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On The Scene: Electric future

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On the Scene
Wednesday, May 26, 2010


The first thing I noticed at Tuesday’s Estar electric van launch was that they were serving salmon, for free. The next was that I was one of just six women in the crowd.

plant lineup-a

But then, I’m not a truck person.

Navistar selected Portland to be the host for their initial market launch of the new Estar electric van. The van, a real “category creator” in the words of one excitable booster, can go 100 miles on one 6-to-8-hour charge and carry 4,000 pounds. It produces zero tailpipe emissions–in fact, it doesn’t even have a tailpipe. And its battery can be replaced in 20 minutes. (For the record, the vehicle costs $149,000).

Navistar’s vans were designed, from inception to launch, in 24 months. The project was funded in part by a stimulus grant from the U.S. government, and was the first project to produce a product with the stimulus money for sustainable vehicles.

Those in attendance at the launch were mostly potential buyers: fleet managers looking to see if the new electric van really was what they were looking for.

I met one of those prospective buyers, Franko Martinez, Engineering Facilities Services Manager for Port of Portland. He said he was looking for “sustainability and viability.”

“We have a need for vehicles that will go no more than 100 miles a day, mostly between 20-25 miles per hour... and can carry 2 plus tons.”

The presentation of the van was impressive. There was music, there was driving of vehicles inside, there were large, exciting visual aids, and those cool clear teleprompters that Obama uses. Jim Hebe, Navistar's VP for North American sales operations, spoke, and then Oregon Transportation Commission Chair Gail Achterman and Portland Mayor Sam Adams took the stage.

Adams spoke on Portland’s vision for a green vehicle future, and about the plan to fast-track installation of 1,000 electric vehicle charging stations in Oregon in the coming months.

“This is an amazing vehicle. I look forward to being a purchaser of these vans, on behalf of the taxpayers, as part of our fleet’s transition from fossil fuel to electric vehicles.”

But Navistar’s goal is to move beyond relying on government support and environmental controls.

“It doesn’t take a government mandate [to motivate the company’s innovations]," said Hebe. "Competition is our strongest motivator.”

Angela Webber is the online editor for Oregon Business.



0 #1 Do the mathJohnK 2010-05-27 14:37:09
Let's see, a vehicle that goes less than 100 miles per day at about 25 miles per hour. New Regular van at $50,000 getting 10 mpg would equal 10 gallons of fuel a day. Assume $3.00 per gallon.. $30 per day for fuel. $99,000 additional cost for the EV.... That works out to a little over 9 years to break even. WOW! what a deal.
Another example of a good idea that is not economically feasable.
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0 #2 More MathAngela 2010-05-27 17:31:40
The cars will go faster than 25 mph, it's just that that was the requirements for the Port of Portland's trucks. There are needs for shipping, trade, and other companies for cars with specific abilities, like carrying a lot of weight.

As a consumer passenger van, I'm not sure this car is where it's at. FedEx has bought a few, though.

It is expensive, though!!
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Mark G
0 #3 Teleprompters & ObamaMark G 2010-05-28 10:54:36
You may not have intended the teleprompter bit as a shot at President Obama, but, by writing it the way you did, you perpetuated a right-wing (and racist) meme that's out there about Obama and teleprompters: that he's unable (too dumb?) to speak without one. Presidents have routinely used teleprompters since they've been available and so does Obama - and many other speakers - including most recently here in Portland, Governor Kulongoski in his state of the state speech. The national GOP has used this as a slam on Obama despite events like his trip to the House GOP Caucus where he schooled them for several hours totally extemporaneousl y. That kind of reference has no place in an Oregon Business story.
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0 #4 Teleprompters & Obama - Re: Mark G commentKim 2010-05-31 08:37:03
You are reading way too much into this, as most do.. By the 1st comment made in this article, am I suppose to think that only women like salmon because there were only 6 women in the crowd. Please move on with more important issues...
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