Maple Ridge makes its own electric truck

Roads superintendent Wayne Hardy says the district needs working

Roads superintendent Wayne Hardy says the district needs working

They didn’t want to wait until an off-the-shelf electric truck was available, so the District of Maple Ridge made its own – a non-polluting, zero-emission, smooth-running model that uses the latest in lithium batteries and costs pennies per day to operate, no matter what the price of gasoline at the pump.

The idea came from an employee who researched the topic as he considered converting the family vehicle from gasoline to electric.

But after crunching the numbers a bit at work, the public works department realized it might work for the municipality as well and help in its goal of reducing its carbon footprint.

With the help of colleagues at the public works yard, George Veltin took one of the fleet’s older vehicles, a GM Sonoma truck and yanked out the V-6 motor and transmission and installed 32, 200-amp Thundersky lithium-ion batteries. Those were hooked up to 96-volt, three-phase motor and a new transmission. The project was started in December and by April the vehicle was running, thanks to a $13,000 conversion kit from Canadian Electric Vehicles on Vancouver Island, which supplied the components for the conversion.

Veltin credits the use of lighter, longer-lasting batteries for making the vehicle feasible.

“People have been dabbling in electric vehicles for a long time.

“From what I can tell in my research, the lithium-ion batteries are what’s making them shine these days.”

Those batteries are contained in three power units –one in the engine compartment and two beneath the deck – and only add 25 kilograms to the original vehicle weight, allowing the vehicle to remain serviceable.

Maple Ridge’s finished product is a vehicle that drinks no gasoline and goes 100 kilometres per charge, which costs about $1.30. Top speed is 80 kilometres an hour.

Director of engineering operations Russ Carmichael said, including staff time and the kit, the total cost to convert the vehicle was about $30,000.

The district expects the vehicle to last six years. With gasoline at its current price, the district would pay about $6,000 a year to run the truck.

Over six years, that would add up to $36,000. Cost of electricity to recharge the truck would be about $1,200 over that time period. After factoring in electricity costs, the district would still save about $4,800 compared to running a regular vehicle.

The nine Toyota Priuses and the 14 Ford Escapes hybrids the district currently has are also far cheaper to maintain because fluids don’t have to be replaced.

Carmichael said the when it’s time to replace the Priuses, the district might convert those hybrids to completely electric, rechargeable vehicles.

If another vehicle becomes available, the district could repeat the project, with costs and research considerably reduced.

The vehicle is now being used by an arborist for the parks and recreation department and seems to be doing the job.

“So far, so good,” said Carmichael.

George Parker, found of Future Vehicle Technologies in Maple Ridge which developed the electric eVaro concept car, said the project would work well for the limited-range roles in which the district would use it.

“I think it’s great for what they’re doing. I think the limited range will be a problem for most of us that want to go a lot farther.”