Wrightspeed secures order of 25 powertrains from FedEx

Wrightspeed, the electric powertrain startup led by Tesla co-founder Ian Wright, has just landed its biggest fish to date: an order of 25 powertrains from giant fleet operator Federal Express. The company has tested Wrightspeed’s technology in two of its trucks and decided to take the next step.

Financial details of the deal are confidential, but Wright told the San Francisco Chronicle that each powertrain costs significantly less than $100,000, and that FedEx should see a three-to-four-year payback period. “We designed the system so that we’re not expecting the drivers to drive any differently, and they’ll still save a lot of fuel,” he said.

FedEx has been testing alternative fuel vehicles for years, and currently has 363 hybrids and 117 EVs, as well as 45 natural gas, 41 propane and 40 hydrogen vehicles in its fleet. Since 2005, it has improved fuel efficiency by 27 percent, according to its 2013 Global Citizenship Report. “Our long-term goal is to see the electrification of short-haul surface transportation.”

As Wright explained to Charged in a recent feature article, he left Tesla after only a year to start his own company, because he had a different vision of the best way to apply electrification to the transportation industry. “If you concentrate your effort on the powertrain only, then you can figure out a way to get the powertrain to market without having to build car factories and build cars. So, that convinced me to just do the powertrains, and do them for medium-duty trucks as repower kits.”

Ian Wirght

Wrightspeed’s plug-in hybrid powertrain, which can be installed in a new vehicle or retrofitted to an older one, includes a lithium-ion battery pack from A123 Systems, and a range-extending turbine that can run on gasoline, diesel or natural gas. Electric range is about 30 miles. The company has raised about $16.5 million in financing.

The next frontier may be garbage trucks, which Wright says are a great candidate for electrification. They typically make hundreds of stops per day, and spend large amounts of time idling. Wrightspeed is currently talking to a California garbage-hauling company about a deal to retrofit 17 trucks (other companies are also targeting this niche – Motiv Power Systems recently sold 20 electric garbage trucks to the City of Chicago).

“Garbage trucks are ideal,” says Wright. “With the benefit of hindsight, we probably should have started with those.”


Source: San Francisco Chronicle