Electric shock

By Jonathan Blum


John E. Waters, 48, got his start developing battery systems for GM's ill-fated mid-'90s electric vehicle, the EV1. For his new startup he rounded up 30 auto industry veterans, including former EV1 compatriots, who have a total of 200 years' experience at Chrysler and other top-tier auto manufacturers.

So what glamorous automotive niche do they hope to enter? Answer: electric delivery vans.

For all their blandness, delivery vehicles are the perfect place to test electric car technology. Delivery vans are usually based at a company's depot, so at the end of the day they are easily plugged in and recharged -- addressing critics' biggest complaint about all-electric automobiles. Ranges are limited, but proper scheduling and routing can resolve that problem.

What's more, by electrifying their fleets, companies could save 12¢ to 18¢ per mile (depending on the price of fuel). Assuming an average use of 80 to 100 miles a day, that's $3,600 per vehicle per year. So a company like Verizon, with something on the order of 35,000 vans, could save $125 million a year if its entire fleet went electric.

"Customers can use our technology to improve their bottom line," says Waters, who in January 2007 founded Bright Automotive in Anderson, Ind. and has raised more than $20 million in private capital.

In April 2009 the company announced its new IDEA delivery van to much fanfare. The vehicle gets 40 miles on a single charge and also features a standard hybrid battery that is recharged by a gasoline engine -- like a Prius. Running on gas, the IDEA fetches nearly 40 mpg, but critics claim it's not everything Waters claims.

"Technology alone does not sell these things," says Bryan Hansel, president of Smith Electric Vehicles U.S., the Kansas City-based arm of a British company that has made electric delivery vehicles, known in England as milk floats, since 1911. "The customers really do have to agree with the 'why' of an electric vehicle. The 'what' that you sell them happens later."

Bright Automotive argues that the environmental and economic benefits of a green fleet justify the steep up-front cost.

"We're replacing vehicles that get 10 to 12 mpg with vehicles that get 40 mpg," says company spokesman Lyle Shuey. "We're saving gas and carbon. It is a huge financial and brand differentiator."

Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Questions & Answers



QHow does a florist sell more in this economy? We changed our business to designing weddings and events only, as the everyday flowers are not selling. We had to throw out too much product at the end of the week -- flowers are perishable! More
Get Answer
- The Flower Lady, Suwanee, Ga.
Overnight Avg Rate Latest Change Last Week
30 yr fixed4.22%4.16%
15 yr fixed3.32%3.24%
5/1 ARM3.52%3.35%
30 yr refi4.21%4.15%
15 yr refi3.31%3.24%
Rate data provided
by Bankrate.com
View rates in your area
 
Find personalized rates:
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 17,265.99 109.14 0.64%
Nasdaq 4,593.43 31.24 0.68%
S&P 500 2,011.36 9.79 0.49%
Treasuries 2.63 0.03 1.12%
Data as of 7:53am ET
Company Price Change % Change
Bank of America Corp... 17.04 0.27 1.61%
Yahoo! Inc 42.08 -0.50 -1.19%
Apple Inc 101.79 0.21 0.21%
Microsoft Corp 46.68 0.16 0.34%
General Electric Co 26.21 0.16 0.61%
Data as of Sep 18

Sections

Online furniture retailer Made was in such a hurry to win business in a new Scotland, it pushed out the wrong email to customers. More

The Federal Reserve is probably not going to raise interest rates until the summer of 2015 at the earliest. More

Immigrant entrepreneurs leverage connections abroad to boost international exports -- and non-immigrants could stand to learn from their tactics. More

A 10,000 square-foot home doesn't take care of itself, and many of the uber wealthy families who own them don't want to tend to them either. So they hire people like Bryan Peele. Here are journal entries from a day in his life. More

Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.