With nearly five decades of experience developing and constructing fleet vehicles of all sizes and shapes, including 50% of all last mile delivery vehicles, Shyft Group, formerly known as Spartan Motors, is a leading vehicle manufacturer. When you picture a typical FedEx or UPS delivery truck, these delivery vans are what come to mind. These vehicles are becoming an increasingly important part of the world’s supply chain in the dystopian pseudo-post-COVID world in which we currently live, making deliveries of more routine items like dog food, new socks, and paper clips to us.
CleanTechnica was asked to visit Michigan to find out more about the business and to be among the first outsiders to operate its brand-new electric delivery cars. Disclaimer: The author’s travel expenses to this event were covered by The Shyft Group.
ELECTRIC DELIVERY VEHICLE THE BLUE ARC Daryl Adams, president and chief executive officer of the Shyft Group, predicted the shift to fully electric vehicles years in advance, which is why he started a project within the business to develop a new next-generation totally electric delivery vehicle six years ago. When they couldn’t find a chassis that actually lived up to their concept of totally electric vehicles, they simply opted to create one themselves. Fleet vehicles begin and end with the chassis. As the team worked to complete their all-electric delivery truck, Blue Arc was introduced as a new name inside the Shyft Groups family.
The battery source, Proterra Powered, was chosen by Blue Arc, and they provided twin packs with a combined capacity of 240 kWh, which fit perfectly between the twin frame rails of the chassis. The 150-mile range supported by the liquid-cooled NMC packs is more than enough for a typical day of package deliveries. They are designed to withstand 4,000 cycles, which equates to over 11 years of regular use. The cars enable level 2 AC charging, and for fleets wishing to extend the life of the vehicles, they also support DC fast charging, allowing a full charge to occur in 2–6 hours, depending on the charger’s speed.
When it comes to batteries, Blue Arc has one eye on the future thanks to an inbuilt battery upgrade and repurchase scheme for the packs when they approach the end of their useful lives. Blue Arc anticipates that its battery recycling program would recover a full 92% of the materials in the packs if recycled, assuring maximum reuse of the materials that make up the packs. A 5-year, 100,000-mile guarantee is offered on the packs themselves.
The well-known component manufacturer Dana used its experience to create a new e-axle that simplifies the gearing for maximum effectiveness. Shyft Group was in a good position to develop a next-generation vehicle that combined ideal motor design, gearboxes, DC to DC converters, and all the other goodies that keep a modern electric vehicle running smoothly day in and day out by leveraging decades of relationships with established suppliers and its knowledge of fleet vehicles.
These new cars substitute lightweight, aluminum and composite body elements with streamlined and optimized designs for production instead of heavy-duty steel frames and angular diamond plating. A contemporary electric drivetrain propelled by lithium ion batteries has replaced the internal combustion engines that propelled them for so long. With a new, more straightforward suspension spring in the back that offers variable resistance for better predictable performance independent of the load being carried, the conventional stacked leaf spring suspension has been removed.
These delivery vans are the backbone of last-mile delivery fleets, but they are also frequently used as work trucks, shuttles in public transportation, and recreational vehicles, so the Shyft Group’s audacious entry into this market is expected to have a much bigger impact than at first seems possible. The company is already collaborating with key players in the shuttle and RV upfitting industry, according to CEO Daryl Adams, and “will have something to announce shortly.” Blue Arc added a lightweight aluminum and composite body with a lightweight honeycomb shelf structure on top of the fleet-ready chassis. These are accepted practices in the market and help to increase the amount and weight of the cargo being transported.
With Blue Arc unveiling a significant preorder for 2,000 of the new class 3, 4, and 5 electric delivery vehicles from the Randy Marion Automotive Group , customers are waiting in line for the new vehicles. The initial order is proof that Shyft Group was ahead of the curve when it decided to switch to electric vehicles with Blue Arc, and it gives them a strong, solid order book to look toward as they increase production of the new vehicles. Blue Arc’s Electric Delivery Vehicle is on Track to Be Road Ready by Mid-2023, according to Shyft Group CEO Daryl Adams.
