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Workhorse Starts Building Lightweight Electric Step Vans for UPS

Oct 19, 2018

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Workhorse Group Inc. has begun building its lightweight electric step van that it says can carry a class-leading 6,000 pounds and go 100 miles before recharging.

The first trucks off the line in Union City, Ind., will be delivered to UPS as part of a 50-truck test fleet. If UPS likes the performance, it will complete an order for 950 trucks that it placed in June. Workhorse said it had other orders for early production but declined to name the customers.

The NGEN-1000, which gets the equivalent of 40 mpg, weighs 10,001 pounds fully loaded and 4,000 pounds empty. The cost to travel 100 miles would be about $6 based on the national average cost of just over 10 cents per kilowatt hour.

Workhorse says the curb weight is less than half that of a traditional diesel-powered van because it is made of composite body panels, flooring and support structures instead of steel. That allowed Workhorse to reduce the size of the battery pack to 60 kilowatt hours instead of the 120-KwH pack used in its larger E-100 electric truck, said Duane Hughes, Workhorse’s president.

The weight comparison to a diesel-powered van “might be a bit of an exaggeration,” said Sam Abuelsamid, a Navigant Research analyst. “It depends on which diesel van they are comparing it to.”

The Ford Transit 250 delivery van, a close competitor to the NGEN-1000, weighs 9,000 pounds loaded and 5,000 pounds unloaded.

“A 6,000-pound payload is very impressive,” Abuelsamid said. “But how much range are you going to give up with a full load versus when empty?”

Hughes said that depends on several factors, including route conditions, topography and driving style.

The 100-mile range should be enough for the van to operate in a 25- to 30-mile radius of a depot where it could recharge.

“I think it’s a viable product,” said Antti Lindstrom, a trucking analyst with IHS Markit. “One hundred miles should be good enough for drop-off and door-to-door delivery and to get back to the depot.”

Workhorse says the purchase price of the NGEN-1000 is the same as that for a similar-sized diesel van. However, it did not provide pricing for the NGEN-1000 or for 250- 450- and 700-cubic-foot cargo options coming later.

The van qualifies for a federal tax credit of up to $7,500, according to U.S. Department of Energy guidelines for plug-in electric vehicles. But Hughes said pricing would not assume a federal tax rebate. The lightweight composition of the van and smaller battery pack reduce total ownership cost, he said.

The NGEN-1000 is less expensive to maintain because it has no transmission or engine to service, according to Workhorse.

Workhorse says its larger E-100 van saves $150,000 over its 20-year lifecycle compared with a conventionally powered van. The savings come from a 400 percent reduction in fuel costs and 60 percent cut in maintenance costs.

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