June 7th, 2017
Written by Kyle Field
Phoenix Motorcars was started in 2003 with a focus on developing and producing electric vehicles. The Phoenix team is currently building a variety of customizable Class 3 & 4 vehicles for fleets, including shuttle buses, flatbed trucks, and work trucks that strike at a segment of the market that traditionally runs on diesel. The vehicles Phoenix is building enables industries previously left out of the clean energy transition to convert their fleets to the lower-cost-of-ownership, clean-air vehicles that many other industries have enjoyed for years.
The Fleet of the Phoenix
Phoenix Motorcars* starts with your everyday Ford E350 and E450 vehicle, then strips out all of the unnecessary combustion components. After the vehicle has been taken down to essentially a rolling chassis with a cab on the front, the fun begins, as Phoenix integrates its custom electric powertrain.
Phoenix has built a custom drive module that combines the motor, charger, and core components of the electric drive system into a single unit that gets bolted in under the hood. This unit is married with the battery assembly, which mounts to the rear section of the frame rails.
The functional vehicle is then married with the appropriate body in the back, depending on its function as a shuttle or a flatbed truck. The result is a vehicle that looks and feels like a gasoline, diesel, or natural gas vehicle … just without the tailpipe, emissions, or high operating cost that comes with a fossil fuel–fired vehicle.
The primary configuration Phoenix offers — and arguably its flagship platform — is the shuttle bus. These are built to replace the shuttle buses that run from airport parking to the terminal, for rental car companies, hospitals, para-transit services, businesses with large campuses, and the like that need to move up to 16 people around. Phoenix has made inroads with large parking system operators in the US and has big plans to continue the push into new markets.
During a visit to Phoenix’s manufacturing operations in Ontario, California, I took a ride in the shuttle and was very impressed by it for a number of reasons. Compared to the electric buses I have ridden in, not to mention their combustion counterparts, the shuttle was extremely quiet. I attribute this to the additional insulation that comes with a vehicle built for use with a combustion engine blocking what little noise the electric motor does generate. The typical whir of the electric motor that I have grown so accustomed to in my years of driving in and being hauled around in electric vehicles was there … but just barely.
The counterpoint is that removing the noise of the powertrain made every little squeak in the shuttle that much more apparent. We have seen this with just about every electric vehicle around, where owners complain about the squeaks more because now they can actually hear them. The same applies with a shuttle bus and Phoenix shared that their team is hard at work with the manufacturer of the rear portion of the shuttle to eradicate the squeaks. To be fair, the shuttle bus I rode around in was not a finished production vehicle and the squeaks were not that bad. More than anything, it was just funny how they stood out in the eerily silent passenger compartment.
The shuttle has a range of up to 100 miles and is speed governed at 65 miles per hour, ensuring maximum range and compliance with speed limits. The full specs are listed in the chart below (click to embiggen).
In addition to shuttle buses, the company recently introduced a new flatbed/utility truck platform. Phoenix sees this truck as the foundation for custom work trucks that are put to use on a daily basis around the world by plumbers, welders, construction workers, electricians, maintenance technicians, delivery services, and the like.
As it shares the same underpinnings as the shuttle, the truck similarly achieves 100 miles of range per charge and comes configured with Level 2 and Level 3 DC fast charging functionality built into every vehicle Phoenix Motorcars sells via the J1772 and CHAdeMO ports.
The Telematics System
Phoenix took its vehicles to the next level by integrating a custom telematics system that provides operators with next-level visibility into the vehicles themselves, the real-time state of charge (SoC), location, and even a profile of each driver’s driving habits as part of the Phoenix Connect system.
This system utilizes the intelligent Viriciti telematics solution as the basis for its products, building up from there as the needs determined. The resulting solution gives fleet operators unprecedented insight into each vehicle and provides the data needed from each specific vehicle, driver, and route combination to maximize the range of each vehicle based on real data. This allows fleet operators to finetune their routes and fleets to their specific needs, including visibility into the operating cost of each.
The telematics system includes functionality to generate the required reports to comply with the reporting requirements of the Hybrid and Zero-Emission Truck and Bus Voucher Incentive Project. This makes complying with incentive requirements a breeze for operators.
Phoenix Motorcars has focused its near-term efforts on the California market due to the massive potential to reduce emissions there paired with a healthy selection of local and state incentives. With current incentives, operators are able to convert their fleets to electric with very little (if any) incremental cost while also slashing operating costs and, of course, eliminating tailpipe emissions from their fleets.
The Hybrid and Zero-Emission Truck and Bus Voucher Incentive Project (aka HVIP) provides $80,000 per vehicle, with an extra $10,000 for the first 3 qualifying zero-emission vehicles in each fleet. An additional incentive of $10,000 is available if the vehicle operates in a disadvantaged community.
Importantly, all of these incentives are applied prior to purchase and are handled by Phoenix Motorcars so that customers don’t have to lay out the incremental capital at all … or even deal with the rebate process.
Phoenix provides both a J1772 charging port and a CHAdeMO DC fast charging port standard with all of its vehicles. With most customers using their vehicles during the day, the speed of a 40 amp J1772 charger is more than sufficient to recharge it fully overnight. To accommodate more demanding schedules, Phoenix offers a DC fast charging option that is able to crank the power into the battery at 50 kW through a Level 3 CHAdeMO adapter.
*This article was sponsored by Phoenix Motorcars