Lightning eMotors taps Proterra batteries for commercial electric vans

Lightning eMotors, a Colorado-based company that offers electric conversions for commercial vans is partnering with electric-bus maker Proterra to electrify commercial vans.

Lightning will use Proterra batteries in re-powered Ford Transit vans, with the first vans scheduled for delivery later this year, Proterra said Thursday in a press release. The two companies expect to produce nearly 100 vans this year, and up to 3,000 by 2023.


The vans will be Class 3 commercial vehicles, able to accommodate wheelchair lifts and bus doors, allowing them to be configured as shuttle buses, school buses, or ambulances, as well as cargo vans, the two companies said. The battery pack can also be used to power onboard accessories, allowing for possible RV conversions.


Lightning earlier this year also released plans to create electric motor coaches with an upfit kit that costs less than buying a new electric bus, but didn't say if Proterra batteries were involved that project. While Proterra specializes in electric buses, its vehicles are primarily urban transit buses, rather than motor coaches, so Lightning's upfit kits may not be direct competition.

Speaking of competition, Ford E-Transit fully electric vans arrive starting later this year—with a cutaway model to serve upfit purposes. However, the factory-built E-Transit is only expected to be a light-duty Class 2 vehicle, a step below the uplifted Lightning Transit.

That should suffice for what is expected to be the main focus of the E-Transit—delivery services—but not some of the other applications Lightning mentioned for its version.

General Motors' BrightDrop EV600 electric van will likewise offer gross vehicle weight ratings (GVWR) of up to 10,000 pounds—also placing it in the light-duty category. Like Ford, GM is trying to capitalize on the growth of delivery services with its planned electric vans.

A van that Lordstown Motors is due to reveal later this year, for release in 2022—and build in a former GM plant—will also be in that lighter-weight category. Lordstown is still working to get its Endurance electric pickup truck into production amidst an SEC probe.

So far the most noteworthy alternative in the medium-duty segment might be Bollinger Motors. Its trucks are to be Class 3 and range up to Class 6-7 capability with upfitting.

Meanwhile, Proterra is steadily growing its battery-supply business. In addition to Lightning, it has a deal with Volta Trucks to supply batteries for electric trucks in Europe.

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