XL Hybrids 'Upfits' Commercial Vans
When I first visited XL Hybrids in the Spring of 2011, they were housed in an aging garage in Cambridge, not far from the MIT campus, the alma mater of the start-ups founders. Lifted high on an automobile hoist was a Ford Motor Co. Crown Vic 'Black Car' used for limousine services in Boston, New York and elsewhere. Bolted under the ridge steel frame was their prototype hybrid 'upfit' kit consisting of an electric motor and controller connected to the drive shaft just in front of the differential by a drive belt. It was a relatively simple, but effective way to hybridize just about any rear wheel drive vehicle, allowing it to recapture some of its kinetic energy while braking and offering additional launch assist torque. The result would be, in theory, up to a 20 percent improvement in fuel economy for Black Car operators.
Then Ford stopped building the Crown Vic.
Much like AMP Motors in Cincinnati, which had to find other cars to convert after GM shut down both the Saturn Sky and Pontiac Solstice car lines, as well as both brands as part of its restructuring plans, XL Hybrids looked for another logical application of its technology. It didn't have to look far. As long as the vehicle was rear wheel drive, it was a potential candidate. This week, they revealed that vehicle: the Chevy/GMC 2500 series commercial van known as the Express and Savana, respectively.
Justin Ashton, XL Hybrid's VP for Business Development, talks with EV World's Bill Moore about their new target market and business plan in this 25-minute MP3 'Future in Motion' podcast. He talks about the underlying technology, itself; how it works and what it will cost: under $8,000, he predicts. While XL Hybrid will continue to refine the system, actual production is being sourced out, as will installation. Commercial 'upfitters' who take car/truck maker products and modify them for specialty use -- ambulances, stretch limos, shuttle vans, utility work vehicles, etc. -- will be responsible for the installation of the system as part of either a new vehicle order or aftermarket upgrade. Ashton believes the 'upfit' can be done in less than half a day. While the current demonstration version is equipped with a 2.3kWh lithium battery pack, production version will come standard with 1.5kWh packs, basically for cost control purposes.
The first demonstration vehicle has been placed in service by a "Fortune 50" corporation, which has not yet been identified. The company is also looking for additional demonstration partners through its website.
To listen to this interview use the embedded MP3 players in the right-hand column, or download the file to your computer for playback on your favorite MP3 device.