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Smith Electric JV with FDG emerges as Chanje

October 26, 2017

I blogged about Smith Electric’s agreement to form a JV with FDG way back in 2015. Attended a press event last week here in the Los Angeles area for the launch of the JV’s first vehicle. Hansel kept at it.  The JV is majority-owned by FDG. Smith Electric is a minority shareholder.

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Below is the story I wrote for Wards Auto about the event. You can also read the published version here.

FULLERTON, CA – In a parking lot beside the huge warehouse at a private airport south of Los Angeles, the big white vans sit someone incongruously among a few smaller private planes. The vans, with the not-too-sexy name V8070, are the flagship model from Chanje, a new commercial electric vehicle maker.

Chanje (pronounced “change”) is owned by a Chinese company, but it aims to make big inroads into the U.S.  fleet market. It sees itself fulfilling an unmet need.

“We don’t see anyone else doing thoughtful long-term investment in medium-duty vehicles,” Bryan Hansel, CEO of Chanje, tells Wards Auto at this press event.

The Chanje V8070 is a 16,535-lb. gross weight commercial vehicle that claims a payload capacity of up to 6,000 pounds. The drivetrain is pure electric, with a 70kWh lithium-iron phosphate battery and a 7.2 kW on-board charger. The charge port is SAE J1772 Level 2. Estimated range is 100 miles.

Ryder, which owns and leases commercial vehicles, is the exclusive sales channel and service network partner for Chanje.  Vehicles will be available at Ryder locations in strategic U.S. markets by the end of 2017.

Ryder has some 800 facilities in North America, Chris Nordh, director of global fuel products for Ryder, tells Wards Auto.

“These trucks fit very well into our portfolio,” he says.

Ryder already sees customer interest in the Chanje V8070, says Nordh.  Those potential customers are interested in “how using EVs can lift their profile and affect their pricing power.”

Translation: Some are interested in marketing themselves as environmentally friendly, some want to save money.

Cost savings from electric vehicles come from many areas, says Nordh, not just in fuel and maintenance. For example, High Occupancy Vehicle lane access earned by going electric saves time, which saves money, he says.

“Everybody has a slight different profile or need.”

By adding EVs to its vehicle options Ryder is also preparing for the future, says Nordh.

“The electric motor has a very significant (role to) play” in future transportation needs, he says.

Made in China

Chanje’s investors include Smith Electric and FDG Electric Vehicle Ltd. FDG is a Hong Kong-listed firm based in Mainland China. It was formed by grouping together various electric vehicle assets, which includes Sinopoly, the battery supplier to Chanje.

The name Chanje is a play on Changjiang, the Chinese name of an electric vehicle produced by FDG in China.

Hansel wouldn’t reveal more about the ownership structure. However, speaking with Wards Auto, Suresh Jayanthi, vice president, energy services at Chanje says, “FDG is our parent company.”

In mid-2015, Smith Electric and FDG announced they were forming a joint venture to produce electric vehicles. Chanje is that JV.

The JV is incorporated in Delaware. Smith Electric has since ceased to produce electric vehicle. It is still a minority partner in the JV.

Initially, production of the V8070, and perhaps future Chanje vehicles, will occur in China at a greenfield plant the joint venture built in the East China city of Hangzhou, says Hansel.

The vehicles will be shipped to the U.S. as knock down kits and assembled at a plant whose location will be announced within several months, says Hansel.

That knock down approach gives Chanje flexibility to ship the vehicle to different locations, even different countries, he says.

“The key is to get things into containers,” says Hansel. “It gives us the opportunity to increase local content if needed.”

As for when Chanje will begin actually producing units in the U.S., that depends on demand, he says. “There is an economic tipping point.”

Hansel is confident there will be adequate demand to justify local production in the U.S. He predicts thousands will be on the road here within the first year.

Chanje is “heavily promoting” leasing as the ownership model, and the cost in the first month of use will prove to be the same as a traditional fuel vehicle, asserts Hansel.

The firm sees itself as more than just an EV manufacturer. It aims to be an “energy services provider.”  Chanje is developing a fleet depot model that includes energy generation, storing, and charging all in one location.

Future models will include bi-directional charging so Chanje can sell energy back to the grid, says Jayanthi, Chanje’s vp of energy services.

“We have been spending time with the power providers in California to look at storage and self-generation options,” he says.

It has also been discussing how to integrate into the system if Chanje has power, and how to manage grid loads, says Jayanthi.

This holistic business model will be Chanje’s biggest advantage for customers with fleets of 100 units or more, says Hansel.

“You are just buying energy,” he says, “not making that big capital investment.”

 

 

 

 

 

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Matt Boyle permalink
    October 26, 2017 8:28 pm

    Can we have a call shortly?

    Best regards
    Matt

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