Tata Motors Showcases 2 New Ace Mini-Truck Variants


Tata Motors vehicles display at Municipalika-2014

India-based Tata Motors used the Municipalika 2014 international conference to showcase their Tata ACE Hopper Tipper BS IV – Waste Segregation and Super ACE Suction Machine BS III mini suction vehicle. The ACE Hopper Tipper BS IV is suited for door-to-door garbage collection and the Super ACE Suction Machine BS III mini suction vehicle for door-to-door sewage cleaning. According to the company the “Tata ACE Hopper Tipper BS IV – Waste Segregation fully- built Mini Garbage Tipper is available in BS III & BS IV variants, suitable for hilly terrains, and uses cathodic Electro Deposition (CED) treated body for corrosion prevention. Super ACE Suction Machine BS III is equipped for high pressure suction operation for a depth of upto 25 feet and diameter upto 75 mm – to clean thick sludge, and offers 39% vehicle gradeability making it suitable for hilly terrains” Both vehicles are small enough to operate in narrow lanes found in the dense urban areas of India.

Municipalika is an international conference and exhibition that focuses on emerging trends in sustainable habitat and integrated cities. India has experienced rapid population growth in urban areas in recent years and that is expected to continue for some time.  Learn more:  Rushlane.com

Comment:  These products are a good example of the differences between the US and other markets such as Asia when it comes to small, task-oriented vehicles. The US cities are neither as physically cramped or densely populated as some of the “mega” cities in other parts of the world. The characteristics of these cities create a greater demand for smaller vehicles that require lower speeds and smaller dimensions.


Flex L3 Electric Utility Truck Available In UK

The Flex L3 electric truck produced by Ligier is now available in the UK.

The Flex L3 electric truck produced by Ligier is now available in the UK.

ePower Trucks will be the UK distributor for Ligier’s Flex L3 electric utility truck. Ligier is a French manufacturer. Powered by lead gel batteries, the street legal Flex L3 has a top speed of 25 mph and a range of 35 mph. The target applications for the vehicle, which can come in a flat bed, cage, box body or tipper configuration, are urban delivery and estate management. The payload capacity is up to 400 kg. The Flex L3 is priced at 13,500 pounds and is available in white, red or gray. Learn more:   Transportengineer.org

Comment:  The urban delivery market application is a good niche market for electric vehicles especially for the delivery of goods that are neither too large or heavy. This type of application requires slower speeds and less range so more expensive lithium-based battery packs and more powerful electric powertrains are not necessary. This type of application is more prevalent in Europe and Asia. For similar reasons, light-duty maintenance applications on college or corporate campuses or city parks are also a good fit for this type of vehicle.

Cenntro Motor To Produce Electric Utility Vehicles At Nevada Facility

Cenntro Motors Kombi EV electric utility vehicles to be produced in Nevada.

Cenntro Motors Kombi EV electric utility vehicles to be produced in Nevada.

Cenntro Motor plans to begin production of 1,650 electric vehicles at a Sparks, NV facility by August or September of this year. The $20.1 million, 150,000 square foot facility will also serve as the company’s headquarters. The facility will employ approximately 100 people and training grants along with tax deferrals were part of a $1.2 million incentive package to attract the company.

Cenntro Motors designs and builds lightweight electric commercial and passenger vehicles and their first vehicle is the Kombi EV designed for maintenance, delivery and light cargo transport. The vehicle currently comes in two configurations, the Green Space Version with a cargo bed and the City Version with a van box. Both vehicles are 2WD and use a 10 Stator KLD DC motor with max power of 12.5 kW. The vehicle’s KLD Energy Technologies oneDRIVE™ propulsion system uses a 48V system with a 6.8kW KLD Li-ion battery pack. Other key features include 800 payload capacity, 4-wheel hydraulic disk brakes, a range of 50 miles and top speeds of 31 mph for the Green Space and 25 mph for the City.

Cenntro Motors also recently acquired SITL-Brandt Motors located in Lyon, France, which will be the headquarters for their European operations. The acquisition was valued at $50 million and management plans to invest an additional $20 million. With the acquisition Cenntro’s lineup in Europe will include an all-electric CITELEC commercial truck, a two-person quadracycle and electric scooters. Learn more:  Reviewjournal.com and Cenntromotors.com

Comment:  The commercial/government market for small electric vehicles is attracting more attention as many companies believe this is where the growth is. From colleges and universities to municipalities and commercial entities organizations are finding these vehicles to be green, safe and cost-effective for applications that do not require traditional passenger vehicles or pick-up trucks. It continues to represent a growth segment for the STOV industry. It is also an international market with arguably better opportunities in European and Asian markets where smaller vehicles are more accepted, prevalent and have been used effectively for many years.


Eicher-Volvo Joint Venture May Enter Mini-Truck Market


Eicher is considering a mini-truck offering to enter the small commercial vehicle market through their joint venture with Volvo.

