The new factory is expected to produce 1,200 vehicles a year, and create at least 200 new jobs.
Smith Electric Vehicles got its start in the UK, building electric-powered milk floats. Nowadays, it’s selling electric medium-duty trucks to some of the world’s largest fleet operators, including PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, FedEx, DHL, Staples, and the US military. This week, the company announced plans to open a new factory in Chicago. The new factory is expected to produce 1,200 vehicles a year, and create at least 200 new jobs.
Chicago will be Smith’s third US location – the company’s headquarters is in Kansas City MO, and it has a manufacturing facility in New York City. According to CEO Bryan Hansel, having regional service, sales and assembly operations helps meet the needs of local fleets, and may also convince its national customers to deploy electric vehicles in Chicago. “We truly feel a local presence will create demand,” Hansel told the New York Times. “The city of Chicago may not buy trucks from us if we’re not located there. And the beauty of our business model is that the shops don’t need a lot of capital or overhead.”
The Windy City is rolling out the red carpet for Smith. Next year, the Chicago Department of Transportation will begin a $15 million program to encourage area fleets to replace diesel delivery vehicles with electrics. Fleet operators will be eligible for vouchers that cover 60 percent of the additional up-front cost of electric trucks, as well as a package of parking and registration benefits.
“Because of the incentive package, a lot of companies will want to purchase midsize commercial electric vehicles and put them on the streets here,” said David Spielfogel of the Chicago mayor’s office. “We’ve already had a lot of calls. This fits into the mayor’s vision for electrifying the fleet.” Spielfogel told the New York Times that the city is working with Smith to identify a plant site, which will probably be a vacant factory in a corridor chosen for redevelopment. The goal is to have vehicles rolling out by the second quarter of 2013.
“I’m proud to welcome another growing company with a great mission to Chicago,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “Soon hundreds of Chicagoans will be able to put their skills to use providing businesses worldwide with high-quality, zero-emission, American-made vehicles. Smith Electric Vehicles is an innovative company in a forward-looking, essential industry that is a central part of Chicago’s economic future.”