Lightning Systems Lands Launch Order for Electric Truck Powertrain

August 27, 2018 by John O'Dell

Electric powertrain developer Lightning Systems said it received an order for 50 of its new Class 6 battery-electric model from New York-based commercial EV provider Zeem Solutions.

The new Lightning powertrain, which provides 295 horsepower and up to 110 miles of range per charge, will be fitted into the Chevrolet 6500XD Low Cab Forward chassis for Zeem.

The Lightning LEV100 isn’t necessarily limited to the Chevrolet chassis, however. Lightning’s zero-emissions electric powertrains are designed for specific applications as customers demand.

The company is in late-stage talks with several customers who are interested in the LEV100 for other truck models, Tim Reeser, Lightning’s chief executive, told Trucks.com

Zeem, which supplies fleet operators with electric vehicles and helps develop EV leasing and purchasing strategies, did not identify its client. The trucks are to be placed into service in California late this year.

Demand for electric trucks is growing amid government regulation and public pressure to reduce harmful diesel emissions from the commercial transport and public transit sectors.

It’s still not a massive market, but conditions seem good for independent companies, such as Lightning.

“The limited size of the overall commercial truck market will leave this as a niche market for long enough that small independents will continue to fill the space until there is a critical mass that justifies a single design solution,” Dan Hearsch, a managing director at AlixPartners’ automotive and industrial practice, told Trucks.com. “For now, use cases are still diverse enough no single design makes sense.”

The market is seeing some growth as the batteries and drivetrains for these vehicles get less expensive, he said. But range, charging time, and battery life cycle are still limiting factors. Fleet owners will turn to electric in specific cases where the total cost of ownership makes sense.  Those will be repeatable, predictable routes that also allow for adequate charging time and require enough fuel usage to offset the initial higher cost compared to conventional.  Examples include refuse trucks, airport shuttles, and delivery vehicles,” Hearsch said.

Loveland, Colo.,-based Lightning also builds battery-electric and hydrogen fuel cell electric powertrains for the Class 3 Ford Transit 350 HD van. Earlier this year Lightning won California air quality regulators’ approval of the 50- and 100-mile versions of its battery-electric Class 3 powertrains.

Lightning’s new LEV100 Class 6 powertrain is mated to an Eaton two-speed automatic transmission capable of delivering 1,821 pound-feet of torque in first gear. It has a governed top speed of 65 mph when fitted in the Chevy truck.

The battery can be charged in as little as three hours using the high-voltage rapid charging stations being installed around the country by various private and public operators. They include Electrify America, the company managing the $2-billion electric vehicle infrastructure and awareness fund established as part of the court-approved settlement in the Volkswagen diesel emissions cheating case.

The Class 6 electric truck “is an absolute beast, and there is no other product like it on the market,” said Paul Gioupis, Zeem Solutions’ chief executive.

Lightning’s powertrains are installed in new and used models by factory-authorized dealerships and upfitters.

Deliveries of the LEV100 powertrain will begin in the fourth quarter, Reeser said. Lightning’s battery-electric powertrains include motor and transmission, an air-cooled lithium-ion battery pack and all power control and battery management electronics.

Lightning was founded in 2008 as a hybrid powertrain developer and switched to all-electric powertrain development in 2017.

It currently produces the LEV100 heavy-duty powertrain for the Chevy 6500 XD Low Cab Forward model and medium-duty powertrains for the Ford E-450 Cutaway and Ford Transit 350 HD trucks and the Ford E-450 Shuttle Bus and Ford Transit Passenger Wagon.

The company also builds electric powertrains for repowering Class 7 and Class 8 diesel city transit buses in the 30,000- to 44,000-pound gross vehicle weight ranges.

Read Next: Daimler, Air Board Launch Electric Truck Test at Southern California Ports

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