Ian Wright was one of the founders of Tesla, but when Elon Musk came aboard and started to move fast and break things, Wright packed up and left to form his own company — Wrightspeed — headquartered across San Francisco in Alameda, California. Wright was convinced the highest priority in the quest to drive the EV revolution forward was to focus on the biggest polluters, namely transit buses and heavy duty trucks.
Wright and his band of merry pranksters perfected a range extender turbine that should have won an engineering prize. It was a jewel-like device that addressed the range anxiety of many prospective commercial buyers. But battery technology developed more quickly than anyone thought possible, rendering the Wrightspeed turbine obsolete before it ever left the starting gate.
Now the company has teamed up with Romeo Power, a Los Angeles-based company that bills itself as “an energy technology leader delivering advanced electrification solutions for complex commercial vehicle applications.” It offers customers a suite of advanced battery electric products and an innovative battery management system that deliver the safety, performance, reliability, and configurability its customers require.
Powertrain In A Crate
Recently we did a story about Saietta, a company in the UK that is installing bespoke electric powertrains in existing city buses. Romeo Power and Wrightspeed are working on the same idea, which they call a “Powertrain In A Crate.” The only difference is, the California companies are targeting much more than transit buses. Their system is applicable to medium and heavy duty trucks as well, according to Romeo. The battery packs will be manufactured at Romeo Power’s new facility in Cypress, California, starting this year.
There are over one million existing buses and trucks that are candidates for repowering to zero emission full battery-electric right now, the companies say, and at a much lower upfront cost than purchasing expensive new battery-electric vehicles. Wrightspeed is developing “Powertrain in a Crate” kits that are chassis-specific and can be installed locally where fleets operate, creating jobs and new technology opportunities for those supporting school bus, work truck and other fleets. By using Wrightspeed’s Route™ traction drive technology, the repowered vehicles will be more efficient and provide higher torque than new vehicles based on single speed remote mount systems.
Together, the companies intend to develop and sell re-power kits. “Romeo Power’s advanced electrification solutions for complex commercial vehicle applications is a perfect fit for our Route™ powertrain system. We are particularly impressed by their high level of safety, packaging density, and modularity,” says Alan Dowdell, acting CEO of Wrightspeed. “We are proud to team up with Romeo Power and set a new standard in performance and efficiency for electric buses and trucks.”
The two companies say there are more than a million buses and trucks that could benefit from their re-powering program, according to Electrive. Imagine how much carbon dioxide, oxides of nitrogen, and fine particulates could be kept out of the skies over America if all of them were converted to battery-electric power, a process that can be completed in-house at many truck and bus fleet maintenance facilities.
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