EVI Takes it to the street with commercial electric vehicles

Electric Vehicles International is a California-based company which makes two types of electric vehicle: a neighborhood electric called the Light Duty (LD) and a medium duty chassis for Class 4-6 vehicles. Both are available for sale right now.
photos from EVI USA

by Aaron Turpen

LD Specs:

  • Type: Commuter
  • Class: 2-Seat NEV
  • Top Speed: 40mph*
  • Vehicle range: 55 miles
  • Fuel(s): Electricity
  • Battery system: Valence Lithium Phosphate
  • Time to full battery recharge:
  • Price:
  • Availability: Now

*Limited by local law.

MD Specs:

  • Type: Medium Duty Class 4, 5, 6 Truck
  • Class: Commercial Truck
  • Top Speed: 60mph
  • Vehicle range: 60 / 80 / 115*
  • Fuel(s): Electricity
  • Battery system: Lithium-Iron Magnesium Phosphate
  • Time to full battery recharge: 3-12 hours*
  • Price:
  • Availability: Now

*Depending on battery option.

The manufacturer says

EVI currently produces light duty electric trucks in Mexico for the Latin American market and plans to add a further 1,000 vehicles per year built at its all-new Stockton [CA] facility by the end of 2010.

Overview

Both the Light Duty and the Medium Duty vehicles from Electric Vehicles International (EVI) are currently available for purchase. The company recently started work opening its Stockton, California manufacturing facility for U.S. manufacture and sales.

EVI began business in 1989 in California and built its first manufacturing plant in Toluca, Mexico for Latin American sales. It currently produces about 1,000 units per year of its light duty truck for the South American market. The company is also looking to expand into the Asian markets.

At the new Stockton facility, EVI will offer three basic products to the U.S. market: the LD, the MD, and conversions of existing vehicles to all-electric or hybrid electric.

The LD

The Light Duty is a neighborhood electric commuter with a top speed of 40mph, though its road speed may be limited further depending on local laws regarding neighborhood vehicles. The car seats two and is only about 5 feet high and 8 feet long. It uses a 72V/8kW motor and 140Ahr Lithium Phosphate batteries (lead acid available on request). Despite its exemption status as an NEV, the LD has been fully crash tested.

The LD is meant for the urban commuter and commercial fleet markets. It comes in various configurations for parking enforcement, rentals, etc.

Class 6

The MD Chassis

Currently, under its medium-duty truck chassis, EVI is marketing two commercial vehicles: the MD and the WI.

The Medium Duty (MD) is a commercial Class 4-6 delivery truck design that can be configured as a box, refrigerated box, flat bed, utility, or other job-specific vehicle. The body and frame are from Freightliner Custom Chassis.

The Walk-In (WI) is a commercial Class 4 walk-in delivery box truck whose body is also from FCC. It can be customized for parcel delivery, food and beverage, utility, etc.

Both trucks share the same drive train configuration. Each comes with options for battery life of 60, 80, or 115 miles per charge, a 60mph top speed, a 0-60 of 25 seconds, and 132 or 146 horsepower (450 ft-lb torque). They use Eaton's Ultra-shift HV6 automatic transmission and have a charge time of 3 to 12 hours, depending on battery option and charging type (110v or 220v).

Walk In

What we like

Availability is now. That is a big thing in the current electric/hybrid market, as most are just concepts or are "coming soon." All three models will be available and shipping to customers this year.

Made in America is another important marketing and economic consideration that EVI meets. While components are sourced internationally, of course, these vehicles are built in the U.S. and so have a shorter shipping distance ñ a big part of the sustainability cost of a vehicle.

Tested Safe is one more thing that EVI did that many low-speed manufacturers generally don't. Crash testing is not required on vehicles that go less than 40mph, but knowing that the LD was tested means the company went the extra mile to ensure their vehicle is safe.

What we don't

NEV - although the neighborhood electric vehicle (NEV) is the way that many would-be automakers are getting into the electric market, it's such a limited-appeal market that most fail in the long run. At least EVI has something other than the diminutive LD to sell.

California-centric is the way that a lot of companies seem to be marketing their electrics. EVI is no exception. Although some states, such as California and Colorado, have very high incentives for alt-fuel vehicles, it seems that the U.S. market as a whole is wide open if EV manufacturers would just sell to them.

Conclusions

For a relatively new startup, as far as American vehicle sales go, EVI is a great example of how a small company can start working big. They have already been selling vehicles in South and Central America and have spent over $25 million in research and development to-date. Their new Stockton facility promises not just "green jobs," but a new fleet of electrics both off-the-line and converted.

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