Electric commercial vehicles hit the streets in Spencer County | News

ROCKPORT – Participants of the Lightning Day event had the opportunity to view an electric transit passenger vehicle and box truck, speak to representatives at the event, and even test drive an electric vehicle for themselves.

On Tuesday, June 14 Drive Clean Indiana and Lightning eMotors held an educational event on electric zero emission medium duty commercial vehicles. Two local partners that helped spread the word and host the program were The Spencer County Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Lincolnland Economic Development Corporation.

Drive Clean Indiana is a non-profit organization that is apart of the US Department of Energy’s Clean Cities Coalitions. According to the Department of Energy website, “the coalitions serve as the foundation of Clean Cities by working in communities across the country to implement alternative fuels, fuel-saving technologies and practices, and new mobility choices.”

The US Department of Energy has also funded the Drive Clean Rural USA project that includes Indiana and seven other states. Through this pilot project, the Clean Cities Coalitions are working to provide rural communities with free assistance on education of clean fuels and vehicles, hold demos for the vehicles, and more.

Lightning eMotors, is the manufacturer, designer, and dealer of the zero-emission vehicles. They are based out of Colorado but travel throughout the United States with their commercial vehicles to hold these educational outreach events. They also have offices located in California, Indiana, and New Jersey.

Lightning eMotors Marketing Coordinator Marcie Willard explained that the main purpose of the events are awareness and education. Bringing awareness to communities on what these vehicles can offer, how they operate, and their benefits. They only manufacture commercial level vehicles including Class 3 cargo and passenger vans, ambulances, Class 4 and 5 cargo vans and shuttle buses, Class 4 Type A school buses and more.

Willard added that Lightning eMotors has manufactured 500 of the 2,000 commercial electric vehicles on the road today in the US and Canada.

They heavily participate in state, local and federal legislation to bring a focus to the infrastructure that is needed for electric vehicles, such as the charging stations. These conversations are held in parallel fashion to their advocacy on sharing the benefits that their zero-emission vehicles pose for the environment and for commercial vehicle fleets.

Willard explained that these events are a group effort with the Lightning Day partners. That effort was highlighted by the several community members in attendance of the event. Some of those partners were the Executive Director of Spencer County Chamber of Commerce Kathy Reinke, LEDC Executive Director Heidi Young, and Executive Director of Drive Clean Indiana Carl Lisek.

The manufacturer currently utilizes lithium batteries in their vehicles. With their focus on carbon neutrality, they are working towards looking at the next stage of battery to use in their vehicles.

Cal Miller with Lightning eMotors was leading the test drives for their Class 3 Transit Passenger Van.

These events work to make a difference by introducing the participants to these vehicles and answering any questions they may have. Some comments that were made were that the vehicles have no smell and are quieter but that the operation of the vehicle is similar to gas powered commercial vehicles. One feature that was different in the operation of the vehicle was that it does not “coast” like gas powered vehicles do.

As a participant test drive the vehicle throughout Rockport. Miller was available to answer any questions from any of the passengers or the driver during the drive.

One topic that was discussed was that regenerative braking is one technology that the manufacturer uses in their electric vehicles to get the most life out of the vehicle components. Another point made was that the most customizable aspects of their vehicles can be completed by updating the software.

One passenger asked how long the battery lasts and that answer depends on the amount of batteries the vehicle has (two or three). But they can go anywhere from 120 miles to 170 miles on a full charge. It can take six to eight hours to fully charge a vehicle at a level 2 AC charging station. Miller explained that fleets will use this option to charge vehicles over night. Their DC fast charging station can fully charge the batteries in two to three hours.

Lightning eMotors qualify for the Federal Transit Administration’s Buy America Program. This means their vehicles are 100% manufactured in the United States. The lithium Proterra batteries they use are also manufactured in the US

They are one month away from reaching two million customer driven miles of their electric commercial vehicles. In December 2021, they reached the one million milestone. As the demand for their vehicles are continuing to increase, they are manufacturing two to three vehicles per week.

Drive Clean Indiana and Lighting eMotors are excited for the future of elective commercial vehicle fleets in the area. It was stated that Spencer County is leading the discussion on these greener initiatives in rural areas within Indiana.

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