Monday, February 8, 2010
Balqon for the heavy EV lifting
I drove through a rare LA rain storm down to Torrance, CA to meet up with fellow Plug In America board members, Mike Kane and Linda Nicholes for a tour of the Balqon facility. Long time readers of this blog will remember our big EV inaugural parade of last January when 78 highway capable Electric Vehicles were paraded down Main St. in Santa Monica to celebrate the inauguration of Barack Obama. While the Teslas were the glittering stars of the parade, the EV that got the most attention was the Balqon tractor which was capable of hauling a full 60,000 lbs. The Teslas put to rest any talk of EVs being slow, and this big boy silenced any talk of EVs not having towing power.
Full disclosure, I own stock in Balqon.
We spent a couple of hours talking with B. Samra, Balqon's CEO, who as it turns out, has quite a long history in the EV business. Way back in 1992, Samra worked on a deal to bring 3,000 electric trucks to Mexico City where they were used to great effect as delivery vehicles in that dense and polluted city. At least for a while, some of that pollution was displaced by his trucks.
Fast forward to the Port of Los Angeles and Port of Long Beach where some of the worst pollution in the U.S. is generated by the thousands of diesel burning rigs that are used for moving the containers offloaded from the ships to be stacked in preparation for distribution throughout the country.
According to Samra, some 16,000 trucks are used to shuttle these containers from the ship to a stack inside the port. Samra told us these trucks are turned on each morning and left running all day long, even during lunch breaks. Since the trucks never leave the port, they only drive an average of 4 miles a day, yet because they are not turned off, they burn an astounding 27 gallons of diesel fuel! The people at the port who are responsible for this atrocity should be fired, but given the union control over employment there, that's not likely to happen.
What should happen is that each and every one of those trucks should be replaced with a vehicle capable of doing the same job but with 100% renewable electricity. Balqon has sold 25 of their trucks to the ports so far, a good start. Considering how many ports there are around the world, the market for this type of vehicle is enormous.
Yard tractors in ports are not the only market. Samra has identified several other applications for heavy duty electric trucks. Balqon has wisely partnered with Autocar, one of the worlds leading truck manufacturers. Combining Balqon electric drivetrains with Autocar trucks, Samra sees opportunities in refuse hauling, street sweepers, airplane de-icing trucks and anything with a low speed duty cycle and 90% off-freeway route. The savings in pollution, energy and money are just what our country needs.
To the left is one example of Balqon's electric drivetrain with the batteries in the green cases and 240 kW motor underneath. It fits into the space we see in the tractor at right.
In case you were wondering how these 140 kWh lithium iron phosphate (LiFePo) packs get their charge, it's courtesy of Aerovironment's 80 kW Posicharger.