ET: With almost every publicly traded company that we talk to, the goal has to be somewhat economic and it looks like you guys obviously did the math about the hybrids vs. the electrics.
FL: Yeah, we did some testing back probably seven years ago with the state of Texas on some hybrid delivery vehicles, which is a smaller class of truck. We got, quite honestly, decent fuel performance but we could go spend $20,000 less on the cleaner new diesel technology and get better MPG so it didn’t make sense to pay for all that extra complexity.
The beauty and the sweet spot to be in when it comes to fleet is that you save money and reduce emissions and do the right things by the environment- it’s all the same thing. It’s not this balancing, complex equation. It’s less fuel, it’s less emissions, it;s less money, it’s fairly simple.
And when you’re trading to 10 cents per kWhour for electricity from three or four dollars per gallon of fuel, the math isn’t rocket science.
ET: Do you feel like it is generating consumer goodwill as well? That people see the trucks and feel positively about them?
FL: We’re probably never going to do big marketing campaigns around this – we’re a consumer product brand, we’re not a transportation company or whatever. But, you know, you like to see it and you start to hear lots of stories about people who start to notice these things, and we don’t take it for granted that we need to win over our consumers everyday and earn their trust and respect as a company.
ET: Where are the trucks being deployed now? They are here in Portland, and you said you have 176 trucks around the country.
FL: Yep, we’ve got a sizable number in the Bay Area as well as Southern California, a couple markets in Texas, Atlanta, Orlando, the D.C. Metro area, New York City, Boston and Columbus, Ohio. And then we’ve got a couple trucks in Toronto and Montreal.
ET: Do local government programs influence at all where you guys decide to put the trucks?
FL: It certainly helps. At this point in time it’s no shock to anybody that it’s an expensive proposition. It’s very early on and government incentives definitely help to make the economics more feasible and make it successful in our program. So we absolutely take that into the factors that we look at.
ET: What do the drivers really love about the trucks?
FL: It’s new. It’s brand new, so I mean, everyone likes a brand new rig. It’s quiet and doesn’t have a diesel making a lot of noise. They can talk to somebody out the window of the rig at the store or whatever. It is also just the pride of, “I’m drivin’ something that’s cutting edge stuff.”
ET: Where can people expect to see the trucks next?
FL: I would say you can expect to see a bunch more in the Pacific Northwest as well as California. New York is certainly being aggressive about trying to induce folks into coming and putting more trucks in their state, so we’ll do our best to accommodate them as well.
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