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Utility Warms Up to Electric Vehicles

Duke Energy shows interest in buying trucks from relative newcomer Workhorse Group

Electric utilities have obvious reasons to support the adoption of electric vehicles, but they have been slow to electrify their own truck fleets. That may be starting to change.

This week, Duke Energy Corp., one of the largest electric companies in the U.S., signed a letter of interest to buy trucks from Workhorse Group Inc., a Cincinnati-based company that plans to start selling plug-in electric pickup trucks in 2018.

Workhorse sells electric-powered delivery trucks to companies including United Parcel Service Inc. and FedEx Corp., working with BMW AG and Panasonic Corp. for some of the technology.

Utilities have been big boosters of plug-in vehicles, and no wonder: Moody’s Investors Service estimates electrics could account for two-thirds of the industry’s sales growth prospects by 2030.

But the companies have been slow to buy the vehicles for utility use because they say the specialized models they needed weren’t readily available. No major auto maker has announced plans to sell an extended-range electric truck like what Workhorse is building.

Mike Allison, head of fleet design and technical support at Duke, said fleet managers often say that “if we had to pick two electric vehicles we’d buy in large numbers, it would be four-wheel-drive pickup trucks and small SUVs. But nobody builds anything in that space right now.”

He said Duke planned to buy 500 of the Workhorse models by 2019, “provided it meets our expectations.”

The infrastructure needed for electric vehicles to gain market share is growing, with government support. The Obama administration announced plans Thursday to turn 48 major highway routes in 35 states into vehicle-charging corridors, starting next year, under the Federal Highway Administration. Chargers will be installed every 50 miles.

Read full article at The Wall Street Journal