California utility company is first to put Zeus all-electric trucks to work

Paul Lau, CEO and General Manager of the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD), believes electrification of the transportation and construction sector “is a cornerstone of a strategy to achieve zero carbon” due to relatively low emissions. important generated by these industries. party, SMUD, the sixth-largest community-owned, nonprofit electric utility company in the United States, has set a goal of eliminating all carbon emissions from its power supply by 2030.

“It’s the most aggressive carbon reduction target of any major company in the United States,” Lau said.

To achieve its goal of 100% zero-emission vehicles and equipment by 2030, SMUD is gradually electrifying its fleet of more than 1,000 transport assets. “We’ve made good progress on some fronts,” Lau said. “For example, we retired the last gasoline sedans from our fleet in 2019.

“But it was more difficult with large medium and heavy trucks because the electric options are limited,” he continues. “That’s why Zeus vehicles are so exciting.”

Zeus electrifies work truck applications

Zeus Electric Chassis, Inc. has developed a versatile battery electric vehicle chassis and cab platform that allows fleets to use existing OEM body partners, system integrators and upfitters to adapt the vehicle to various class 4, 5 and 6 applications. These applications can include bucket trucks, cranes, tippers, service bodies and more.

According to the company’s website, currently available chassis models offer power ratings of 290 to 510 hp and 2,040 to 3,500 lb-ft. of torque. GVWRs range from 16,0001 to 26,000 lbs. with payloads of 8,000 to 13,000 lbs. All models use NMC lithium-ion batteries as the primary power source.

Four of SMUD’s five trucks are being fitted with truck bodies from Knapheide Manufacturing Co.ZeusArmed with the desire to reduce its carbon footprint in the main categories of vehicles, SMUD will become the first customer of Zeus Electric Chassis. “Our purchase of five Zeus vehicles took five medium-duty diesel trucks off the road along with their associated admissions,” Lau says. “SMUD would help demonstrate to California and national commercial fleet operators that electrification is possible for Class 4 and 5 work trucks, which are the heart of commercial and construction fleets.”

The first production Zeus Class 5 electric work trucks are built to SMUD specifications, with four of the trucks being fitted with truck bodies from Knapheide Manufacturing Co. Configurations will include an electric picket truck, an open-body service truck electric, an electric closed truck -body service truck with crew cab and an electric dump truck.

A configuration of the electric stake truck was unveiled at Work Truck Week in Indianapolis on March 8, then shipped to Sacramento for a key fob presentation ceremony at SMUD at an event hosted by the California Mobility Center.A configuration of the electric stake truck was unveiled at Work Truck Week in Indianapolis on March 8, then shipped to Sacramento for a key fob presentation ceremony at SMUD at an event hosted by the California Mobility Center.ZeusA configuration of the electric stake truck was unveiled to Knapheide dealers and distributors at a special event during Work Truck Week in Indianapolis on March 8, and from there was shipped to Sacramento for a carrier presentation ceremony keys to SMUD at an event hosted by the California Mobility Center (CMC). The first of five production trucks ordered by SMUD, the dump body, which will be displayed at the ACT expo in May before being put into field service.

Guaranteeing the best layout solutions

The effective combination of a truck body and chassis is essential to the success of any vehicle upfit. This is why Zeus chose early on to involve bodybuilder Knapheide in the development of its chassis design, to ensure that the focus remained on meeting customer needs.

“Other EV companies don’t know commercial applications or are intensely focused on a certain application, like last-mile delivery,” says Chris Weiss, vice president of engineering at Knapheide. “Either way, they don’t understand the complexity of the commercial market, both in terms of marketing channels and design constraints. And they struggle with that.

“The best design solutions start with a conversation,” he continues. “To make fleets more productive, we need to understand what our customers want to do and tailor our solution to meet their needs.”

Truck bodies for SMUD’s Zeus vehicles are built at the Knapheide manufacturing facility in Quincy, IL, purchased through Custom Truck One Source (CTOS) and delivered to the Zeus factory for installation. The holistic integration of the truck body with the configurable chassis is one of the main differentiators of the Zeus Power Platform.

SMUD vehicles in production at the Zeus production plant in January 2022.SMUD vehicles in production at the Zeus production plant in January 2022.ZeusThe traditional work truck release process can take four to five months of cut-and-paste to integrate the body and chassis of the truck. The Zeus Power Platform chassis design keeps the battery within the frame rails and incorporates pre-engineered system solutions that make upfit installation cleaner, faster and safer. This is especially important with an electric vehicle given the high voltage lines that connect the power supply from the chassis to the body.

The ability to adapt to customer needs is essential. “As our customers explore opportunities with electrical upgrades, we need to pre-define their energy needs through labor and scope,” comments Weiss. “The electric chassis is a great solution overall as it provides the power source for all the electric truck equipment. With Zeus’ unique design approach, if more power is needed, more battery capacity can be built into the chassis to meet customer needs.

The integration between the Zeus Power platform and Knapheide truck bodies has proven to be a productive partnership. “It’s important for Zeus to demonstrate to our customers that they can continue to get the same proven truck body on our electric chassis that they are used to,” says Bob Grinstead, Founder and CEO of Zeus. “Working with Knapheide and CTOS on these first truck deliveries allows us to do just that.”

Next step towards validation

The next step in the process is to ensure that electric vehicles can meet this expectation in the field. As a founding member of CMC, a public/private partnership to support, finance and commercialize new electric vehicle technologies, SMUD has been able to work with Zeus to customize the vehicles to its specific needs and test them on the road in its operations. utilities.

“The CMC helps connect startups like Zeus with potential customers like SMUD to test the technology in commercial trials across various industries,” Lau says. “We are very pleased to take delivery of five vehicles in the second quarter of 2022 and test them in several applications in our business.

The California Mobility Center is a public/private partnership to support, fund and market new EV technologies.  It helps connect startups like Zeus with potential customers to test the technology in commercial trials across various industries.The California Mobility Center is a public/private partnership to support, fund and market new EV technologies. It helps connect startups like Zeus with potential customers to test the technology in commercial trials across various industries.ZeusThe trucks will be fielded with five different teams to validate the technology and create a Class 5 EV fleet adoption process for the future. “We will use them in a variety of applications from facilities management to our line asset groups to substation work. Zeus trucks will replace existing equipment, so we’ll see how [much] reducing carbon emissions from day one,” says Lau. He is optimistic that the trucks will not only match but surpass their gas-powered counterparts.

The operation of the vehicles will be documented at each stage of the process. “Our development team will collect data from on-board GPS and telematics systems for real-time diagnostic analyzes of duty cycles and load patterns,” says Lau. “[We] will incorporate feedback from operations on a weekly basis, which we will also share with Zeus along the way.

Editor’s Note: Quotes from Paul Lau, Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD), taken from a transcript of the following video by Zeus Electric Chassis, Inc.

Veronica J. Snell