The U.S. Department of Energy has just kicked off an electric truck demonstration project in the Houston-Galveston area, and since it’s Texas you know there’s a potential to power those trucks with wind. TXU, the electricity supplier to Houston, already offers a 100 percent wind power option to its customers, and the project is being conducted in collaboration with the Houston-Galveston Area Council (H-GAC), which is up to its neck in sustainability programs and offers a cooperative energy purchasing program. So here’s hoping, and in the meantime let’s take a closer look at the project and at Smith Electric Vehicles, which is providing 30 trucks for the demonstration project.
The Houston-Galveston Electric Truck Project
The H-GAC Zero Emission Truck Project is funded through a grant from the Energy Department’s National Energy Technology Laboratory, to be administered by H-GAC. The project also involves the clean tech powerhouse Center for Transportation and the Environment, which has leveraged projects for the Army and NASA among other agencies (not to be confused with a likewise named center at North Carolina State University, btw).
The voluntary project is aimed at reducing diesel emissions from cargo transportation in the region, which is currently running in the non-attainment zone according to federal air quality standards. The goal is to attract participants to replace diesel delivery with medium-duty and heavy-duty all-electric trucks, demonstrating that the emission-free trucks perform just as well as their polluting counterparts and are cost-effective to operate, too.
At only 30, the number of trucks may seem modest, but since the program is focused on daily-use vehicles the expectation is that those 30 trucks will jointly save more than 250,000 gallons of diesel over the demonstration period of two years, while reducing green house gas emissions by 37.5 million tons of carbon equivalents per year.
As a sweetener, the trucks come with a charging station, so if you’re a fleet manager in the Houston-Galveston region and you happen to be reading this, give the folks at Smith Electric Vehicles Corp. a call.
Smith Electric Vehicles And The Electric Truck Project
Smith Electric first popped onto our radar through our sister site Gas2.org, which reported on the company’s electric truck promotion in Washington, D.C. back in 2009, in which it officially delivered electric delivery trucks to Coca-Cola and the utility PSE&G.
FedEx is among several other U.S. companies that have been tooling cargo around in Smith Electric trucks. Last year, FedEx took delivery of the company’s new “Newton Step Van” model, which features a walk-in body.
The trucks included in the H-GAC project feature Smith Electric’s proprietary Smith Power battery platform and Smith Drive, along with the Smith Link data tracker.
The accompanying charging station is designed to provide a full charge overnight, in about 6 to 10 hours depending on the size of the battery pack and other variables.
Let’s note for the record that Smith Electric has itself received major federal clean energy funding and ran into some financial straits last year, for which it was supposedly at risk of being labeled the “next Solyndra,” for what it’s worth. However, earlier this summer the New York Times reported at length on Smith’s efforts to start up electric truck manufacturing facilities in New York City and Chicago, and things seem to be looking up for the company.
About That Texas Wind Power
Wind power has been taking off like a rocket deep in the heart of oil country, including not only energy generation from wind farms but the biggest wind power storage facility in the US. That’s why it’s not surprising that the Houston utility TXU offers not just any old 100 percent wind power option, but a 100 percent wind power option using energy drawn from in-state wind farms.
That’s a major contribution to the local pride angle for business marketing, so while the H-GAC project doesn’t necessarily include a renewable energy EV recharging component, we wouldn’t be surprised if some enterprising fleet manager went down that road.