Low-speed vehicles are not often considered when companies are looking for commercial vehicles, but upgrades to a line of electric compact utility vehicles could change that. Tropos Motors, a San Jose, CA-based startup has created a vehicle that exceeds basic safety standards required of low-speed vehicles (LSV) and given that vehicle an electric range that makes it suitable for last-mile delivery operations.
The Tropos ABLE XR, launched as a compact utility vehicle last year with various body options including a freight cargo box, has been updated with a larger lithium-ion battery pack, giving the vehicle an effective range of up to 160 miles at speeds up to 45 mph while carrying 1,000-pound payload.
“The ABLE XR is really transforming the capabilities of the low-speed vehicle,” founder and CEO John Bautista tells FreightWaves. “For the last 40 years that small electric vehicles have been available, they’ve really been for moving people or working on grounds.”
The ABLE XR nearly triples the usually 50-60-mile range of LSVs, Bautista says, and with its various body options and advanced safety features – including airbags, ABS brakes, payload-sensing brake proportioning which adjusts the power sent to the rear brakes based on payload weight, crumble zone protections and a full steel rollcage – the vehicle is designed to be used on busy urban streets.
“We’ve gone above and beyond what is required [in terms of safety],” Bautista notes.
The additional range announced this week, Bautista hopes, will lead to more people considering the vehicle, especially in the growing last-mile delivery segment. He points out that Tropos Motors has received interest from auto parts distributors who make multiple runs a day to and from repair shops with small items. Many of these distributors use light-duty pickups for those tasks, which cost more than the ABLE XR does, cost more to operate overall, and do not have locking compartments, leaving parts vulnerable to theft.
“It could be something small or something large it’s moving, but rarely does it make multiple stops,” Bautista says. “The range of 160 miles means they don’t have to come back to the shop to plug it in.”
Tropos’ cargo van configuration can be locked and based on speeds up to 45 mph, it is capable of driving with the flow of traffic in most urban areas.
In addition to auto parts, Bautista says interest has come from food delivery, catering, flower deliver, and parcel companies looking for low-cost ways to move goods to their final destinations. In addition, Tropos is working on a mail delivery body option to assist independent mail carriers – many of whom are now being tapped to deliver Amazon packages, especially on weekends.
“There’s a lot of different inner city delivery activity going on in a lot of sectors,” he points out. “[The ABLE XR is ideal for] any company that can use a small vehicle that is nimble, can fit in tight spaces, or heavy traffic areas.
“There’s a use profile that the vehicle will serve very, very well,” Bautista adds.
The ABLE XR is powered by a 26 kWh lithium-ion battery pack and a 13-foot turning radius, making it extremely maneuverable in tight city environments. It takes 8 to 10 hours to fully charge a depleted battery. Available bodies include box, flatbed, sweeper and first responder vehicle configurations for firefighting. Bautista says the company is working on developing liftgate and other options that would benefit last-mile delivery operations.