Azure Dynamics: Breakout Year for Electric Vehicles
High-tech start-ups in the vehicle business face some tall obstacles, among them a skeptical, century-old automotive establishment and pragmatic customers reluctant to experiment with expensive new technology.
Azure Dynamics, a fledgling maker of hybrid vehicles based in Oak Park, Mich., is making headway by concentrating on the commercial and fleet customers that account for 30% of all new-vehicle sales in the U.S. "Our vehicles are 30% more efficient," says Scott Harrison, Azure's CEO. "Every time the price of gasoline increases by 50¢, the payback time on our vehicles is shortened by six months." He may be one of the few people in America rooting for OPEC.
Azure is selling more than efficiency in its $70,000 delivery vans. The uptime for a vehicle with one of Azure's hybrid power trains is longer than for a conventional truck, Harrison says. The wear and tear on the brakes is reduced because the regenerative braking system pulls the kinetic energy off the brakes and uses it to recharge the battery. Starter motors are eliminated completely, he says.
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