Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Smith Electric Vehicles are working together to create an electric vehicle manufacturing facility in Chicago. Smith Electric Vehicles was drawn to the city by the mayor's voucher system designed to accelerate conversion from diesel to zero-emission electric vehicles, a large number of fleets that are interested in going electric and development incentives offered to Smith. Smith is saying it will create "hundreds of direct and indirect jobs" there.

The Chicago Department of Transportation has a $15-million incentive program set up to encourage companies to modernize their fleets, converting some to electric power. The initial $15 million for this program is funded by resources from the federal Congestion Mitigation Air Quality program. It provides vouchers to assist companies in reducing their conversion costs. Through its program and similar federal incentive programs, Chicago has helped deploy 404 cleaner vehicles, mainly compressed natural gas vehicles, along with 202 electric vehicle charging stations. Chicago has been committed for a while to bringing electrified vehicles and a charging infrastructure to the area.

Mayor Emanuel says the Smith partnership is a smart way to create hundreds of direct and indirect jobs and to boost the already rapidly growing battery and electric vehicle sector in the city. As former chief of staff to President Barack Obama, Emanuel was involved in pushing for policies that integrated job creation with environmental concerns and energy security.

This will be the third US city where Smith has locations set up, including its headquarters in Kansas City, MO, and a manufacturing facility in New York City. Smith has been looking for ways to grow its capital investments and audience. Not long ago, the company was looking to go public on the Nasdaq exchange, but has canceled that plan. New owners bought the decades-old company from its UK-based parent company in 2011.

Smith has done an impressive job of breaking into the electrified fleet market. Customers include Frito-Lay, FedEx, Staples, TNT, Sainsbury's, Coca-Cola, DHL and the US military. In addition to the deal with the city of Chicago, Smith announced that FedEx Express is adding 100 Smith vehicles in the US, Europe and Asia, and that Coca-Cola's pilot deployment of Smith vehicles has been successful enough that additional EVs will be purchased in 2013.
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MAYOR EMANUEL ANNOUNCES SMITH ELECTRIC VEHICLES TO OPEN MANUFACTURING FACILITY IN CHICAGO
  • Electric Vehicle Manufacturer Will Bring Hundreds of Jobs in the City; City Will Offer Comprehensive Incentive Program to Support Vehicle Adoption;
  • Major Step Forward as Chicago's Electric Vehicle and Battery Sector Grows
Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Smith Electric Vehicles announced today that Smith will open an electric vehicle manufacturing facility in Chicago, creating hundreds of direct and indirect jobs and boosting the already rapidly growing battery and electric vehicle sector in the City. Smith's decision to locate a facility in Chicago is influenced by the Mayor's innovative voucher system created to accelerate the conversion from diesel to zero-emission, all-electric commercial vehicles, the large number of fleets interested in vehicle electrification, and the development incentives made available to Smith.

"I'm proud to welcome another growing company with a great mission to Chicago. Soon hundreds of Chicagoans will be able to put their skills to use providing businesses worldwide with high-quality, zero-emission, American-made vehicles," said Mayor Emanuel. "Smith Electric Vehicles is an innovative company in a forward-looking, essential industry that is a central part of Chicago's economic future."

Smith is one of the world's leading manufacturers of all-electric commercial vehicles, which are zero-emission and less expensive to own and operate when compared with traditional diesel trucks. The company produces trucks for multiple industries, including food & beverage, utility, telecommunications, retail, grocery, parcel and postal delivery, school transportation, military and government. Smith's customers include many of the world's largest fleet operators, including PepsiCo's Frito-Lay division, FedEx, Staples, TNT, Sainsbury's, Coca-Cola, DHL, and the U.S. Military.

Chicago will be Smith's third location in the United States, joining their headquarters in Kansas City, Mo., and a manufacturing facility in New York City.

Additionally, the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT), under the Mayor's leadership, has announced a comprehensive, $15 million incentive program that will encourage companies and individuals to modernize their fleets and convert to electric vehicles. The first of its kind in the US, this plan rewards fleets on an increasing scale for replacing their most diesel-consuming vehicles. The program's initial $15M is funded by resources from the federal Congestion Mitigation Air Quality (CMAQ) program and will provide vouchers to assist companies in reducing the costs of converting their vehicles to electric. The City is also considering additional incentives such as preferential loading zones and decreased registration costs to complement the voucher program. Fleets can stack the State of Illinois' Alternative Fuel Vehicle and EV Charging Station Rebates on top of the City's incentive. Through similar federally funded incentive programs, the City has helped deploy 404 cleaner vehicles, including 159 compressed natural gas (CNG) livery/taxi vehicles and 223 alternative fuel stations, including 17 CNG and 202 electric vehicle charging stations – the densest network of any major city. These vehicles and stations have displaced 200,000 barrels of oil and reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 2,850 tons.

"A mass urban deployment of commercial electric vehicles is an important next step in catalyzing mainstream adoption," said Smith CEO Bryan Hansel. "Chicago's location, commitment to adoption in municipal fleets, concentration of commercial vehicles, talented workforce and importance to the global business community make it a perfect choice to grow our company and this industry. The leadership being shown with the mayor's CDOT voucher program is a prime example of how Chicago is creating the template for a new energy city."

In addition to the announcement of the manufacturing facility, Smith provided an update today on two of its global fleet customers. FedEx Express has initiated the deployment of 100 Smith vehicles in the U.S., adding to the electric vehicles already in service throughout the company's global fleet.

"FedEx continually works toward goals to increase fuel efficiency and reduce emissions of its global vehicle fleet in big and small ways," said Dennis Beal, Vice President of Global Vehicles at FedEx Express. "Electric vehicles are often conducive to operate on routes in urban environments like Chicago, where FedEx introduced the first purpose-built all-electric parcel delivery trucks in the United States in 2010."

Coca-Cola's pilot deployment of Smith Electric Vehicles has been successful. The Company plans to deploy additional electric vehicles in 2013.

"These electric vehicles meet our delivery needs while significantly reducing direct greenhouse gas emissions," commented Steven Saltzgiver, director of fleet operations, Coca-Cola Refreshments. "Mayor Emanuel's incentive program is evidence of his commitment to building a more sustainable Chicago. We are proud to support this effort by deploying electric vehicles in Chicago as part of Coca-Cola's expanding alternative fuel vehicle fleet."

Smith Electric Vehicles is currently considering locations for its manufacturing facility in conjunction with City officials. The company expects to begin hiring efforts immediately and announce this new location when the incentive and development packages tied to the site are complete.