Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Smith Electric to Build Trucks in the Bronx
New York would never be mistaken for the Motor City, but on Tuesday, Smith Electric Vehicles announced that it intended to assemble electric trucks in the South Bronx, adding 100 jobs to the region. A package of more than $6 million in state and city incentives sweetened the deal.
Smith, based in Kansas City, Mo., manufactures battery-powered box trucks suitable for urban deliveries and has already found customers in New York, including the Duane Reade pharmacy chain and Down East Seafood. Coca-Cola and Frito-Lay have also bought trucks.
“Sitting in Kansas City and trying to figure out how to locate a factory in New York City was a little daunting,” said Bryan Hansel, the company’s chairman and chief executive, in an interview. Mr. Hansel said the company had leased a 90,000-square-foot warehouse space near Hunts Point and would begin producing its electric Smith Newton trucks there in the second quarter of 2012. He added that the factory would be set up to assemble 100 trucks a month in a single one-shift line, but the company could add shifts and lines as demand dictated.
A crowd, including many public officials, assembled under historical murals at the Bronx County Courthouse and applauded the job announcement.
“Today is an amazing day in God’s country, the wonderful borough of the Bronx,” said Borough President Rubén Díaz Jr. of the Bronx. “This is a huge deal,” he added.
James Vacca, a city councilman and chairman of the transportation committee, said in an interview, “The electric trucks are welcome because they address both environmental and quality-of-life issues. Long-term, this will mean jobs, but also quieter traffic and less pollution.”
The trucks have proven popular with customers. Michael Fowles, director of distribution at Duane Reade, said the company had bought two trucks and had another two on order. Duane Reade’s fleet of 60 delivery vehicles circulates primarily in city limits, making it well-suited for battery power. Mr. Fowles said the fleet could eventually be all electric. Charles Hayward, the pharmacy chain’s fleet manager, echoed Mr. Fowles. “We have 6,000 to 7,000 miles of road time with the electrics, and they perform as well or better than the diesel trucks,” he said.
Truck prices vary depending on battery pack size and other considerations. According an e-mail received from a company representative, the basic cab and chassis, made by Avia and imported from the Czech Republic, costs $75,000, but packs ranging from 40 to 120 kilowatt-hours add another $25,000 to $75,000 The batteries are sourced from A123 Systems and Valence Technology. Final assembly of the trucks will occur in the Bronx.
Working with the bus fabricator Trans Tech, Smith will also be producing electric school buses, a 24-seat example of which was on display at the Bronx courthouse. The buses will be assembled on the same electric Newton chassis as the trucks. Dan Daniels, president of Trans Tech, based in Warwick, N.Y., said in an interview that the company was looking for a suitable location to build the buses, including sites in New York.
According to Smith, New York State is developing an incentive program that would offer vouchers of up to $20,000 to help businesses purchase medium- and heavy-duty all-electric trucks (over 10,000 pounds). Smith would benefit from that program, as would other manufacturers that might want to deliver zero-emission trucks.