While the Great Recession drags on, there are some bright green spots in the economic landscape, many of them a direct result of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. President Obama recently stopped by the Smith Electric Vehicles in Kansas City, Missouri, to celebrate one of those bright spots: the fact that Smith, the nation’s top manufacturer of battery-electric trucks, and the recent recipient of a Department of Energy (DOE) grant, is hiring its 50th worker, and expects to directly and indirectly create 150 more jobs.
The $32 million DOE grant–coupled with $36 million in private capital–is aimed at helping Smith to offset future vehicle development costs and incentivize customers to participate in a commercial electric vehicle demonstration program. Under the terms of the grant, Smith is building 500 electric-drive trucks, which will be tested out by commercial fleet customers like Coca-Cola and AT&T interested in lowering their costs by replacing diesel-powered trucks with electric ones.
Smith Electric produces the Newton, currently the only all-electric medium/heavy-truck listed on the General Services Administration Schedule (which, we assume, means they are approved for use by government agencies). The truck delivers a top speed of 50 mph and a range of 50 to 120 miles on a single charge, operating at peak effectiveness in urban applications with demanding stop-and-go schedules. According to Smith Electric, a single overnight charge provides more than enough range for most urban delivery routes.
“Because of the grant that went to this company,” said President Obama, in his July 8th speech at Smith Electric, “we can hear the sounds of machines humming and people doing their work, instead of just the ghostly silence of an emptied-out building and the memory of workers who were laid off a long time ago.” He went on to note that the story of Smith’s factory illustrated the direct and measurable impact of the Recovery Act.