San Jose, California
May 21, 2012
Yes, there is a commercial truck that saves twenty times more fuel than a 100mpg car. Wrightspeed is challenging convention with the Route™, a retrofit electric drive powertrain with an on-board generator engineered for the surprisingly large medium-duty commercial fleet market. In the US alone, this part of the transportation sector boasts over 2 million trucks.
Why trucks instead of hyper-efficient cars?
“For electric drive to make economic sense, you have to displace enough fuel to pay for the technology,” says founder and CEO, Ian Wright. “That pretty much rules out passenger cars, because they don’t burn enough fuel. Medium-duty trucks on commercial routes burn thousands of gallons of fuel annually.”
By displacing enough of those gallons of fuel to get fleet operators a decent payback, Wrightspeed have much more than a clean transportation idea; they have a compelling business proposition.
Enter the Wrightspeed Route™ retrofit powertrain. By preserving existing truck chassis and bodies, Wrightspeed avoids the capital costs, time, and pitfalls of learning how to make trucks as cheaply and as well as the established vehicle manufacturers. It also frees Wrightspeed to address more than the new medium-duty truck market; because their trucks run so many miles (an average of 30,000 miles annually), the fleet industry is accustomed to regularly replacing powertrains.
Unlike a pure battery powertrain, the Wrightspeed Route™ does not restrict fleet operations with range limitations, because it has an on-board generator that charges the 40 mile battery in the field. Unlike in a conventional hybrid, the efficient electric motors are always producing the variable torque necessary to turn the wheels. This frees the generator from having to perform over the entire speed-load map, and allows it to operate at its most efficient point to charge the small, high-power battery. Wrightspeed calls this system architecture a Range-extended Electric Vehicle (REV) powertrain.
“It’s the best of both worlds,” says Wrightspeed’s marketing manager, Maya Giannini. “The Route™ combines the efficiency of an EV with the unlimited range of a mild parallel hybrid. And our generator fuel system can be fitted to run diesel, compressed natural gas, or landfill gases; so, the Route™ is really the best of all three worlds.”
Wrightspeed has retrofitted an Isuzu NPR with their Route™ powertrain. The NPR holds 70% of the world’s cab-forward box truck market. With its conventional diesel powertrain, the NPR averaged about 12 miles per gallon in testing with a metro drive cycle. With the Route™, under the same test conditions, Wrightspeed measured 44 miles per gallon (on a cost equivalent basis), a more than 300% improvement.
“The measured miles per gallon will vary widely with drive cycle. We are modest in our calculations, because fleet operators are looking for a new technology they can trust to reduce their bottom line.” says Giannini. “They carefully track their fuel usage, and inflated efficiency numbers do nothing to further their trust in the clean tech industry.”
Wrightspeed officially announced the Route™ retrofit powertrain at the 2012 Alternative Clean Transportation (ACT) Expo in Long Beach on Wednesday, May 16th. The Route™ was available to the public for Ride & Drive testing.
So, how does Wrightspeed’s Route save more fuel than a 100 mpg car? Urban cars average 12 miles per hour and drive an average of 12 hours per week. That’s 7,500 miles per year. If that car got 100 mpg, it would burn 75 gallons annually. If that car were to replace a 40 mpg hybrid, which would burn, under the same conditions, 188 gallons, the fuel savings would be 113 gallons per year.
However, the Route™ can get trucks 44 mpg (cost equivalent) at an average of 30,000 miles per year at, that’s 700 gallons. When the Route™ replaces an 8mpg conventional powertrain that burns 3,750 gallons annually, the fuel savings is 3,050 gallons.
That’s 27 times more fuel saved.