Smith Electric Vehicles U.S. Corp. fabricará camiones eléctricos en Kansas

La ciudad de Kansas ha sido elegida por un consorcio británico-estadounidense para una planta de montaje, que empleará a 200 personas, para fabricar furgonetas y camiones ligeros eléctricos.

La fábrica empezará a funcionar dentro de tres años, tras una inversión de 5 millones de dólares.

La instalación se localizará en la dirección 12200 NW Ambassador Drive, la sede anterior de Farmland Industries, adquirida por la ciudad en 2006, y en un taller aeronáutico en 9200 NW 112th St., según los datos ofrecidos por las autoridades del estado.

El camión se construirá en colaboración con Ford Motor Co.

El vehículo eléctrico, que funciona con baterías de litio, se llamará Smith Newton, y se describe como “el mayor camión eléctrico del mundo”, según SEV, con una autonomía de 160 kilómetros, una velocidad máxima de 80 kilómetros y un coste de unos 20.000 euros.

Las baterías son de iones de litio y tardan en recargarse de 6 a 8 horas.

“Nuestros clientes son empresas que trabajan en áreas urbanas, y distribuyen bienes y servicios cuidando del medio ambiente. Nuestro vehículo de cero emisiones es ideal para evitar la contaminación", dijo el director de la empresa SEV.

Numerosas empresas de correos y distribución como TNT ya se han interesado por el vehículo.

SEV U.S. Corp. es un joint venture de inversores estadounidenses y The Tanfield Group Plc, con sede en el Reino Unido.

En el mercado ya hay, o habrá dentro de poco, coches eléctricos, autobuses, motos, bicicletas y camiones eléctricos. La electrificación del transporte ya no es una utopía, y el coche eléctrico será una realidad en un par de años.


Smith Electric Vehicles U.S. unveils first commercial vehicles

They weren’t made in Kansas City, but the first six battery-powered commercial vehicles from locally based Smith Electric Vehicles U.S. were presented to the company’s first buyers Tuesday in Washington.

During ceremonies at the National Mall, the vehicles were presented to four Fortune 500 companies — The Coca-Cola Co. (NYSE: KO), Staples Inc. (Nasdaq: SPLS), Frito-Lay and AT&T (NYSE: ATT) — and utilities Pacific Gas and Electric Co. and Kansas City Power & Light Co., a subsidiary of Kansas City-based Great Plains Energy Inc. (NYSE: GXP).

The Smith Newton all-electric vehicles were assembled in the United Kingdom, where Smith Electric Vehicles UK has been producing electric vehicles since the 1920s. SEV UK’s parent, The Tanfield Group Plc., owns 49 percent of Smith Electric Vehicles U.S., which announced plans in March for an assembly plant and headquarters at Kansas City International Airport.

Later this quarter, Smith Electric Vehicles U.S. is expected to begin producing the Smith Newton locally, and starting next year, it is scheduled to begin assembling a battery-electric version of the new Transit Connect light-duty vehicle made by Ford Motor Co. 

In the meantime, the startup company is hoping to get market traction through its initial high-profile buyers, which are piloting the Smith Newtons as part of their plans to move to cleaner, energy-saving fleets.

Smith Electric Vehicles U.S. is responding to America’s challenge in the battle to wean itself from foreign oil and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, U.S. Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., said in a release.

“And so, too, are the companies here today who are switching from gas to electric-powered vehicles,” said Bond, who hosted Tuesday’s ceremonies. “I am particularly proud of the role my home state of Missouri is playing in this vision for a clean energy future.”

The event also was attended by Carol Browner, assistant to President Obama for energy and climate change, and representatives of the initial vehicle buyers.

Bill Herdegen, vice president of transmission and distribution for KCP&L, said it would buy three Smith Newtons this year. The final two are expected to be the first to roll off the new Kansas City assembly line.

KCP&L already has acquired about 100 alternative-fuel and hybrid gas-electric vehicles and has begun mixing diesel and biodiesel fuel in a fleet of about 400 trucks, Herdegen said. The utility has been able to displace 20 percent of its gasoline and diesel use, he added, and officials hope that the Smith Newton will enable even better performance.

Herdegen said KCP&L’s first Smith Newton will be converted into a bucket truck by Altec Industries Inc., based in Birmingham, Ala., which has teamed with Smith Electric Vehicles U.S. to produce all-electric trucks with aerial devices.

Future Smith Newtons will be converted into either bucket trucks or vehicles used by cable splicers, Herdegen said.

The Smith Newton is a zero-emission vehicle that stores energy during stops through a process called regenerative braking. It has a top speed of 50 mph, a 16,000-pound payload capacity and a range of about 100 miles per battery charge.

Because of the limited range achievable through current battery technology, Smith Electric Vehicles officials decided that fixed-route, depot-based delivery fleets would be the best customers to target initially.

Tom Goff, a senior vice president of Compass Group North America in Charlotte, N.C., recently said a subsidiary, Canteen Vending Services, would buy about 30 Smith Newtons in the next year and convert its entire 10,000-truck fleet to battery power if the pilot test proves successful.

The Smith Newtons will cost about $140,000 each, about $100,000 more than their combustion-engine counterparts, Goff said. But he said part of the cost increment for early purchases could be covered by federal stimulus grants offered for that purpose by some states.

“As more depot-based truck fleet operators come on board and adopt all-electric vehicles, battery technology will advance, and manufacturing costs will be driven down,” Bryan Hansel, CEO of Smith Electric Vehicles U.S., added in a release.

That will spur new growth in the commercial electric vehicle industry, creating new high-tech jobs, he said. Smith Electric Vehicles U.S. has announced plans to create 120 high-paying jobs in Kansas City by the end of the year.