Freightliner Custom Chassis Corporation?s All-Electric Walk-In Van Chassis Debuts at NTEA Work Truck Show

Freightliner Custom Chassis Corporation (FCCC) continues its legacy of engineering alternative-power products for the commercial vehicle industry with the introduction of its highly anticipated plug-in all-electric walk-in van (WIV) chassis. The new chassis model is the only one domestically engineered and the first in the industry to be completely all-electric (includes HVAC system) in North America.

“In partnership with Enova we have developed an all-electric chassis to meet the environmental, economic and performance needs of our commercial vehicle customers”

The all-electric chassis, developed in partnership with Enova Systems (NYSE:ENA) (AIM:ENV) (AIM:ENVS), a leading developer and producer of electric and hybrid-electric drive system technologies for commercial electric vehicles OEMs, is built on the popular FCCC MT-45 WIV chassis platform.

FCCC presented the preproduction all-electric WIV chassis model at the 2010 National Truck Equipment Association (NTEA) Work Truck Show (Booth #3035).

“In partnership with Enova we have developed an all-electric chassis to meet the environmental, economic and performance needs of our commercial vehicle customers,” said Bob Harbin, FCCC president. “Our vision is clearly focused on transitioning the all-electric chassis into the mainstream of our walk-in van production programs. This new program demonstrates that FCCC remains fully committed to engineering chassis options that lower operating costs and decrease carbon footprints for our customers.

“Unlike competitive models, our all-electric chassis is custom-built from the ground up for the walk-in van market, integrating the proven ergonomic advantages of WIV bodies,” Harbin added. “Competitor chassis are a cab chassis configuration and end up as box trucks typically built for the trucking industry. Competitor products do not offer the ergonomic benefits and safety features of a WIV such as curb-side exit, walk-through cargo area, direct access to cargo area from driver’s station, etc.”

Addressing the discussion in the industry surrounding recent federal funding for all-electric technology, Jonathan Randall, sales and marketing director at FCCC added, “FCCC initiated our all-electric project well before stimulus money and federal grants were available for alternative-power transportation projects. FCCC viewed the all-electric project as the logical next step in its alternative-power product offerings, as well as a strategic opportunity to continue its leadership role in the WIV industry.”

Zero Emissions Without Sacrificing Performance

The new all-electric chassis enables fleet operators to eliminate harmful emissions and cut operating and maintenance costs while delivering the performance and driver comfort features FCCC customers have come to expect. On select delivery and service routes, studies show that customers will save up to $15,000 per vehicle annually compared with traditionally powered walk-in vans. The quiet operation of the all-electric chassis also makes for an enjoyable driver experience. This new chassis has a flat-leaf spring front and rear suspension, allowing for a smooth, solid ride that minimizes cargo shifts on uneven road surfaces.

The development program with Enova involved the engineering and integration of Enova’s 120kW all-electric drive system technology into the new MT-45 chassis. Ideal for the pickup and delivery market, the MT-45 chassis boasts a GVWR of 14,000 to 19,500 lbs. The durable steel straight-rail chassis frame reduces flex and bowing to minimize chassis stress while carrying heavy payloads.

“Collaborating with Freightliner Custom Chassis Corporation has enabled us to achieve our shared goal of introducing all-electric drive technology into the walk-in van market,” said Mike Staran, president and CEO of Enova Systems. “The FCCC-Enova partnership is accelerating the broad deployment of EV technology in this critical vehicle segment while improving the environment and helping to reduce U.S. dependence on imported energy.“

Powered by Tesla Motors lithium ion batteries, the chassis is 100 percent electric, including its HVAC system, making it the only fully featured WIV chassis in the industry to be completely electrically powered. FCCC is the first company within the industry to utilize Tesla batteries for commercial applications.

The all-electric drive system features battery packs that provides an up to 100-mile driving range on a single charge, making it ideal for pickup and delivery applications. The battery pack will charge from fully depleted to fully charged in six to eight hours.

The batteries featured on the electric system also capture and store energy during the regenerative braking phase of the vehicle’s operation. The regenerative braking system reduces friction during braking, resulting in less brake wear and extended brake life. The regenerative braking system saves energy by recycling and storing it, which can then be reused to propel the vehicle instead of losing it to heat, as is the case with traditional brakes.

Other features include a parking pawl within the gear box and a push-button shifter for improved efficiency.

The all-electric MT-45 chassis is expected to go into full production during the first quarter of 2011 and will undergo testing with major U.S. pickup and delivery fleets.

Green Technology Legacy

FCCC and its parent company, Daimler Trucks North America LLC (DTNA), maintain a legacy of providing innovative technologies that benefit customers and the environment. FCCC’s commitment to green technologies is in line with Daimler AG’s global initiative called, “Shaping Future Transportation.” Launched in Stuttgart, Germany, by Daimler in 2007, the initiative is focused on reducing category emissions pollutants, carbon dioxide and fuel consumption.

In August 2008, Daimler announced the opening of the Global Hybrid Center at Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Corporation in Kawasaki, Japan. The center is the worldwide hub for Daimler’s hybrid development.

“FCCC is proud to continue to play an important role in Daimler’s global initiative,” said Randall. “We are committed to developing new chassis that offer a superior level of comfort, reliability, performance and durability that our customers need from their vehicles, while also manufacturing products that are environmentally responsible.”

Along with the all-electric chassis, FCCC has extensive experience manufacturing compressed natural gas (CNG) WIV chassis, currently manufactures hybrid-electric vehicle (HEV) chassis and will offer full production of the hydraulic hybrid vehicle (HHV) chassis in Q4 2010 for the walk-in van market segment. These alternative-power vehicles have proven to offer significant fuel savings benefits.

FCCC also designs and manufactures alternative-fuel chassis for the commercial bus and motorhome market segments. In 2008, FCCC introduced ecoFRED™, the motorhome industry’s first hybrid-electric chassis, and the FCCC MB-HEV hybrid-electric commercial bus chassis in response to a growing customer demand for alternative-fuel power that provides the same excellent performance and durability as FCCC’s premium diesel-powered chassis. At the 2009 NTEA Work Truck Show, FCCC introduced its HHV chassis to the commercial vehicle industry.

Enova Systems (NYSE:ENA and AIM:ENV and ENVS) is a leading supplier of efficient, environmentally friendly digital power components and systems products. The Company’s core competencies are focused on the development and commercialization of power management and conversion systems for mobile applications. Enova applies unique “enabling technologies” in the areas of alternative energy propulsion systems for light and heavy-duty vehicles as well as power conditioning and management systems for distributed generation systems. The Company develops, designs and produces non-invasive drive systems and related components for electric, hybrid-electric, and fuel cell powered vehicles in both the “new” and “retrofit” vehicle sales market.

Freightliner Custom Chassis Corporation manufactures premium chassis for the motorhome, delivery walk-in van, and school bus and shuttle bus markets. Freightliner Custom Chassis Corporation is a subsidiary of Daimler Trucks North America LLC, a Daimler company.