SCHENECTADY — A sales and service company trying to build the market for electric trucks has set up shop in Schenectady.
Zeem Solutions analyzes the requirements of companies that use conventional diesel-powered trucks and puts together the best possible package of electric trucks and available financial incentives. The company will cut the ribbon Wednesday on its home office at 1482 Erie Blvd., where about a dozen people work, mostly sales trainees.
Director of sales and operations Don Peer said Zeem is trying to make a name and a market for itself in an industry still in its infancy. While electric cars have established a tiny but steady grip on the consumer market for personal transport, only a very few of the millions of heavy trucks transporting goods around the nation are electrically powered.
There’s several reasons for this, but time, money and confidence are the most important:
- Most electric trucks go only 100 to 150 miles before needing to sit four to six hours at a charging station.
- A truck, essentially the same except for the energy source and powertrain, might cost $75,000 if powered by diesel and $200,000 if it runs on electricity.
- Diesel trucks have been in service for a century, and parts and service are widely available; electric trucks are new, untested and rapidly evolving.
It’s a new industry, Peer said, and Zeem wants to get in on the ground floor.
“The group behind Zeem has been investing in the electric vehicle space for probably 10 years,” he said. Along the way it has built knowledge of the technology and enthusiasm for the concept.
Zeem will assess a client’s driving patterns and cargo-carrying needs, then put together a package of trucks, charging stations, government incentives and, if the client is willing, a corporate sponsor that will pay for advertising on the side of the truck.
With all this, the electric truck still will cost tens of thousands of dollars more up front than a diesel truck. But over the life of the vehicle, there’s savings on maintenance and fuel plus the intangible value of knowing that tailpipe emissions have been reduced.
The limitations of battery range mean an electric truck is suited for short-range driving in cities and dense suburbs, rather than intercity or interstate hauling. Think delivery vehicles that make frequent stops.
“It’s a new dealership model,” Peer said. “We're reaching out to fleet operators.”
Zeem is not committed to any one brand of truck; it will earn its money from client fees rather than from supplier commissions.
But Zeem does plan to put its name on another company’s truck in late 2018. Details are yet to be determined, but Zeem will maintain a fleet of about five of these re-badged trucks as demonstrators. Some are expected to be stationed at a future West Coast office, some may be stationed in Schenectady.
Peer said it will likely be a Class 6 truck, 25,900 pounds maximum gross weight with a 10,000-pound cargo capacity.
Zeem also hopes to enter the electric-storage industry, offering parked electric-powered trucks to utilities as a source of backup power for the electric grid. The batteries on each truck by necessity hold a large amount of electricity, enough to make a difference during a blackout, Peer said.
“Zeem will be the first company to actually demonstrate that and put it into practice,” he added.