27 Mar 2015 |
Research article |
Entrepreneurship & Management , Sustainable Development, the Circular Economy and Environmental Issues
GranTuned: Converting Pickup Trucks into Electric Vehicles
GranTuned is a start-up that converts full-size pickup trucks into electric vehicles, a switch that can slash a single pickup’s annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by nine tonnes per year. Vehicle conversions can also help promote the reuse of vehicles or parts that would otherwise become waste, and make it possible to recycle raw materials in keeping with the 3R principle that is so important in protecting the health of our planet!
Imagine that you manage a company that uses full-size pickup trucks (such as the F-150) for deliveries, patrolling or other everyday uses. Each pickup costs $25,000 at purchase but is only worth about $5,000 after two to three years of use, as its drivetrain wears out after 300,000 kilometres. The engine is huffing and puffing, but the pickup is otherwise in great condition. What should you do?
Until now, you’ve had little choice other than to sell the vehicle and lose $20,000 on the recent purchase, then buy a new one that will suffer the same fate two years later. Soon, however, there will be another option available: GranTuned will be able to convert your pickup into an electric vehicle.
They remove the conventional (combustion engine) drivetrain and replace it with an electric one. It’s integrated into a frame that attaches to the existing H chassis—and that’s it! Well, almost. The various connections to the steering, braking, A/C, electrical and integrated electronic systems are also redone to ensure that the vehicle remains fully functional. This final aspect is quite a big job!
Considering that conversion costs between $25,000 and $30,000, this environmentally friendly option is not instantly convincing—until you find out that the electric conversion system developed by the founders of GranTuned has a useful life of ONE MILLION KILOMETRES. What is more, the conversion system can be transferred from one pickup truck to another similar pickup, resulting in 80% savings when you take into account the cost of purchase, gas and maintenance.
Converted pickups will be equipped with batteries that are twice as powerful as those in the Nissan Leaf electric car. With a range of approximately 150 kilometres (93 miles), they will be suitable for city use.
GranTuned was established in 2011 by Andy Ta, an undergraduate student in the Automated Manufacturing Engineering program at the École de technologie supérieure (ÉTS) and Meng Lim, Jr. Eng., a mechanical engineering graduate from ÉTS. The start-up is supported by Centech, the ÉTS’ business incubator and technological entrepreneurship centre that offers start-ups services related to the different stages of developing a manufacturing business.
The purpose of the conversion is to create electric vehicles destined for use in the city, where distances are closer. Leveraging the longevity of the electric motor and its components, the drivetrain is designed for easy transfer and future reuse in another vehicle of the same category. In other words, converting to a reusable electric drivetrain can actually extend the useful life of several pickup trucks and save more than 80% on the annual cost of gas. It also saves nearly nine tonnes of GHG emissions per year.
In Canada and the United States, some 7.7 million pickup trucks have been sold in the past five years. Twenty percent of them join corporate fleets, and 15 percent of these become good candidates for electric conversion every year. In Quebec, this represents a potential market of more than 7,000 pickups annually. Another important factor in this project is that the Quebec Ministry of Transport Road Equipment Management Centre (CGER) is required to integrate electric vehicles into its fleet.
GranTuned is currently in the prototyping phase. As the only project of its kind in Quebec, GranTuned is converting two government-owned 2010 Ford F-150 pickups, each with a mileage of 300,000 km. The project has been authorized by the Quebec Automobile Insurance Agency (SAAQ) and is part of a CGER pilot project. To reach its objectives, the company is calling on a dozen professors, researchers, business consultants, ÉTS specialists, as well as various partners and collaborators from different fields. To date, nearly 40 ÉTS students from all levels and various programs have used the project as a topic of study. Moreover, all the components used in the project are sourced from certified, recognized manufacturers and suppliers whose technology is fully developed.
GranTuned will offer electric conversion for pickup trucks with a cutting-edge reusable drivetrain, a revolutionary approach to vehicle electrification. GranTuned is contributing directly to the solutions of tomorrow by promoting the benefits of electric vehicles, developing high-level expertise in electric conversion, and seeking to balance costs, technology and the environment. After all, when conventional vehicles are converted into electric vehicles, they produce zero harmful emissions.