Tim Reeser, CEO
Electric commercial vehicles are increasingly making sense for urban duties, from parcel delivery to airport shuttles to food trucks. Ideal for those last-mile deliveries, electric vans contribute to cleaner city air with every mile they drive. Although electric vehicles have many advantages, including much lower noise, smoother operation, lower TCO, and more uptime, commercial electric vehicles do have some drawbacks over vehicles with a combustion engine as things presently stand. The current price of electric vehicles is still higher, and as of now, they are unable to travel as far as a combustion engine vehicle on a single charge. Recharging buses and trucks also takes longer than refuelling them – and most fleets do not yet have charging infrastructure in place. What adds to these challenges is that many truck and bus manufacturers offer electric vehicles, but if a customer orders them, the order won’t be delivered in the next two years.
At the forefront of addressing these challenges is Lightning Systems, the forerunners of fleet electrification, powering familiar commercial vehicle platforms with their high-tech electric drivetrains. Whether a customer is looking at purchasing new EVs or repowering old vehicles to electric, Lightning Systems is the partner through the entire process. “Our powertrains and conversion products are available today, not a year or two from now. We have vehicles available today and for sale. Our currently available supply of vehicles, coupled with the quality and elegance of our product is what differentiates us in the market,” claims Tim Reeser, CEO at Lightning systems.
The Lightning Electric Ford Transit contains a state-of-the-art electric drivetrain that delivers the best efficiency of any vehicle in its weight class while providing a quiet, smooth and familiar driving experience that both drivers and passengers will be delighted with. Available in 80-mile and 120-mile range versions, the Ford Transit provides highly efficient, reliable service while producing zero emissions on the road. Charging is quick and straightforward, with both Level 2 AC charging and DC Fast Charge supported. These market-leading features are also available on Lightning’s Ford E-450 shuttle buses and trucks. Beyond the Transit and E-450, Lightning offers the only electric shuttle bus available today on the Ford F-550 platform.
“In the transit bus space, we’re very excited about re-powering,” says Reeser. “The Lightning Electric City Bus Repower solution is a great way to extend the life of older buses by replacing their diesel power trains with clean, quiet, battery-electric drive trains. It is much less expensive than purchasing a new electric bus, readily available, and easily maintained.” With some jurisdictions (such as the State of California) requiring city buses to be zero-emissions vehicles in the future, Lightning Systems can provide the lowest-cost path to meeting this requirement. For each platform, Lightning Systems supports a wide variety of customizations to the vehicles, including wheel-chair lifts, pallet lifts, hydraulic components or refrigeration.
The principal component with the highest expense on any commercial electric vehicle is the battery pack. Lightning has chosen to take the no-compromise road on batteries with the implementation of what they call actively thermally managed batteries. Lightning Systems uses the lightest and highest quality batteries with the highest efficiency and energy density available. This level of quality adds cost relative to competitors who do not implement these features; however, in the end, this investment ensures the longest life possible at the best efficiency available, while supporting nearly any operating environment, from Phoenix to Minneapolis. “Our products are not the cheapest option because we have competitors who do not choose to invest in quality,” adds Reeser.
Lightning Systems has added advanced functionality to its electric powertrains, with features such as regenerative braking, which increases overall efficiency while reducing brake component maintenance costs, hill-hold for safety on a slope, and creep, which assists with low-speed manoeuvring.
The customer experience with their product line is evident in the corpus of their success stories. In the case of a company named Freebee in southern Florida, the fleet operators were looking for a high-quality electric van they could run for 2 or 3 shifts a day. Specifically, they required passenger shuttles with excellent air conditioning and available wheel-chair lifts, such as the Ford Transit – but in electric form.
Lightning Systems worked with one of their partners to provide the wheel-chair accessible customizations, and then electrified the van with Lightning Electric 120-mile powertrain. Several units of this van have been in service now for about nine months in Southern Florida, and Freebee are pleased that the vans can manage the duty cycle, running three shifts per day using the DC fast charge, with excellent feedback from the drivers and passengers on the ease of driveability, and smooth and quiet operation.
To complement its powertrains, Lightning Systems leverages its 10 years of experience with fleet energy efficiency analysis with its telematics and analytics systems. Each Lightning vehicle is equipped with a state-of-the art 4G telematics controller, which interfaces with the vehicle’s CAN bus and connects to their data servers once per second over an encrypted connection. By keeping track of up to 70 parameters in real-time, including GPS data, Lightning Analytics provides the in-depth data required for a fleet manager to understand how the vehicles are performing, including, for example, the effects of weather and terrain on battery range.
To support its recent growth, Lightning is adding a full-service energy division. “Our new Lightning Energy division is in direct response to our fleet customers that have told us that they need and want full-service charging and energy support, from installation to service to software management, to ensure they are getting the cleanest and least expensive electric energy for their vehicles,” said Reeser.