PARIS –A British maker of zero-emissions commercial trucks appears to be on the verge of turning a profit.
Modec Ltd. this year will produce about 300 6-ton (5.5-t) trucks powered by lithium-ion batteries. In 2010, the Coventry, U.K.-based truck maker expects orders to at least double as Europe moves to technologies that reduce carbon-dioxide emissions.
Modec has invested E50 million ($70 million) in the development of its 6-ton truck, which has a small turning radius and is just 6.5-ft. (2-m) wide, with the aim of navigating narrow European streets.
ElecTruckCity, the French distributor of Modec trucks, expects to begin delivering vehicles to clients this fall, setting a goal of 1,500 units annually in 2012.
Modec CEO Bill Gillespie says the Coventry plant has a capacity of 2,500 units annually on a single-shift basis.
The French government aims to have as many as 300,000 electric vehicles on the road in 2012. While most will be passenger cars, a change to electricity for urban delivery vehicles could significantly contribute to a reduction in pollution.
Michel Albrand, cofounder of ElecTruckCity, says deliveries account for 9%-15% of urban transport movements, but they produce 65% of particulate emissions and 37% of oxides of nitrogen emissions.
In France, 80% of electricity is produced by nuclear power plants, so the contribution to CO2 reduction is huge.
Albrand says there currently are about 40 Modec trucks in operation in France, many delivering luxury goods. He is confident the French government and transporters will create further market demand.
A standard Modec delivery truck will sell in France for about E75,000 ($105,175), double the cost of a diesel-powered truck such as the Renault Trafic. The chassis comprises 48% of the cost, the battery 45%, and the charging electronics account for the rest, Albrand says.
The Modec truck will be available with a dozen different bodies, including a dump-truck bed.
Modec has resolved one problem that killed earlier attempts in Paris to implement electric-powered garbage trucks. A too-long recharging time meant the vehicles periodically had down time, and the city eventually replaced them with diesel vehicles.
The Modec electric truck’s batteries can be switched out in 20 minutes. Although such a system requires users to invest or rent a second or third battery, it would be possible to use a vehicle around the clock.
The idea essentially is the same as that of California-based Project Better Place, which is working closing with alliance partners Renault SA and Nissan Motor Co. Ltd.
Gillespie says Modec is sourcing Li-ion batteries from several Asian producers. Because they are packaged within a changeable cassette, the company can take advantage of future battery improvements and switch among different suppliers without changes to the vehicle itself.
Gillespie predicts five or six companies ultimately will emerge as suppliers of batteries for transport.
The Modec truck’s top speed is 50 mph (80 km/h) and range is 56 miles (90 km) per charge. The vehicle’s warranty is three years or 99,000 miles (160,000 km), while the battery is guaranteed for 1,000 recharge cycles, the equivalent of five years at 200 days per year. The truck has a useful payload of 3,086 lb. (1,400 kg).
Gillespie says 35 components differentiate left- and right-hand-drive versions of the truck, with the majority of production comprised of LHD models for continental Europe.
While he says the company is eying the Chinese and U.S. markets, “we are keen to assure that we expand in a controlled way. We are probably the only company (in the Coventry area) that has been hiring production workers in the past three months.” Modec currently employs 80 workers.
Deret Transporteur is using Modec trucks to deliver perfume to Sephora stories in Orleans, France, and in October will operate a fleet of 15 Modec vehicles for Paris deliveries to the retailer of beauty products.