A Fumeless Delivery Truck Plies Hunts Point Streets
Edward Taylor was driving through the thick of Manhattan on Thursday, in the middle of his morning deliveries, when he looked down at the gas gauge. “It’s on zero,” said Mr. Taylor, 46, “but don’t worry.”
Mr. Taylor was not alarmed because he had plugged in the truck for a few hours the day before. By the end of his run, driving boxes of fresh seafood from the Hunts Point section of the Bronx to three sites in Manhattan, Mr. Taylor had used only about 20 percent of his battery power.
Just battery power.
“We’re not making any pollution,” said Mr. Taylor, the owner of Down East Seafood in Hunts Point and the operator of New York City’s first all-electric, emissions-free medium-duty delivery truck. “I mean, there’s no fumes coming out of this truck.”
On Thursday morning, Mr. Taylor made his first deliveries on the truck, which was a conventional gasoline-powered vehicle that was retrofitted. Painted green, naturally, it ran smoothly and virtually silently through the streets of Manhattan and the Bronx. It runs on sodium-nickel-chloride batteries and a 120-kilowatt induction motor. After being charged for about eight hours, it can drive up to 150 miles at a top speed of 50 m.p.h. with a 12,339-pound payload.
The truck will be on display on Friday at the Alternative Vehicle Technology Conference at Lehman College in the Bronx. The annual conference, sponsored by the City University of New York’s Center for Sustainable Energy, will showcase more than two dozen electric, compressed natural gas and hybrid trucks, vans and buses.
Even in New York City, the land of the white box truck, the sight of a green exhaust-pipe-free truck with California plates, smelling of fish and being driven by a Brooklyn-born former geology student, has the ability to turn a few heads. But many did not notice Mr. Taylor’s truck at all, which sat silently at stoplights.
“I guess if we were louder people would notice us,” Mr. Taylor said at one stoplight.
The curious who took notice peppered him with detailed questions about the truck. A security guard at the United Nations, where Mr. Taylor delivered halibut, red grouper and Chilean sea bass, smiled and asked, “Is this Schwarzenegger from California’s innovation?” (No.) Another man asked: “How many cylinders?” (None.)
“Yeah, but how much did it cost to charge it up?” a hotel doorman asked Mr. Taylor.
“Pennies,” he told the man.
In fact, in terms of “fuel” and maintenance, the truck costs him an estimated 11 and a half cents a mile. Purchasing the vehicle, however, has been costly.
The truck costs about $216,000, though Mr. Taylor is paying only a fraction of that cost. With help from the Center for Sustainable Energy, Mr. Taylor received a $135,000 grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. He also received a loan for about $34,000 from the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation.
Smith Electric Vehicles, the England-based company that makes the truck, plans to have similar trucks available in America in early 2009, said Mark Aubry, North American sales manager for Smith.
Mr. Taylor was inspired to get the vehicle after he watched the documentary “Who Killed the Electric Car?” one Sunday afternoon. It was more than an environmental issue, he said. It was a health issue.
Thousands of trucks rumble through or around the South Bronx each day, many of them driving to and from the bustling wholesale produce, meat and fish markets in Hunts Point.
A study by researchers at New York University found that a group of South Bronx schoolchildren who were outfitted with air pollution monitors were exposed to high levels of fine-particle pollution [pdf], a portion of which is produced by diesel engine emissions. Studies have linked fine-particle pollution to respiratory problems, nonfatal heart attacks and aggravated asthma.
The borough has high truck traffic, and also high asthma rates. Its asthma hospitalization rate for boys and girls under 14 is 8.9 per 1,000 children, higher than that of any other borough, according to state health data. At the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, 14 percent of the admissions in 2007 were asthma-related.
“If everyone puts a couple of these on the road, it makes a difference,” Mr. Taylor said of the all-electric truck.
With help from various agencies and officials, including José E. Serrano, the Bronx congressman, Mr. Taylor’s truck arrived this week. It is only a test vehicle; the trucks Mr. Taylor will regularly use — he has ordered two — have not yet arrived.
Emissions-free vehicles, as Mr. Taylor discovered on Thursday, are in many ways no different from conventional vehicles. At one point, he sat in the truck, stuck in traffic behind some city garbage trucks. “Usually, I’d be a little tweaked by it, but it doesn’t seem to bother me today,” he said with a shrug.