It’s probably a bad thing to judge a commercial delivery vehicle on looks alone, but I’ve got to say that Navistar’s eStar is the coolest looking delivery truck I’ve ever seen. Hell, it might even be the coolest looking EV I’ve seen to date, and I can’t wait to see one in person. Unlike electric conversions, the eStar was designed from the ground up as a commercial electric vehicle. It’s got a range of up to 100 miles per charge, it’ll take up to a 4,000 pound payload and it’ll go up to 50 miles per hour (relegating it to city-only use). Using a Level 2 charger (220 volt), the eStar can be fully recharged in about 8 hours. FedEx tested four eStars for routes in Los Angeles, and found the battery range to be sufficient for a normal eight hour shift.
Power comes from a 70 kw electric motor, good for 102 horsepower and 221 ft-lb of torque. Batteries are listed as “cassette style”, which (in theory) makes them easily replaced at end of life, or easily upgradable from the standard 80 kWhr configuration as technology progresses. The eStar is rear wheel drive, and features a turning circle of just 36 feet, which makes it ideal for an urban delivery environment. The transmission is single speed, and the brakes (front discs, rear drums) offer regenerative braking, ABS and electronic brakeforce distribution.
Since the eStar lacks conventional doors, drivers enter and exit through a passenger side door (much like an RV). Inside, the eStar looks like a convention delivery truck with one glaring omission: I didn’t see air conditioning as an available option, although the panel does show that heat is available for winter driving. I’m not sure what markets the eStar can function in without air conditioning, but I’m sure that none of them are located in Florida or Texas.
With a limited range, limited top speed, a lack of A/C and a price tag of $150,000, the eStar will appeal to a very limited range of potential buyers. If you’re one of them, chances are that none of the shortcomings will matter, and I’d be the first to agree that new technology has to start somewhere. As for me, I don’t have the need for a commercial truck, but I’d sure like to drive one of these for a thorough evaluation. As long as it’s in the spring, fall or winter.