Additionally, Blue Arc offered participants the chance to drive several of the company’s new electric delivery cars for the first time, and we were more than pleased to comply. Getting behind the wheel of one of their prototype electric delivery cars made it clear how capable they were. The 235kW Dana e-output Axle’s power as we were driving on a confined test track at the M1 Concourse was mind-boggling. The acceleration curves are still being adjusted for the real production build, and I’m sure many fleet clients will want the curve to be flattened to ensure maximum range, but nevertheless, fantastic. The single motor has without a doubt more than enough power and torque to move whatever load they need to.
THE BLUECUBE ARC POWER The Blue Arc Power Cube seems like one of Thanos’ tools for conquering the minds and hearts of every living thing in the universe, but it has much more of a terrestrial purpose. Despite this, it is still an effective tool with the capacity to reduce emissions and boost grid resilience. The Blue Arc Power Cube’s primary component is a sizable battery that is housed in a container. Depending on the needs of the user, its storage capacity can range from 500kWh to an astounding 3MWh. The Power Cube’s main purpose is to supply power to a bank of 19.2 kW AC and 25-150 kW DC electric vehicle chargers, and its heart and soul are these NMC batteries.
To keep the batteries charged, the solution can be quickly installed and connected to the grid. Rapid deployment is exactly what I mean. The Power Cubes were created by Blue Arc to be portable, which is unusual for a gigantic battery-filled apparatus weighing tens of tons. The prototype we saw weighed 28,000 pounds, but the final size and weight will differ depending on the number of batteries and other possibilities.
According to Blue Arc, these devices can be operational in as little as two hours. They are made to be delivered on the lowboy trailer of a semi truck. Upon arrival, the Power Cube raises itself upon a set of four sturdy wheels and can be practically driven into position using a wireless controller. Check out the brief event video below. It moves incredibly quickly for something that doesn’t appear to be moving at all.
The Power Cube is still very much only a proof of concept at this point, and Blue Arc’s team is obviously still investigating all the potential configurations and use cases. The prototype we viewed had an automated system for deploying and retracting solar panels, which was motorized. Depending on the client’s requirements, they aim to be able to put 5 to 10 kW of folding, tracking solar on the roof. That’s a nice increase in the unit’s base storage capacity, but if it’s being used to charge a fleet of vehicles, it definitely won’t be enough to keep the unit completely charged.
The Power Cube was created to work with virtually any power source in order to maintain maximum flexibility. It can run on a conventional generator, a grid connection, a 4-axis tracking solar system on the roof, or even a hydrogen fuel cell generator. Depending on the customer’s specified features and storage capacity, the Power Cube can be anywhere from 4 to 30 feet long.
Many more possible use cases, such as smart peak load management, disaster response, temporary power for a business, portable EV charging, off grid homes, and many more, have surfaced after presenting the initial concept and showcasing the prototype to clients. Blue Arc intends to keep enhancing the Power Cube while preserving its core functionality in order to make it suitable for as many applications as feasible. The main product is really capable, and once pricing and a few common combinations are established, it’s not difficult to see how warmly received it will be.
For more information about Blue Arc’s Power Cube, visit the product page here or jump right into the sales sheet .
OVERALL Clearly, The Shyft Group is investing heavily on electric vehicles. In other words, while they are entering a new market, they are doing it with all of the manufacturing and supply chain experience, an established customer base, an established service network, partners throughout the industry, and the resources to fund it, according to President and CEO Daryl Adams.
Blue Arc appears to be more than simply a side project based on their early development. It signifies a complete firm pivot towards battery electric vehicles as a competitive, profitable new market for the business. Adams declared, “EV fleet is the future.” Without a doubt, we concur.
Featured picture provided by Blue Arc
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