Officials from an RV manufacturer and an electric-motor maker have announced plans to partner up to manufacture what they say will be the first mass-produced light-duty electric pickup truck. Gulf Stream Coach and Electric Motors Corporation say they plan to invest more than $80 million to build the trucks in Indiana, potentially creating more than 1,600 jobs by 2012.
"The trucks are going to use a plug-in serial hybrid electric [powertrain]," said Mark Smith, vice president and chief information officer of Gulf Stream Coach. "We'll be able to retrofit any make of light-duty pickup, like the Chevrolet Silverado 1500, Ford F-150 or Dodge Ram . We'll acquire the trucks, pull the [internal combustion] engine and install the hybrid electric engine."
According to Smith, the serial hybrid pickups will use an electric motor to drive the wheels, while a small gasoline engine is used as an on-board generator and range extender. On battery power alone, the trucks are expected to be able to go about 30 to 40 miles before the gas engine is needed to recharge the batteries. The trucks are expected to achieve the conventional equivalent of 40 mpg.
Two static display trucks are expected to be shown by the end of July, followed by two drivable units by the end of September. Very low-volume production will start in 2010 to collect data and refine the powertrain. Full production will ramp up over a three-year period. In 2011, an estimated 1,000 trucks will be built each month, growing to 2,500 a month in 2012, up to a total of 50,000 in 2013.
How much will the trucks cost?
"We're still collecting data to get a feel for the market," Smith said. "Cost will depend on who the buyers are. The trucks will be sold to fleets and to people who want a custom truck. For fleets, we hope to keep the price under $50,000 [including purchase and retrofit]. A customized truck could potentially cost more than that. Buyers should also be able to qualify for a $7,500 federal tax credit."
That's the same credit granted to cars like the Chevrolet Volt.
The trucks will have an advantage of more than high gas mileage. Smith says they'll also be able to act as mobile power generators at construction sites, providing up to 340 volts of electricity in one of the configurations Gulf Stream Coach and EMC are studying.
Light-duty trucks are expected to be the starting point. Smith says the partners intend to eventually retrofit and sell midsize and heavy-duty electric pickups too — all under the EMC brand.
"Gulf Stream is a very experienced small-volume upfitter," Smith said. "We're making these trucks for EMC. We may redesign the front end of the trucks at some point in the future with a look that's special to EMC."
The companies are seeking funding through the U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program to help with startup costs.