Battery and fuel cell technology vans set for growth 09 February 2010

Smith electric Vehicles' Newton medium duty electric truck has now been approved for purchase by all US federal agencies and the military, following its addition to the US General Services Administration (GSA) schedule.

Bryan Hansel, CEO of Smith Electric Vehicles US, says that the approval not only means a real opportunity for US government to reduce fleet vehicle greenhouse gas emissions also a realistic chance to rapidly scale up production, lowering costs throughout the electric vehicle industry.

The Newton truck is powered by lithium-ion battery technology, features regenerative braking, has a top speed of 50mph, a range on one battery charge in excess of 100 miles and a payload of up to 7,300kg.

Smith is also trialling a small hydrogen fuel cell that could double the range. The company has signed a deal in the UK with German Proton Power Systems, under which both parties will build a battery-powered commercial vehicle, equipped with a PM200 fuel cell.

Thomas Melczer, CEO of Proton Power, explains that the fuel cell will be used to top-up the batteries and support auxiliary vehicle functions, such as air conditioning and heating. It will also provide an on-board electrical supply, which will improve ease of maintenance.

Work is due to start on Smith's Edison range of electric vans, currently in use with fleet operators such as Sainsbury's Online, Scottish & Southern Energy, TNT and the Royal Mail.

The company says that initial focus will on German operators. It is already "in discussions" with the German Government-backed hydrogen and electric vehicle organisation 'Now' for 20 such vans.

Brian Tinham

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