Electric Emergency Vehicles: Tropos Motors Shows How to Start Small

    Originally posted by Bengt Halvorson | January 19, 2020 | Green Car Reports | Original Article

    The larger-scale electrification of big, task-oriented municipal vehicles like fire trucks, ambulances, and even dump trucks is bound to happen eventually.

    Sometimes, the bluntest, heaviest tool for the job really isn’t the best one for the task anyway. And a startup called Tropos Motors aims to prove exactly that point—by making little purpose-built electric trucks that provide nearly the same function in most cases as their much bigger equivalents, at a small fraction of the cost. 

    The fire truck Tropos Motors showed at CES earlier this month holds either 125 or 160 gallons of water, depending on the version, as well as suppression foam, and because it’s only 77 inches tall it’s able to fit in parking structures—to be able to fight fires that might start in an underground parking garage.

    And then there’s price. A full-sized fire truck might cost as much as $500,000, but the Tropos FRV, as it’s shown, costs about $50,000.

    Silicon Valley–based Tropos was at CES because it’s the launch partner for a new OneConnect global platform from Panasonic, aimed to help penny-pinching fleet managers easily keep track of electric work vehicles and their battery efficiency—to assess short- and long-term vehicle health, as well as overall cost and return on investment.  

    Tropos has done demonstrations at many corporate campuses, in Silicon Valley and elsewhere (including Apple) and while it can’t say who’s agreed to buy the trucks yet, it will say a number of college campuses are using them—and an unnamed rocket company. 

    One of the selling points is that the vehicles are a big step beyond the golf-cart-based vehicles that campuses or corporations might be considering. CEO John Bautista, who was formerly the engineering director at Zero Motorcycles, told us that the suspension and brakes are all automotive-grade. “So even though we’re restricted by NHTSA to a 3,000-pound gross vehicle weight rating, we can go well beyond that,” he said.

    Tropos is essentially an upfitter, and its vehicles are based on a chassis from China’s Cenntro Automotive Corporation—one that Bautista says has already been approved for going up to 80 km/h (50 mph) on European roads. In the U.S. they’re considered low-speed vehicles (LSV) and limited to 25 mph. The Renault Twizy, which we drove in San Francisco a few years ago as the Scoot Quad, would be one such example. 

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