Charge trucks tackle race tracks

Charge, an Oxford, UK-based electric vehicle company, is testing its prototypes in the most time-honored way: at the races.

Since the dawn of the automotive age, inventors and manufacturers have taken their cars to the track to test their capabilities. These trucks aren’t racing, though; they’re the official support vehicles for the Formula E all-electric racing series. Formula E provides a particular advantage for Charge: the series uses urban street courses rather than tracks, the exact environment where Charge vehicles will be operating when they’re ready for the market.

Charge plans to build small delivery vehicles and larger, full-sized trucks to fit a variety of fleet needs. The description of the vehicles seems to hint at a plug-in hybrid powertrain, since the trucks will all be zero-emissions for the first 100 miles, but a “dual mode” will allow for a range of up to 500 miles via a motor that recharges the batteries.

The trucks are also designed to be modular, and Charge says that it will take one person four hours to assemble one truck. According to Charge’s math, ten men working two shifts a day could build 10,000 trucks annually. What this means to Charge is that it should be easy to scale their operations and manufacturing globally, allowing small facilities to build trucks closer to where they’ll be used rather than shipping them globally from a hub in the UK. It’s an idea both Local Motors and OX are investigating as well.

Charge’s involvement in racing doesn’t end with ferrying goods around race courses. The company is also involved in Roborace, the autonomous support race that will begin in earnest next season. Charge is helping the series develop the Robocar’s power electronics and motors.

The first Charge factories will open in 2017 near the company’s headquarters, with a goal of producing electric (or hybrid electric) trucks at a price “in line with conventional trucks.”

Check out the video below to see a Charge DHL delivery truck with a Formula E race car on board.