Wrightspeed is speeding up the process of electrifying medium and heavy-duty stop and start trucks. The trucks are some of the dirtiest vehicles on the planet including, garbage trucks, transit buses and delivery vehicles.
Gilbert Passin, CEO of Wrightspeed, explains how Wrightspeed’s modular system is ready to convert trucks on the road and supply OEMs.
Passin has travelled the world working in the transportation sector for decades, creating factories and the ways to make electric vehicles a reality. He started out in engineering robotics and teaching. Then he went to work for Renault in various manufacturing and engineering jobs. He consolidated the factories for Mack Trucks with Volvo. He worked in Toyota manufacturing Canada and California.
Then he was hired by Tesla Motors, where he was instrumental in buying the Fremont factory from Toyota. He launched the Tesla S, many factories, models and charging networks.
“I was fortunate to work with Elon Musk and help build teams in California,” says Passin. In 2018, Ian Wright, co-founder of Tesla Motors, asked him to work at Wrightspeed as Chief Operating Officer. In March, 2021, he was made CEO.
Medium and heavy-duty vehicles are 4% of the vehicles on the road but use 26% of the fuel and are responsible for 30% of on-road emissions. Diesel fuel is the highest cost of ownership, averaging 10,000 gallons per year. Wrightspeed offers a suite of solutions to clean up medium and heavy-duty vehicles.
Wrightspeed is making the heart of the vehicle the electric powertrain. Electric motors connect to the axle with a gearbox and a battery pack that is charged with regenerative braking, says Passin.
One of the problems with big trucks is that they are very loud. They pull a lot of power and then take a lot of power for braking. But if they are electrified, they do not pollute and will also make less noise, he says.
The modular Wrightspeed suite also offers vehicle dynamic control systems with data integration and an optional range extender. The optional range extender can be powered by diesel fuel, CNG, renewable natural gas or even hydrogen.
With large trucking and fleets, the trucks can last 10 to 12 years. They are built to replace the powertrain midlife.
WrightSpeed can replace the powertrain on existing trucks with added features and also supply the whole system to truck manufacturers, explains Passin.
A regular car is difficult to retrofit. However, the way these class vehicles are made, they have a rail structure that the batteries can fit into. When the diesel engine is removed, it can be replaced with a range extender engine for charging the batteries.
“It is important to have the right ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) for fleet owners.”
Wrightspeed’s headquarters and factory are housed in a hangar at Alameda Naval base. It is close to all ports. When Wrightspeed has a large client, Passin plans to make a micro-factory next to where the vehicles are assembled.
Wrightspeed is currently completing the electrification of two city transit buses.
“We have a world supply chain. We want it to make sense to have the supply as close to the company as possible. There’s a huge potential for growth and to supply capacity locally to satisfy our customers,” says Passin.
“EV companies have to be agile, have an agile supply chain and have manufacturing that makes sense with factories at the centre of where the customers are,” says Passin, “It is important to have the right ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) for fleet owners. For a fleet to replace 30,000 trucks it will be expensive.”
In North America, most goods are moved by trucks. Wrightspeed offers a good solution that is cleaner and that has a smaller carbon footprint and can have a big impact on North America. They are working to comply with federal and state programs such as CARB (California Air Resources Board) and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Supertruck program, says Passin.
“We are looking at a variety of sources and strategies for funding. We are currently private but we are looking at alternative investments,” he says.
A Cleaner Future
Passin foresees the many stages of technology advancements for trucks of the future. The first phase is the electrification of vehicles. The second step would be some kind of autonomous transport between cities.
The third level will be for trucks to interact with each other. In the fourth phase, he imagines wireless charging and a mix of different clean systems for trucks.
“We have to make this business as eco-friendly and efficient as possible for our society,” notes Passin, “I am also excited to see the team grow and mature into a company that can now scale. For the cost, we offer a good solution and have the ability to expand.”