At 26 and a half feet long, Chanje's big white van takes up most of a yellow-painted loading zone in downtown San Francisco. While similar large vans ply the streets carrying supplies to restaurants and corner stores, delivering Amazon packages to residences and businesses, the Chanje van is unique. Although turned on, it remains perfectly quiet and emission-free, its electric drive system ready to move its 6,000 pound payload capacity as soon as the driver touches the throttle.
Chanje is a new, California-based company incorporated in Delaware that wants to own the future of medium-duty trucking around the world, and it thinks electricity will get it there. The company initially has its sights set on urban fleets, and thinks its Chinese-manufactured electric delivery van makes a compelling case for itself.
CEO Bryan Hansel expresses a progressive desire to "remove noise and tail pipe emissions from delivery trucks in cities", a sentiment that any urban resident should appreciate. He expects Chanje's electric van to be a last mile solution, delivering everything from "potato chips to packages" in cities. Medium duty trucks, such as the model being marketed by Chanje, commonly work out of distribution centers in urban areas, picking up goods for individual delivery that may have come across the country on tractor-trailer rigs.
The Chanje electric van, dubbed V8070 in typical industrial part number nomenclature, uses unibody architecture, making for a more comfortable ride than body-on-frame delivery trucks. Dual rear wheels help support its 6,000 pound payload, and each rear wheel is driven by a hub motor. Down the center of the V8070's chassis sits a 70 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack. And while that battery pack only gives it 100 miles of range, Chanje's Chief Operating Officer Joerg Sommer insists that is well within the typical daily driving miles of urban delivery vehicles.
The cavernous back of the van measures 580 cubic feet, and is tall enough for a 6-footer to stand up in. Sommer also points out the cockpit, with fit and finish that more resemble a passenger vehicle than the austere confines of an industrial vehicle. Following a trend in the passenger vehicle market, the center dashboard holds a portrait-style touchscreen running an Android-based information system. That information includes the van's electric drivetrain stats and could also show telematics information, such as delivery routes and schedules.
Sommer points out that fleet operators will likely have an easier time retaining drivers, as Chanje's van lacks the constant engine vibration and noise of diesel-powered delivery trucks.
Chanje's electric van comes from a partnership with Hong Kong-based FDG Electric Vehicles Limited, the company responsible for developing and manufacturing the vehicle. The name Chanje appears to derive from FDG's own electric vehicle brand Changjiang. According to Hansel, FDG will market the electric van in China, and Chanje will handle marketing and distribution to the rest of the world. Following similar export practices, Chanje will take vans produced by FDG as kits and bring them to an assembly facility in the US. As Chanje explores other markets, such as Europe, it will duplicate that process, providing regionalization for each van at its assembly location.
Hansel admits the market for these medium duty vehicles is much smaller than that for passenger vehicles, but sees that as an opportunity. The company faces very little competition at present, and believes it can make a total cost argument putting its vans on a level playing field with fossil fuel-burning delivery vehicles. The cost of electricity is much less than that of gasoline or diesel per mile, electric drive systems are much more efficient and maintenance needs are likely to be much lower. Chanje's vans can be plugged in overnight in a fleet yard, and fleet owners won't have to maintain fueling stations.
Governments and municipalities are also beginning to legislate against fossil fuel-burning vehicles, notably in Europe where they accrue congestion charges in some cities, and some countries have promised to go all-electric in the coming years.
Most city residents, however, will just be happy not to be woken up at 6 a.m. by trucks idling on the streets below their windows.