Electric trucks should last at least 10 years, says study 02 December 2010

Data gathered from Smith Electric Vehicles appears to shed new light on the residual value debate for electric vans and trucks.

Tests on new lithium-ion phosphate (LiFePO4) batteries used in electric commercial vehicles indicate that they should lead productive working lives for at least a decade.

The research, which was carried out by Smith Electric Vehicles on its Edison and Newton vans and light trucks, provides interesting data. Sales director Kevin Harkin says: "The battery condition reports delivered much more impressive figures than we ever expected, demonstrating far lower levels of battery degradation than even the manufacturer forecasts."

Harkin states that Smith Electric Vehicles' own research – and independent tests commissioned by the firm – have verified that the battery should still have a "minimum of 80% capacity after 3,000 cycles".

"So even if the vehicle uses a full battery cycle, every day for 300 days a year, it will still be 80% efficient after 10 years. For example, a vehicle that had a 100-mile range when new will still have an 80-mile range, a decade later," he explains.

Smith Electric used to use Sodium Nickel Chloride (Zebra) batteries, but moved to LiFePO4 for their longer life, durability and better performance. Smith now guarantees its batteries for five years, as opposed to the three-year warranty on Zebra batteries.

Harkin also makes the point that, because the drive train on a Smith vehicle is friction-free, it does not wear in the same way as an internal combustion engine. "Couple this to the extended battery life and you can see why many of our fleet customers are pushing out the operating life of our vehicles to seven, eight or even 10 years," he says.

And he adds: "This extended life creates a compelling saving on whole life costs – it's an extra three to five years without having to buy diesel. That is one of the reasons why we use the Ford Transit chassis for the Smith Edison – it is extremely durable and long-lasting."

Interestingly, Harkin also sees a second hand market opening up, with used electric vehicles likely to be sold for applications that requires lower mileage. "This opens up enormous potential for secondary markets, particularly with tradesmen working in London or other large urban conurbations," he explains.

"A joiner or plumber travelling 20 miles a day can't see the whole life cost benefits at £60,000 for a new electric van. However, a £15,000 van that will save them £5,000 a year in fuel, tax and congestion charge is a very attractive prospect."

Brian Tinham

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