Freightliner Custom Chassis Corporation (FCCC) introduced its plug-in all-electric walk-in van (WIV) chassis – which it says is the only one domestically engineered and the first in the industry to be completely all-electric (includes HVAC system) in North America.

The all-electric chassis, developed in partnership with Enova Systems, a developer and producer of electric and hybrid-electric drive system technologies for commercial vehicle OEMs, is built on the popular FCCC MT-45 WIV chassis platform.

“In partnership with Enova we have developed an all-electric chassis to meet the environmental, economic and performance needs of our commercial vehicle customers,” said Bob Harbin, FCCC president. “Our vision is clearly focused on transitioning the all-electric chassis into the mainstream of our walk-in van production programs. This new program demonstrates that FCCC remains fully committed to engineering chassis options that lower operating costs and decrease carbon footprints for our customers.

“Our all-electric chassis is custom-built from the ground up for the walk-in van market, integrating the proven ergonomic advantages of WIV bodies. Competitor chassis are a cab chassis configuration and end up as box trucks typically built for the trucking industry. Competitor products do not offer the ergonomic benefits and safety features of a WIV such as curb-side exit, walk-through cargo area, direct access to cargo area from driver’s station, etc.”

Addressing the discussion in the industry surrounding recent federal funding for all-electric technology, Jonathan Randall, sales and marketing director at FCCC added, “FCCC initiated our all-electric project well before stimulus money and federal grants were available for alternative-power transportation projects. FCCC viewed the all-electric project as the logical next step in its alternative-power product offerings, as well as a strategic opportunity to continue its leadership role in the WIV industry.”

The new all-electric chassis enables fleet operators to virtually eliminate harmful emissions and cut operating and maintenance costs while delivering the performance and driver comfort features FCCC customers have come to expect. On select delivery and service routes, studies show that customers will save up to $15,000 per vehicle annually compared with traditionally powered walk-in vans. The quiet operation of the all-electric chassis also makes for an enjoyable driver experience. This new chassis has a flat-leaf spring front and rear suspension, allowing for a smooth, solid ride that minimizes cargo shifts on uneven road surfaces.

The development program with Enova involved the engineering and integration of Enova’s 120kW all-electric drive system technology into the new MT-45 chassis. Ideal for the pickup and delivery market, the MT-45 chassis boasts a GVWR of 14,000 to 19,500 lbs. The durable steel straight-rail chassis frame reduces flex and bowing to minimize chassis stress while carrying heavy payloads.

“Collaborating with Freightliner Custom Chassis Corporation has enabled us to achieve our shared goal of introducing all-electric drive technology into the walk-in van market,” said Mike Staran, president and CEO of Enova Systems. “The FCCC-Enova partnership is accelerating the broad deployment of EV technology in this critical vehicle segment while improving the environment and helping to reduce U.S. dependence on imported energy.“

The all-electric drive system features battery packs that provides an up to 100-mile driving range on a single charge, making it ideal for pickup and delivery applications. The battery pack will charge from fully depleted to fully charged in six to eight hours.

The batteries featured on the electric system also capture and store energy during the regenerative braking phase of the vehicle’s operation. The regenerative braking system reduces friction during braking, resulting in less brake wear and extended brake life. The regenerative braking system saves energy by recycling and storing it, which can then be reused to propel the vehicle instead of losing it to heat, as is the case with traditional brakes.