Orange EV in Riverside welcomes Panasonic battery factory

River, Mo.

Orange EV was launched in 2012 and began delivering its first electric yard truck to customers about seven years ago.

The yard truck pulls up to 80,000 pounds around industrial lots, requiring a lot of torque. At first, Orange EV admits, many people didn’t think it would work with an electric motorcycle.

“It’s a vehicle design, not for the faint of heart,” said Orange EV CTO and President Kurt Neutgens.

Neutgens says that Orange EV yard trucks not only get the job done but often hold up to the demands of industrial lots and pull heavy loads better than their diesel counterparts.

“We went big on Purpose,” said Neutgens. “We chose this vehicle because it’s big, because it pulls weight, because it runs all the time.”

Neutgens says that the truck yard often runs around the clock, every day of the week, requiring Orange EV to build a truck that can quickly charge. They have created a product that can now run continuously, only charging during the time it would be idle during the driver’s lunch break, bathroom break, or shift change. He said diesel trucks can take more time to refuel, especially if they have to leave an industrial yard to do so.

Their goal from the start was to create a product that didn’t harm the environment but they still had to convince companies to actually buy their yard trucks.

“We want to make sure we have a product that makes financial sense long before anyone considers the emissions side of it,” Neutgens said.

Currently, Orange EV VP of Sales and Marketing Zack Ruderman said the company has sold more than 500 truck yards to 130 vehicle fleets across the nation, in 29 different states in all different weather climates.

“It gives the fleet confidence that this is not a science project,” Ruderman said.

NDA’s prevent Orange EV from talking about some specific clients, but Ruderman said widespread adoption shows EV’s are here to stay.

“If you think about who the big companies are that move a lot of cargo, a lot of packaging, then there’s a good chance they’re using Orange EV yard trucks,” Ruderman said.

Orange EV recently had a $35 million investment to help them keep up with their new and bigger space where they also need to hire more workers. At the same time, Panasonic announced that it will soon bring 4,000 new EV manufacturing jobs to De Soto and another 4,000 jobs at companies opening around De Soto to do business with the plant.

Where some may see competition in an already tight job market, Orange EV CEO Wayne Mathisen sees it differently.

“It’s just another validation that this is where the world is going,” Mathisen said.

The technology in the electric yard truck is not exactly the same as what is needed to make an electric passenger vehicle and the needs of both vehicles must be addressed often differently. Top yard trucks top out at 25 miles per hour and passenger vehicles must be able to travel hundreds of miles on a single charge, especially before the nation’s electric vehicle charger infrastructure is built out.

But Orange EV said the big focus on the EV industry as a whole, which will come with Panasonic’s factory, can only help.

“You know, we train our employees,” Neutgens said. “There’s no one out there that we can go to and say, ‘Hey, do you work for another electric vehicle company?’

Perhaps it can help expand opportunities for workers and other companies when entering an industry that is growing every year.

“To see it at the heart of not just thinking about this happening in California, or happening on the coast, it’s happening here,” Mathisen said.

“The biggest thing for us is just the recognition that the technology is here,” Neutgens said. “The world has changed and if there are some people who are on the fence or don’t think about it, they are now in the game.”

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