Commercial Electric Vehicles

Electric vehicles are being manufactured in a variety of technologies, shapes and sizes, suited to a wide range of uses.


Light duty electric vehicles for the commercial industry have advanced into a reliable and marketable product. Electric vehicles are being manufactured in multiple configurations and for diverse applications. The evolution of electric vehicle technology is ever going forward, and developments make electric traction technology already suitable for many applications.

(Resources that were most helpful in providing information and material for this article included Yaron Vorona, TREM Center Director, Institute for the Analysis of Global Security; the Electric Drive Transportation Association; and Robert Stüssi, mobility consultant and president of the European Association for Battery, Hybrid and Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles, and vice president of the World Electric Vehicle Association.)

Battery electric vehicles, by way of example are especially well-suited for vehicle fleets with predictable travel routes and centralized refueling options. Plug-in hybrid and extended range battery electric vehicles provide additional range and flexibility in uses that require longer or more unpredictable routes.

Companies like UPS, FedEx, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Walmart use hybrid electric vehicles in their fleets. The federal government is already investing in electric drive, and will have a fleet or some 11,000 hybrid cars and trucks by the end of the year.

In non-road applications, electric vehicles (EVs) and electric-powered equipment fleets are becoming increasingly common. At airports across the U.S., electricity fuels the electric baggage tugs moving baggage between the terminal and aircraft; the baggage belt loaders that load and unload bags from aircraft; the air stairs for passenger access to aircraft; wheelchair lifts and pushback tractors to move aircraft away from the terminal.

Battery electric vehicles, such as lift trucks and personnel carriers, are widely used on school campuses, in planned communities, resorts, large business complexes and by government agencies. Also, most sweepers and scrubbers in use today are electric.

Economic and environmental factors are the top reasons fleets are considering electric-powered alternatives to vehicles that run on conventional fuels such as gasoline and diesel. EVs generally have a lower total cost of ownership than internal engine-powered vehicles, even in cases where the initial purchase price is for the time being substantially higher.

EVs give performance benefits because their electric motors provide quiet, smooth and more energy-efficient operation than internal combustion engines.

Additional energy and fuel savings are available from electric vehicles that incorporate power-conserving technologies like regenerative braking. With this type of braking, the kinetic energy normally dissipated during braking is recovered and this energy is stored in the vehicle’s batteries

Because they are powered by electricity, electric vehicles help reduce U.S reliance on foreign oil. It would be important to assure that electricity be produced by renewable energies, though well-to-wheel energy use show benefits for EVs even if electricity is made from coal.

Well-to-wheel is an analysis to assess the impact of fuel and powertrain options on energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.

With fewer moving parts, EVs requires less periodic maintenance, are more reliable and incur lower maintenance costs. This is why nearly every elevator in the country uses an electric motor.

While gas-powered vehicles have hundreds of moving parts, the electric motor has one moving part, the shaft, which is very reliable and requires little or no maintenance, says the U.S. Department of Energy. The controller and charger are electronic devices with no moving parts, and they require little or no maintenance as well.

On the other hand, EVs face some significant challenges. Present obstacles include driving range before the need to recharge; recharge time; battery cost; battery bulk and weight; and battery life.

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