Meet Boshart's Electric 'Rhino'
By Bill Moore
Musso is Korean for rhinoceros. It’s the official name for a Ford Explorer-class light truck manufactured by Ssang Yong in Korea that is the platform on which California-based Boshart Engineering hopes to enter the low-speed, non-road electric vehicle market.
Boshart engineers brought the pickup and a second Chinese-built truck to introduce the vehicles at the Electric Drive Transportation Association’s annual conference, held last week in Vancouver, Canada.
I stopped by the company’s booth to talk with Chip Deoden and Demetrio Zago from Boshart and Richard Gettel from StarPoint USA, which is handling marketing. Although the company had the Musso Sport at the Ride & Drive session on Tuesday, I didn’t get the opportunity to ride in it or even get a good photo of it for the press of curious conference goers who surrounded it and kept it out on the short driving circuit.
Boshart isn’t the only firm looking to enter the electric vehicle market via FMVSS 500, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s low-speed vehicle classification. Numerous others have seen the federal low-speed regulation as a doorway to someday offering a road-capability electric vehicle, assuming they can sell enough of the low-speed models to afford the cost of certifying the vehicle for use on the highway.
Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 500 was written, initially, for more golf car-like vehicles called NEVs or neighborhood electric vehicles so they legally could be permitted on roads with a top speed of 35 mph. These golf cars "on steroids", as some refer to them, have a top speed of 25 mph. They must have seat belts, lights, turn signals, safety glass windshields and wipers. They are exempt from safety crash testing or the requirement to have airbags.
Boshart's heavy lifter, Dong Feng battery electric work truck is built by Chinese firm
What sets Boshart’s effort apart are the two vehicles it selected for its effort: proven work horses with both passenger and load carrying capability. The Musso can carry five and has a 1,500 pound payload, while the cab-over, flatbed model can carry three people and haul up to 3000 pounds. Both models are available in standard 72-volt and optional 96-volt systems powered by lead-acid batteries that the company claims can be charged from 20 to 80 percent state of charge (SOC) in less than one hour and from 80 to 100 % SOC in approximately two hours. They also share the same 28 kW brushless DC motor, 600 amp motor controller and 30 am DC-DC converter. Optional heat and air conditioning is also available.
According to Doeden, Boshart has a long, established relationship with Daewoo who provided the company with two vehicles to test and then convert, an effort that began earlier this year when Dan Elliott, a company vice president, presented the idea to his boss, Ken Boshart. They saw this as a way to get into the "exploding" alternative fuel vehicle market.
"We thought it made sense for us and for the market to be able to transport four and five people… as well as equipment, welders, wires, as well as thing you might need to support a program or a project at a port or a base or a rail terminal".
Boshart has used off-the-shelf components in the drive system, rather than fabricate their own. They developed the 72-volt system in order to keep costs down for those fleets that don’t need the extra power and range available in the 96-volt model.
I asked Doeden about the company’s plans to eventually offer the vehicle as a highway-capable electric truck. He replied that because the Musso Sport is available in Europe with air bags, it should be possible to eventually get it certified in the U.S. for on-road use, and that the company is planning to eventually explore that possibility.
The chief obstacle, according to Doeden, is the fact that D.O.T. regulations are not written to favor limited production run vehicles.
"If you’re making a production run of a 100 vehicles, you have to meet the same safety requirements as if you’re making a 100,000 vehicles".
This means the costs to crash test and certify a vehicle can’t be amortized over 100,000 machines.
"It becomes a very difficult compromise to meet market demand for a high-speed, battery electric if there are only a few buyers out there… But again if you get enough of them out there and enough money out there, I think its practical to say a highway speed [EV] can sell and can sell well in areas and into a certain market."
Left to right: Richard Gettell, Chip Doeden, and Demetrio Zago , Daniel Elliott
StarPoint USA’s Gettell pointed out that each vehicle is intended to fit a specific niche, the Musso Sport as a crew carrier and the Dong Feng cab-over, flatbed as a cargo carrier.
Doeden said that the company can handle orders to 25-50 vehicles, doing the conversions in California. For numbers in the hundreds, however, they will have to look at various other options to ramp up to that size order.
"We are currently working the design toward lean and fast manufacturing so we can meet the demand for higher volume".
He estimated that the baseline, 72-volt model without optional air or heat, will be in the neighborhood of $20,000US with prices ranging up to $25,000 a piece.
To listen to this "from-the-exhibition-floor" interview, download the 3.55 MB MP3 file. The audio isn't studio quality.
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