Though Elon Musk may be the primary shareholder and CEO of Tesla Motors, he didn’t get intimately involved until a few years after its founding. Ian Wright was involved at the very beginning, and he has since gone on to form a new startup called Wrightspeed, which aims to electric America’s most inefficient vehicles, trucks.
Rather than a traditional small gas engine as a range extender though, Wrightspeed uses a more efficient turbine generator charging the battery packs. Though this system is much more expensive than your typical electric car, the fuel and emission savings are much more dramatic. When used on a typical 3 MPG garbage truck, for example, Wrightspeed claims a 95% reduction of NOx emissions, 78% reduction of particulates, and 58% reduction of CO2, reports Fast Company. As our own Susanna Schick found out, they’re also a lot more fun to drive than your typical dour diesel engine.
As Ian Wright sees it, electrifying trucks just makes a ton of sense, not just from an emissions perspective, but a cost perspective. The longest-range Tesla Model S starts at over $80,000, with half of that cost earmarked just for the battery pack. For the average person, that’s way, way too much money to even consider, and at best it’s only removing about 200 gallons of gas annually from being burned. Yet a typical municipal garbage truck goes through thousands of gallons of fuel every year, with costs often exceeding $60,000 just in diesel. Wrightspeed claims they can lower truck operating costs to as little as 7-cents per mile, including regular maintenance, without the limited range of all-electric garbage trucks. That could mean a quick payback and savings for government fleets, which should make taxpayers happy too.
The way Wright almost dismisses the success of Tesla in a recent interview, though, leads me to believe that this guy isn’t quite the visionary he thinks he is. I agree that electrifying trucks is probably more important than cars, but this is not an either-or sort of thing. Electric vehicles are every bit as important to personal transportation as they are to municipal and private truck fleets, and I believe this is a problem that we need to come at from every angle.