By David Kligman
STOCKTON — PG&E today (Sept. 19) showcased the utility industry’s first electric hybrid drivetrain Class 5 work trucks, which will offer fuel savings as well as exportable energy that can be used to power the grid during planned or unplanned outages.
Electric Vehicles International (EVI) developed the Range Extended Electric Vehicle utility trucks at its manufacturing facility in Stockton. The electric vehicle manufacturer designed, built and tested the trucks in partnership with PG&E and the California Energy Commission.
The trucks feature an all-electric range of 45 miles and fuel savings of up to 30 percent when the vehicles are operating in hybrid mode.
PG&E has ordered four of the trucks, which will be added to the utility’s fleet within the next few weeks, most likely in the San Francisco Bay Area or near Sacramento.
The utility plans to eventually replace all 942 of its conventional fuel Class 5 vehicles — including bucket trucks, flat beds and other service trucks — with plug-in electric hybrid models, said Dave Meisel, PG&E’s senior director of transportation and aviation services.
Millions in fuel savings
Once all these types of truck are hybrids, PG&E would save nearly $3.5 million in fuel costs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 9,000 metric tons a year. One of the biggest advantages, though, is the 75 kilowatts of exportable power, which isn’t included in the new trucks but eventually will be standard on the vehicles. PG&E is working with EVI to expand that exportable power to 125 kilowatts.
“Where we currently buy generators for our crews to use on site, they would no longer need one,” said Meisel. “They could plug right into the truck, engine off and have all the power they need.”
Meisel pointed to Hurricane Sandy as an example where customers could benefit from the exportable option to power the grid during an emergency response.
“When we can have these vehicles with exportable power and we can use them to power the grid when there’s no grid services available in a disaster like that, that is going to be a game-changing technology for the industry and our country,” he said.
Creating local jobs is another benefit of the new trucks. EVI, which formerly was headquartered in Mexico, moved its operations to the San Joaquin Valley in 2009. By moving to Stockton, EVI was able to take advantage of state and regional incentives designed to assist alternative-fuel truck and bus manufacturers in reducing prices for its customers.
Project creating California jobs
In addition to PG&E, EVI also is building electric delivery trucks for UPS and Frito-Lay. Ricky Hanna, EVI’s CEO, said his company has grown from one employee — himself — to 50 employees in four years.
“How does it feel?” he said. “In one word — awesome. We really are at the forefront of what’s going on today. It’s great to have moved from Mexico to a place like Stockton, California, to be able to provide jobs in a city that’s probably got one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation. It feels great to be able to train people in an industry that didn’t exist before.”
Janae Scott, a commissioner with the California Energy Commission, also attended the event at EVI’s showroom in Stockton. The commission supported the project with a $2.2 million grant and worked closely with PG&E and the vehicle maker.
“Today’s unveiling is a good news story for the state,” Scott said. “Californians are now having more opportunities than ever to see these clean, green vehicles of all types in their neighborhoods.”
EVI is contributing to PG&E’s long history of alternative fuel vehicles, which dates to the 1970s. Today about 3,400 of PG&E’s 10,000 work vehicles are electric or alternative fuel vehicles, making it one of the greenest fleets in the country.
One of the biggest advocates of PG&E’s fleet electrification is Tony Earley, CEO, chairman and president of the PG&E Corporation. He has said customers and employees alike benefit from the new vehicles.
The EVI bucket trucks are just the latest in PG&E’s effort to increase the number of alternative fuel vehicles in its fleet:
- Working with Altec Industries, PG&E helped develop a bucket truck that saves fuel by powering all the hydraulic operations electrically from a rechargeable battery pack.
- And the utility has partnered with VIA Motors on an extended range electric pickup that offers 15 kilowatts of exportable power so work crews can run power tools and lights from the truck itself.
“This is a new era,” said Doug Wilhoit, CEO of the Greater Stockton Chamber of Commerce. “And PG&E is keeping pace and leading the way in this era of saving our environment.”
Email David Kligman at David.Kligman@pge.com.