A View from David Zax
Greening the Fleet
ALTe Powertrain Technologies sets its sights on heavier green vehicles than the family sedan.
That consumers are increasingly adopting hybrids and electric vehicles is surely to be commended. Each time someone hangs up the key to a Humvee and picks up the key to a Prius, the world breathes a little easier. But you don’t know the definition of “gas guzzler” until you’ve driven a Mack truck. Converting consumers to green vehicles is one thing. Now how about converting enterprise? How about greening the fleet?
A company called ALTe is on the case. ALTe make something it calls a “range extended electric powertrain” (a power train is basically the parts of a car that make it go—the engine, transmission, drive shafts, wheels, and so on). ALTe’s electric power train can be retrofitted on light trucks and vans, and the company has just scored a major coup: a partnership with the vehicle wholesaler Manheim, which has 130 wholesale operating sites worldwide. With this partnership, anyone who wants ALTe power trains installed in their fleet vehicles will be able to go to a Manheim location and Manheim will retrofit them using ALTe’s technology.
And it’s powerful technology. ALTe’s power trains include a 20kWh lithium-ion battery pack, a four-cylinder engine, electric-drive motors, a generator, a hybrid-controller unit, and HVA modules, ALTe says on its website. The company claims you can get 30 miles in all-electric mode, with energy straight from the battery. After that, you can cruise another 275 miles in a charge-sustained mode before having to plug in or fill up. The battery can charge in as little as four hours, if you have a 220-volt outlet. (With a 110-volt outlet, it takes twice as long.) The conversion kit runs about $25,000 but is said to increase fuel economy between 80 percent and 200 percent.
ALTe isn’t quite tackling the Mack truck market yet—It’s focusing on pickups and vans, particularly in commercial, government, and utility fleets. When you try to retrofit the world, you’ve got to start somewhere. And ALTe is making very good progress. The company, based in Auburn Hills, Michigan, “had little more than a PowerPoint presentation demonstrating its ideas” just two years ago, notes AutoblogGreen.
“ALTe is excited to have the opportunity to work with Manheim, which is recognized as the world’s leading remarketing company,” said ALTe CEO John Thomas earlier this month. “We look forward to their participation in the electrification of the automotive industry as we progress toward next year’s product launch for ALTe.” The company will accept purchase orders at the end of 2011 and expects to have Manheim install the first order sometime in spring 2012.