Michigan Company Introduces Battery Electric Delivery Van


Like other traditional vehicle manufacturers in Michigan, the Shyft Group, formerly Spartan Motors, is moving to electric vehicles.

The specialty vehicle maker plans to deliver its new Blue Arc delivery van to customers next summer, according to Daryl Adams, president and CEO of Shyft. The Novi, Michigan-based company has started taking pre-orders, he says.

Commercial-oriented last-mile delivery vans are likely to be the first segment of the transportation industry to fully transition to battery-electric vehicles. Shyft already has a strong position in the industry, supplying half of the vans used by companies such as Amazon, Federal Express and UPS.

Founded in 1975, Spartan Motors changed its name in 2020 after divesting its emergency vehicle business to the REV Group to specialize in utility vehicles. The divestiture has provided the speed and flexibility needed to further focus on accelerating growth and profitability in the commercial vehicle, fleet, delivery and specialty vehicle markets, where Shyft sees the greatest opportunities. to generate higher returns, Adams said.

“We know about innovation and electrification,” says Adams, noting that Shyft has been building vehicles with alternative powertrains for more than two decades. The company’s revenue grew to $992 million in 2021 when it built nearly 20,000 vehicles for various customers, including package delivery companies and recreational vehicle manufacturers.

Most vehicles were built at the company’s plant in Bristol, IN, but Shyft also operates at 18 other locations and has more than 3,800 employees.

As the transportation industry’s shift to electrified vehicles gathers pace, the Shyft Group kicked off development of its own battery-electric chassis in the summer of 2021, Adams said. The result is the Blue Arc van, specifically designed for fleet operators whose drivers travel the last mile between a warehouse or depot and the end customer.

The Blue Arc chassis can also be used for shuttles and even recreational vehicles, he says.

Prices for the Blue Arc minivan are expected to range from $160,000 to $185,000.

The Shyft Group is also refining the development of the Power Cube (picture below), a fully portable EV charging system that can be moved to BEV fleet operators’ property and charge up to 20 vehicles at a time. Shyft engineers began working on the Power Cube after fleet operators told them it could take 18 to 24 months to install charging stations at their facilities.

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Portable charging stations can act as a gateway for fleet operators engaged in BEVs, says Shyft.

Shyft beefs up its Blue Arc chassis with components from established vendors such as Dana, Akebono, Bosch and Modine, notes Johann Eloff, vice president of engineering.

The new Blue Arc delivery van is built around the company’s proprietary Class 3 EV chassis that promises to have both the long lifecycle of a traditional delivery van, which can span 15 years , as well as the big increase in fuel economy that comes with electric propulsion. , according to Eric Fisher, group vice president and general manager of EV solutions.

The purpose-built chassis is designed around steel frame rails, which house the battery, and a commercial-grade electric axle.

The battery has a range of 150 miles (242 km), but the lithium-ion battery can be scaled to meet specific customer needs with a modular design from 160kWh to 240kWh and 800V. delivery will come with level two and DC fast charging compatibility and can recharge in as little as two to six hours.

Eric Fisher Blue Arc.jpgA solar roof is optional and Shyft offers a battery buyback program, as 92% of the material used in the battery should be recyclable, Fisher (photo, left) said.

The scalable chassis can vary in length from 12 feet (3.7 m) to 22 feet (6.7 m), always depending on customer needs, says Fisher. The cargo box is 85 inches. (2159 mm) tall and 88.5 inches. (2248mm) wide and features lightweight aluminum honeycomb shelving.

At first glance, the Blue Arc van looks like a standard delivery vehicle. But unlike vehicles with riveted bodies, the Blue Arc’s cargo bed and driver’s cab are bonded aluminum. (picture below).

According to Fisher, driver comfort features include an automotive-grade instrument panel with an optional entertainment system and keyless entry and start. The vehicle is equipped with active emergency braking, lane keeping assistance and blind spot detection.

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