REV knows that the market for a family to get their Ford Escape converted over to pure electric drive for $68,000 is awful small, perhaps less than zero. But, with REV's focus on fleet operators – people who look at vehicles in a very different way than normal consumers – they just might hit their target of converting 10 vehicles by the end of the year and over 100 for 2010. During the Plug-In 2009 conference in Long Beach this week, we talked with REV founder and CEO Jay Giraud about how this might work.
REV spent the last year or so talking to fleet operators across the U.S. to see what their needs and concerns are for their next batch of vehicles and learned two main things: they're interested in moving away from gas engines and they have a lot of Fords in their fleet right now. Armed with these twin realities, REV targeted two of the most popular fleet vehicles in the U.S. – the Ford F-150 and the Ford Escape – for conversions system. REV is now offering an AC electric drivetrain that can be installed in these vehicles about 6 hours. The powertrain uses lithium-ion phosphate batteries to give the converted vehicles a range of about 100 miles. Inside the vehicle, everything is kept the same; the "gas" gauge now shows the state of charge in the battery instead of amount of fuel left in the tank. There is one important change, though: the shifter has been replaced with a dial selector. Even this change was driven by what fleet operators told REV; the shifter makes it clear from the very beginning of the drive that the drivers who move from one vehicle to the next many times a day will know right away they are in an EV instead of a "normal" vehicle. This is nice and all, but is it worth $68,000?
REV says, sure, to fleet operators who pay attention to total cost of operation instead of just the initial sticker price. And, with the economies of scale that REV thinks it can achieve if it can get into the three digits, the price drops dramatically. WIth orders for 100 conversions, Giraud said, the conversion cost would be in the mid-$40k range, not including the cost of the donor vehicles. Of course, since REV knows that fleets are sitting on tens of thousands of F-150s and Escapes, finding companies with donor vehicles available should not be a problem. Right?