The future is electric for more than passenger cars: the Lion Electric Company, a leading North American manufacturer of all-electric medium- and heavy-duty urban trucks and buses, delivered 220 vehicles in Q1 2023, an increase of 136 vehicles compared to 84 delivered in the same period in 2022.
While Tesla deserves credit for accelerating the transition from gas-powered cars to ZEVs (Zero Emission Vehicles), Canada-based Lion is roaring ahead to do the same in the truck and bus sector. The Saint-Jérôme, Quebec company is unique in that unlike other electric urban truck and bus makers, Lion isn’t retrofitting fossil-fueled vehicles, but rather building its electric platform from the ground up. Lion designs, manufactures, and assembles most of its vehicle components, including chassis, battery packs, cabin, and powertrain.
Moreover, as Dominik Beckman, VP of Marketing and Communications, points out, “Lion is doing more than making electric buses and trucks; we’re building an entire sustainable ecosystem to support the transition to electrification. That includes not only providing a charging infrastructure for zero-emission electric fleets, but also telematics and management software, technician and driver training, maintenance support, and capital financing.” Lion is also adding to what it calls “Experience Centers” throughout the U.S. and Canada to provide after-sales service and parts.
An equally important distinction is that Lion does not employ a third-party dealer network. “We work directly with fleet owners to help them successfully transition to electrification, which includes building the infrastructure as well as providing the vehicles.”
An additional Lion advantage is that it is a vertically integrated manufacturer — just this past April the company officially inaugurated its new 175,000 square foot facility in Mirabel, Quebec to produce lithium-ion batteries for its medium- and heavy-duty vehicles made it its Saint-Jérôme and Joliet, Ill. plants. The new battery assembly line, the first of its kind in Canada, is planned to reach production capacity of 1.7 gigawatt hours by the end of 2023, with a targeted annual production capacity of 5 gigawatts. The expectation is this can allow Lion to produce a mix of about 14,000 vehicles a year.
The company currently employs roughly 1400 people. “Our manufacturing is highly automated, but like everyone else we are in need of a range of technical and professional skills sets,” Beckman says. But unlike other manufacturers, Lion isn’t experiencing any talent gaps, due perhaps in part because of its reputation for innovation as well as its commitment to green technologies.
Purpose-Built Electric Transport
Since its inception in 2011, Lion has delivered more than 950 all-electric medium- and heavy-duty vehicles in North America, that have collectively driven more than 10 million miles. “These vehicles are purpose build for electric drivetrains,” Beckman emphasizes. “As an example of why that’s an advantage, the batteries in our electric school buses are specifically designed to provide wider aisles in the same size chassis of fossil-fueled bus.
In addition to providing the driver with better visibility to what’s behind him, this also improves safety in case there’s ever a need for passengers to exit the bus quickly. An additional safety feature, of course, is that children aren’t exposed to exhaust fumes on a bus with no emissions.” In addition to school buses, Lion also makes an all-electric midi/minibus for the paratransit market that convey an up to 150-mile range and a 24 passenger capacity with easy accessibility and enhanced security. Lion’s all-electric class 5 through 8 commercial urban trucks combine power, comfort, and modern technology. Most recently, Lion premiered its first ever Lion5, with payload configurations ranging from 19,500 lbs. through 26,000 lbs. Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GCWR), and a driving range of up to 200 miles perfect for last mile delivery vehicles, slated for full production later this year.
“A key advantage to the Lion5 is the ability to carry heavier weights than is typical for its weight class and normally requires a Level 6 truck,” Beckman says. “To legally drive a Level 6 truck requires a corresponding commercial truck license. With the higher weight capacity of the Lion5, combined with safety features such as smaller tires and lower ground clearance, fleet owners in today’s tight job market gain more staffing flexibility.”
One-Day Duty Cycles
Beckman points out that, “ZEVs are perfect for last mile delivery, local bus transportation, refuse collection, and other applications where there are defined routes confined to one-day duty cycles. The vehicle gets charged overnight, needs only travel within a 150- or 250-mile distance, and then comes back to its depot to get recharged and ready for the next day’s operation.”
In addition to the vital role ZEVs play to help the U.S. and Canada reach their clean energy and net-zero targets by 2050 (medium- and heavy-duty vehicles account for nearly 40% of greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector), Lion all-electric vehicles provide users with a variety of economic as well as social advantages.
“We do a great deal of customer education,” Beckman says. “There are still a lot of myths out there about ZEVs, such as that batteries don’t work in cold weather. They do, which is why we developed our own BMS (battery management system) and BTMS (battery thermal management system) to control and access the full capability of our batteries so drivers can expect full range in any kind of weather conditions.”
He adds that fleet owners often aren’t sure of the financial advantages. “There’s no engine and there’s less mechanical complexity with an electric vehicle, so there’s less maintenance in terms not only of eliminating oil changes but also there’s fewer parts to replace. On average, electric vehicle maintenance is 60% less expensive to maintain than buses or trucks that use diesel, gasoline, natural gas, or propane. They are also cheaper to drive, with energy costs reduced by 80%. In addition, there are also government subsidies and incentives to promote fleet electrification. Most use cases show a payback within seven years by transitioning to electric vehicles.”
Lion is expanding into the Class 8 tractor truck segment, and looks forward to continue innovating in additional transportation sectors. “It’s a growing market. There’s certainly a lot of opportunity not only here in North America, as well as around the world,” Beckman says.
For electric buses and trucks, turning on the electric seems like a bright idea.
The post Bright Bus appeared first on Industry Today – Leader in Manufacturing & Industry News.