A little more than a year ago, we at CleanTechnica wrote about a new startup electric transportation company called CityFreighter in an article titled, “We Need Electric Pickup Trucks, And Soon — From Tesla & Others.” Fast forward to 2019, and CityFreighter, Inc. unveiled its CF1 prototype at the 2019 ACT Expo, which convened April 23-26, 2019. XPO Sales, Inc. issued a LOI that increased to a firm purchase order for 500 CF1 Full Electric Class 4 Trucks for the last mile.
CityFreighter’s medium-duty CF1 truck is an innovation to serve the last-mile requirements of fleet operators, parcel-distribution companies, and drivers. The company has focused on developing customized vehicle concepts which integrate into the existing infrastructures and evolving business requirements of fleet operators.
Innovation Happens Really Quickly
To create the CF1 in such a short amount of time and at this high level of overall quality, CityFreighter required a massive effort coupled with agile product development. The company achieved its objectives by drawing on top-suppliers and a broad range of experts stretching from Asia through Europe and into the USA.
Today, with offices on the US West Coast and in Europe, CityFreighter is ready to scale up and is focusing on the US as its first commercial market. With a growing network of commercial and operational partners in place and a first order for 500 units in-hand, now they’re looking ahead to working with new customers to understand their requirements and to serve various last-mile needs.
Exclusive Interview with CityFreighter’s CEO Michael Schoening
We at CleanTechnica were delighted that Michael Schoening, CEO of CityFreighter, accepted our request for an interview.
CT: Why will “last mile” electric transportation like CityFreighter offers become the norm in the near future?
MS: CityFreighter’s proposition aligns perfectly with several of the quickly accelerating mega-trends we are seeing in industrialized markets around the globe.
Urbanization continues to increase, and the demand for delivery of goods to businesses and consumers in those urban areas is on the high rise. In parallel, public sentiment and legislation are shifting increasingly to environmentally-friendly, sustainable solutions.
All this calls for new mobility and logistics solutions for online retailers, fleet operators, parcel distribution companies, and their drivers. That is precisely the “last-mile” and even “last-yard” market opportunity we serve by offering highly-customized vehicle solutions.
CT: Why is CityFreighter able to lead the way in Full Electric Class 4 Trucks for the last mile?
MS: Quite simply, we have an exceptionally talented team, which delivers highly innovative, design-driven solutions customized to our customers’ vehicle, driver ergonomics and IT-system integration requirements coupled with very fast time-to-market at very high quality levels and industry-beating total cost of ownership (TCO). Motors and batteries will become commodities.
The Last Mile industry needs solutions beyond just changing the combustion engine with an electric drive. We envisioned that in early stages and put a lot of efforts into researching the industry, talked to potential future customers and drivers. We are seeing a lot of companies, even large OEM’s, who still not realize that the whole vehicle concept needs to be changed, to become completely sustainable, and to focus on the user who needs solutions.
For example, if you go into electric, you need to change the chassis configuration to become as lightweight as possible. You can argue, well, that is quite logical, but many companies just don’t do or even don’t get that. In Europe, where CityFreighter has a strong base, we were driven to design lightweight components for ages, due to the limitations of driver license requirements for commercial trucks.
That knowledge and experience pays back as well now. Our cargo box is one of the lightest ones in the industry and is constructed out of honeycomb material. Every pound less counts to achieve real sustainability, and it will increase the performance and reach, having a positive impact on TCO as well. We are driven by thinking out of the box, changing the way a quite conservative industry who hasn’t changed a lot for decades, will need to go in the future.
CT: Why was design so important to CityFreighter planning? Why wasn’t sustainability and attractive pricing enough?
MS: Sustainability and low TCO are important. But, these along with electrification, are basic must-have requirements offering little competitive differentiation and subject to rapid commoditization as entrants to market increase.
The differentiation is in the design of the cargo-box to suit business’s last-mile logistics and marketing needs, it is in the ergonomics design to make driver’s lives easier and safer, it is in the user interface (UI) design regarding the integration of business’ IT systems with the truck’s central display hub, and, importantly, it is in the look & feel of our truck’s design that makes people look, makes drivers proud to drive it and that provides businesses with a strong corporate image wherever they go.
And all that at industry-leading TCO.
CT: How is CityFreighter’s “intelligent front- & back-end integration” unique?
MS: CityFreighter is much more than an electric truck with clever innovations for businesses and great ergonomics for drivers. We see the truck as just one part of our customers’ systems. It links directly to their route planning & optimization, parcel tracking, reverse logistics, customer satisfaction and internal communication IT systems.
That is what we mean by back-end IT integration, and it is, for example, the driving idea behind installing the large touch-screen in the middle of the driver-cabin as the central hub for company, customer, and driver to connect.
All-Electric Foundation, Integrated Design
Select highlights of the CF1 are:
- A very low-floor cargo area platform of just 43 cm (17 inches)
- Compact dimensions of 21 x 9 x 7 feet & a GVWR of 5 tons
- Entirely keyless operation
- 100 mile driving range
- A modular cargobox
- Industry-competitive TCO
The payload capacity will be 2.4 tons and with a minimum of 710 cubic feet, all based on a 17-inch low-floor design. To achieve that, the rear axle is equipped with an electric air suspension. This avoids the need for an electric lift system, reduces loading and unloading times. and significantly lessens driver strain.
Future developments will focus on autonomous functions as well.
We’re happy to throw CityFreighter a little love — and why not? The company’s excitement about the CF1 unveiling, its belief that the CF1 will set new standards in the industry, the record time in which it developed its prototype according to budget — these are examples of vision that makes it to reality. Schoening and crew have not only defined how a commercial vehicle for the last mile should be designed; they’ve shown that it’s possible to move beyond the combustion engine and still meet the needs of customers and challenging markets.
That’s a lot to celebrate.
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