A joint venture between Eicher Motors Ltd. of India and Volvo, VE Commercial Vehicle, may enter the growing small commercial vehicle market in India. The small commercial vehicle market consists of the vehicles of 5 tonnes or less. The joint venture is considering a mini-truck offering in the 1-3 tonne range. This segment already features vehicles like the Ashok Leyland Dost, Tata Ace and Mahindra’s Maxximo Plus. The decision to enter the market will be made within the next six months with a potential product launch in 2016-17.

The small commercial vehicle market represents over 50% of the commercial vehicle market with an estimated 359,000 vehicles sold every year and growth to over 500,000 expected by 2019. The market is driven by the hub and spoke distribution system in India where large trucks transfer goods to or between hubs and smaller vehicles deliver the goods the last few miles. Learn more:  Economictimes.com

Comment:  For regulatory reasons, mini-trucks have not been a major market in the US although farmers often purchase used mini-trucks coming out of Japan and use them as of-road work vehicles. In some areas they are being allowed more access to public roads, but this is often in the context of agricultural use rather than the general public. Eicher, which also makes motorcycles, has a joint venture with Polaris that started in 2012. This joint venture is focused more on a range of personal vehicles with reports of a four-wheeled vehicle to be launched in 2015. At the same time, there could be opportunities for the companies to work together in the small commercial vehicle space given Polaris’s acquisitions in the past few years of GEM, Aixam and Groupil.

Tata Motors To Launch New Mini-Truck

The Tata Ace mini-truck

The current Tata Ace mini-truck

Tata Motors announced plans to launch a new mini-truck for the Small Commercial Vehicle  (SCV) segment within the next month. The new vehicle will be targeting the segment between Tata’s Ace mini-truck and their Super Ace pickup truck. The SCV segment, which comprises sub-1 tonne payload mini trucks and above 1-tonne payload pick- ups is below the 3.5 tonne (gross vehicle weight) Light Commercial Vehicle segment. The segment has become a competitive segment as more companies have launched vehicles for the market. Tata holds an estimated 48% share of the market.

In India and other countries in the region SCVs are used for the delivery of goods in the last mile of the distribution network. This service need often offers an opportunity for entrepreneurs to start their own business as a local shipper. They typically will get financing to purchase a vehicle. Despite a sluggish economy of late the, market segment is expected to grow as penetration in rural areas is low and when compared to other developing countries, India’s use of SCVs is low as well. Learn more:  Thehindu.com

Comment:  The SCV market in India is dominated by Tata and other local or regional manufacturers. It should be noted though that Polaris has started to enter other vehicle segments in India. In the future there could be potential for their GEM line or some of their vehicles from European acquisitions for use in this market. For electric vehicles, the ability of the local electrical grid to provide reliable charging opportunities, could be a significant hurdle though.

Green Automotive Company Buys Stake In Electric Truck Maker Viridian Motors

A low speed electric powered utility truck produced by Viridian Motors.

A low speed electric powered utility truck produced by Viridian Motors.

Green Automotive Company (GAC) has acquired nearly 22% of Viridian Motors, a Virginia based maker of low speed electric utility trucks. GAC previously acquired the UK-based Land Rover-conversion company Liberty. GAC has three divisions:  Liberty Electric Car which designs, engineers and manufacturers EV technologies, Newport Coachworks which builds shuttle buses powered by a variety of fuels and Going Green Ltd. which sells and sevices a variety of electric vehicles. The Newport Coachworks division is launching an electric powered shuttle this year and Viridian Motors will be involved in the roll-out on the East-coast. Currently Viridian produces two electric utility trucks, the WR100 and WR200. Both have a top-speed of 25 mph with ranges of 90 and 75 miles respectively. Learn more: Autobloggreen


Mini-truck Sales Slow In India

According to a recent report mini-truck sales have slowed in India in 2013. This segment includes vehicles with a payload of under one ton like the Tata Ace. Combined with pick-ups that fall under a gross vehicle weight of 3.5 tons, they make up what is referred to as the Small Commercial Vehicle market. This market had been growing quite well in recent years as a hub and spoke model of distribution has been widely implemented. The vehicles in this segment are often used in the last mile of this distribution scheme. However, analysts believe this market has become saturated in the larger metropolitan areas. Mini-truck sales have dipped below pick-up sales which also slowed toward the end of the year.  Learn more:  TheHindu.com

Comment:  Polaris is making an effort to grow sales in the Indian market through a strategic partnership. While their focus appears to be more on the off-road vehicles and snowmobiles, they also starting to sell the GEM which in some configurations would be appropriate for this application.

Road Use Regulations Roundup – September 2013

Some trends in this latest regulation roundup:

  • Municipalities are passing ordinances that not only allow LSVs but a range of utility vehicles including UTVs, ATVs and mini-trucks on public roads. The ordinances for mini trucks, which operate at higher speeds, may be the beginning of a backdoor approach to more medium speed vehicle ordinances at the local level.
  • There appears to be less concerns being raised about safety issues of the vehicles in mixed traffic.
  • Ordinances governing LSV parking were common this roundup.
  • There appeared to be less road use regulatory activity at both the state and municipal level so far in 2013.

