RV chassis builder Workhorse Custom Chassis LLC announced Wednesday (July 12) that it is partnering with two other companies to build the first gas-electric hybrid platform for commercial walk-in trucks.
“Technology has gotten to the point that you can deploy hybrids in a commercial vehicle,” said David Olsen, president of the Union City, Ind., company formed in 1999 after the acquisition of the General Motors RV and commercial truck chassis business. “Whether it can be made economically is another matter. I consider this a high-volume prototype program that demonstrates our confidence that we have a solution that can be made economically viable.”
Typically walk-in trucks are used as parcel delivery, laundry and bakery trucks.
The International Truck and Engine Corp. subsidiary, which ranks as the market leader in gas-powered motorhome chassis, has partnered with privately owned Productive Concepts Inc. (PCI), a Union City component integrator, and publicly owned Azure Dynamics Corp., Vancouver, B.C., which specializes in manufacturing hybrid electric systems. The new chassis will be assembled on Workhorse’s pre-existing 16,000-pound GVWR W42 commercial chassis which was revamped last year with numerous upgrades.
The announcement was made at a press conference Wednesday at PCI’s headquarters in east-central Indiana, which is next door to Workhorse’s factory complex. Local media reported that the project would create as many as 300 jobs.
Nineteen hybrid units already have been produced and 30 more are expected to be built by the end of the year. Olsen predicted that if successful, the hybrid chassis could account for between 20% and 30% of Workhorse’s commercial chassis business which ranges between 10,000 to 12,000 rails annually.
“If this becomes economically viable, it could account for 2,000 or 3,000 units a year,” he said.
For the last five years, Workhorse has worked with two other companies, one of which has since been acquired by Azure, to provide a small group of hybrid test vehicles that have been in use in New York City, where they are particularly suited for stop-and-go traffic.
Whenever the hybrid vehicle stops, the engine shuts off. When it starts again, the vehicle’s electric motor automatically kicks in.
“The more you stop and the more you go, the more applicable these vehicles will be,” said Olson, who added that Workhorse will continue to produce traditional gasoline- and diesel-powered W42 platforms. Workhorse also markets the W52 commercial truck chassis and the LF72 bus chassis.