Wrightspeed Waste Hauler Can Be ‘Cleaner Than An EV’

Today the San Jose-based start-up Wrightspeed announced a series hybrid powertrain retrofit kit for waste haulers that seriously curtail waste of fuel.

The company only makes series hybrid kits, and its new Route HD kit it says is (theoretically) cleaner than an all-electric vehicle in that its Capstone microturbine power generator boasts negligible emissions.

“Even if Wrightspeed’s Route HD powertrain is never plugged in,” says founder and CEO, Ian Wright, “it’s cleaner than an EV, because the exhaust emissions are lower per kilowatt-hour than the average mix of U.S. power stations.”

Obviously this is a qualified statement and compares actual emissions for the on-board turbine to an average per-vehicle emissions profile for EVs using grid power across America.

If a pure EV is powered by renewable energy such as solar, wind, or hydro, then the EV would be cleaner, and truly “zero emissions” not only from the tailpipe, but from the energy source used to charge its batteries.

The U.S. government does report in some areas coal power and other grid generating sources do bring down the net comparable emissions scores, and Wrightspeed says on average, its clean tech wins out compared to the present reality.

We’ve already reported on the Route HD intended for heavy duty trucks up to larger than a garbage hauler.

A garbage hauler that was an early demonstration vehicle, and the subject of this news, has a GVWR of around 54,000 pounds – but in case you missed that news previously posted, here are basic details …

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Like the other two series hybrid retrofit kits Wrightspeed offers – the Route and Circuit – the Route HD can burn diesel, CNG, LNG or landfill gas.

The result is a system that is configured essentially like a battery electric vehicle (EV) that has its power station and grid charger onboard.

As mentioned, the microturbine’s emissions are very low. How low? As in 10-times lower than present California rules mandate, and this is without any catalytic converter or other emissions controls.

Yes, the straight exhaust from the on-board microturbine – essentially like a mini helicopter engine – is that clean, and the system is quiet enough that it does not even need a muffler.

This is therefore one high-tech truck, and it’s almost ironic that technology more advanced than many elite cars is being used for such pedestrian duties as picking up garbage.

The Route HD, says Wrightspeed, stands to save refuse companies more than $35,000 in fuel costs, and $10,000 in annual maintenance costs.

“The system is designed as a repower kit, so commercial fleets can retrofit their existing trucks,” says Wrightspeed in a statement. “This helps get dirty powertrains off the road, without necessitating the purchase of a brand-new asset.”

Critically missing info is the actual price of the company’s kits, but despite skeptical comments we’ve seen, we do not see cause to suspect the price –– while no doubt high –– will make this uncompetitive.

The company has garnered venture capital and state grant money, and to such investors, it must divulge the full extent of price for performance.

We did try to cajole the info today from Wrightspeed’s marketing chief, Maya Giannini, but she resisted in part because keeping mum about this is to remain competitive, ironically enough.

Giannini said that if its products were being sold to individuals, rather than business-to-business, she would agree price data should be disclosed.

“It’s VERY rare for a B2B business to share their pricing, because the pricing can (and should) vary, deal to deal, depending on volumes, partnerships, etc.,” said Giannini. “We like it when individuals are interested in our products, but our customers are large fleets.”

And large fleets are being focused upon for a reason.

Unlike Tesla, Wrightspeed is primarily focusing on the market which wastes the most fuel and produces the worst pollution – medium and heavy duty trucks.

This is more than a noble intent however, and is more like win-win, as Wrightspeed sees the fleet truck market as one which will recognize the payback and help speed the company on its way to profitability.

But if trucks sound unexciting to car fans, no doubt Wrightspeed’s founder has the need for speed and fun on four wheels as well.

Ian Wright was one of the co-founders of Tesla back before the Roadster hit the road. An early innovator, his all-electric converted Ariel Atom called the “X1″ could zip to 60 in 2.9 seconds.

The company also has a 1,000-horsepower, all-wheel drive series hybrid powertrain it offers to automakers to build their own supercar around.

The company says it is actually working with one “real OEM” in Europe which is developing just such a car it plans to reveal when ready.

Meanwhile, its truck power trains are now available for medium and heavy duty applications. The company reports it has had strong response from early pilot projects with major companies, but here too it keeps relevant info close to its chest.

All in all, while not divulging all data for the armchair pundits of the Internet to judge, the company is moving forward, and we’ll look forward to seeing more news from it in time.

For more info, you can also consult Wrightspeed’s Web site.