vans.

I climbed in (you only can get in one way, through the passenger-side cargo door, which cuts down on weight, for efficiency) and beheld its gorgeous computer screen instrumentation up close, and nearly took a ride, but the PG&E representative who showed me ultimately chickened out and decided to play it safe (after all, the company had just passed out not only  hard hats, but also sunglasses so we wouldn’t be blinded by the beauty of the solar array we were actually in Vacaville to behold).


In August last year, the heavy duty trucking giant Navistar got Department of Energy boost from a $39.2 million grant funded by ARRA – the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act – to develop and deploy electric trucks. The investment has paid off.

In under a year, it has completed testing and validation, developed and delivered prototype vehicles, and received U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and CARB certifications. These are the first of the actual production line.

Navistar only just fired up the electric vehicle assemblyline last month in Indiana, and the first few vehicles are only now making an appearance around the country. Fed-Ex in LA got the first ones, PG&E the second few. Four hundred more will go to additional customers by the end of 2010.

With a range of 100 miles per charge, the eStar is ideal for PG&E technicians who will travel under that much in a day, and return it back to base at night where it recharges for the next day’s work.

Each van can reduce greenhouse gas emissions about ten tons every year, which is about about the carbon footprint of one 11 ton Californian (without solar on their roof) or a quarter of one 39 ton Indianan, every year.

I want to see these become the eStars of every business fleet, and so does the Department of Energy. There is a tax credit of up to $7,500 for trucks in the 12,000-lb to 14,000 lb  range, and state-level funds can be paired with the Federal tax credit, in many states, to make it easy to be green.

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