With gas prices holding within a more reasonable range, it's more affordable to drive a traditional car, which means the fuel savings vs. purchase price trade-off just isn't there for many electric vehicles, according to Ian Wright, the founder and CEO of Wrightspeed and co-founder of Tesla Motors (TSLA).
Speaking at the Milken Global Conference in Los Angeles, Wright noted that a typical vehicle, ranging from a small city car to pickup trucks, may burn through 250 to 1,400 gallons of gas per year. However, garbage trucks consume an average of 14,000 gallons of gas per year. With that much larger number in mind, his company, Wrightspeed is focused on improving the trucks' fuel efficiency.
The company isn't building the world's next all-electric garbage truck. Instead, it's looking to simply replace garbage trucks' diesel-powered powertrains with its electric hybrid powertrains, which are capable of running mostly on electricity, but which include efficient backup generators that use fuels such as diesel or liquified natural gas.
It's a "no-brainer" regardless of where of oil prices go, he said, adding that the economics are too "compelling" given how much fuel these trucks consume. Together with the savings on maintenance costs, operators using Wrightspeed's product can cut their expenses by more than half.
The company is also working with FedEx (FDX) on upgrading its fleet of medium-duty delivery trucks. While, as a whole, there are more than 2 million such trucks in the U.S., there are only 110,000 garbage trucks. However, all 110,000 garbage trucks are within Wrightsgeed's target market, Wright said.
Over time, Wright says he believes more people will begin to shift to electric vehicles, particularly because they're more efficient, create less noise and have greater control.