State Level Regulations

Florida – A new golf car law went into effect that allows for the conversion of faster golf cars – or similar low-speed vehicles – to even lower-speed cars, saving golf car owners registration and insurance fees. A one-time $40 fee is charged.

Minnesota – A bill that would allow operation of mini trucks on local roads as passenger automobiles has been introduced in the House and Senate.

Municipal Level Regulations

Garden City, KS – The Garden City Commission drafted an ordinance which would allow micro utility vehicles (UTVs) to be operated within the city limits. The vehicles will be subject to state safety requirements such as roll cages, head and tail lights, turn signals and seat belts and will only be allowed to be operated by legally licensed drivers.

Britt, IA – The City Council is considering an ordinance to allow low speed vehicles on Main Avenue where they currently are not allowed. Some council members are concerned about safety and creating an opening for golf car use on the street.

Nederland, CO – An ordinance allowing electric golf carts was discussed.

San Antonio, TX – City Council has approved an ordinance that allows owners of NEVs to operate their vehicles on city streets with speed limits of 35 miles per hour or less. Several accidents in 2006 resulted in the vehicles being banned.

Powell River, British Columbia – The Council considered a low speed vehicle ordinance. A number of cities in the province have passed similar ordinances.

Baton Rouge, LA – The city is discussing the regulation of LSV taxis. The Taxi Control Board wants them to be regulated similar to other taxis.

Medford, MN – The Medford City Council is considering an ordinance to allow residents to use golf cars, all-terrain vehicles and mini trucks on city roads. The vehicles will need to be permitted, meet certain equipment requirements and operate on the streets only during specified hours.

North Wildwood, NJ – The City Council approved up to  20 designated parking spaces for LSVs. These spaces will be clearly marked and only low-speed vehicles may park in these spots.

Jascksonville Beach, FL – Council takes comments from the public on low speed vehicle parking in the city.

Santa Monica, CA – The city is trying to clarify free parking rules for electric vehicles that are tied to state issued zero emission stickers. The state rules governing the stickers narrowed the definition of eligible vehicles in such a way as to exclude LSVs, which previously had been included.

STOV Market Faces State & Local Regulatory Hurdles

Clendenin’s mini-truck no longer allowed on town streets and destined for auction.                   Photo credit: Kenny Kemp

A couple of recent stories illustrate the hurdles that STOVs face at the local and state level despite the vehicles being perfect for a given application. In one instance the small town of Clendenin, WV is auctioning off their mini-truck because town officials have determined it is not legal to drive the vehicle on city streets. For several years the town has been using the vehicle to haul debris and carry salt on the narrower and hillier streets where access by full-sized trucks is difficult.  While officials and workers thought the mini-truck was “perfect” for the tasks at hand the state of West Virginia does not allow mini-trucks to be registered. The town council passed an ordinance allowing the vehicle to be used within the city but their local ordinance cannot trump state law. The town is now using a F-150 Ford pick-up which costs $75 to fill-up instead of $20 for the mini-truck which is headed for the auction block.

In the second story a disabled man who had been using a Gator to travel around the roads of the small village of Union, IL was abruptly told he could no longer use the vehicle on city streets after years of doing so. He was told it was a matter of public safety.  While Illinois state law allows non-highway vehicles on roads with speed limits of 30 mph or less, local municipalities must pass an ordinance to do so. Proponents are using a social media campaign to encourage local officials to pass an ordinance.

Learn more:  WVGazette.com   NBCChicago.com

Commentary:  While the trend has been towards more and more municipalities allowing a wider range of STOVs on local streets, the process is very much piecemeal. As illustrated in the second story there are also instances where use is allowed or tolerated by not officially codified by a local ordinance. The issue is local control of streets, where in theory and more than likely in practice, local officials know what is best for their town. On the other hand, statewide regulations allowing STOVs on local low-speed streets would be a big boost to the STOV market and a much more efficient regulatory approach. The use of these vehicles are not likely a priority for many municipalities, even if officials perceived no safety hazard, so the widespread passage of local ordinances will take a long time to enact.

Indian Light Commercial Vehicle Market Slows

The Light Commercial Vehicle (LCV) market in India is experiencing a slowdown.  Industry experts point to expensive loans, reduced economic activity and challenging freight rates in several sub-markets as the reasons. The mini-trucks which can carry up to two tons of goods has seen growth fall. According to the manufacturer’s trade association, “From an average 40,000 units a month last financial year, sales of goods-carrying light commercial vehicles (LCVs) fell have fallen to 33,721 units in April; growth slowed from 16 per cent last year to three per cent in April.” The segment’s more recent growth had attracted more competition and new models with the main manufacturers being Tata Motors with their Ace models, Mahindra & Mahindra’s Maxximo and Ashok Leyland’s Dost .  Learn more:  Business-standard.com