Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp. (FCCC) and Enova, a developer of proprietary hybrid-electric and all-electric drive systems and drive system components, have launched a program they say will “make electric vehicles more accessible to fleets.”

The “Green for Free” program enables fleets to purchase all-electric trucks for the cost of a diesel-powered commercial vehicle. The companies said the savings fleets will incur from the reduced maintenance and fuel savings of the electric vehicles (EVs) is then used “over a period of time to cover the incremental expense for the technology.”

The Green for Free program centers on FCCC’s All-Electric Walk-in Van (WIV) chassis powered by an Enova drive system. The companies noted that fleets with set routes in P&D applications are ideal candidates because they have predictable drive routes and return each night to a company depot. The program also aims at “disciplined” duty cycles, defined as those using 80% of the battery’s capacity daily vs. those needing extended range.

In addition, according to FCCC, customers can fund the vehicles several different ways-- either through outright purchase, leasing the vehicle or just leasing the batteries.

“FCCC and Enova recognize that the Green For Free program is necessary to make all-electric vehicles more affordable, and therefore more accessible, to fleets,” said Bob Harbin, FCCC president. “We want to help those fleets interested in reducing their energy consumption and environmental impact by enabling them to purchase more alternative-fuel vehicles at one time because of the reduced upfront costs.”

While the commercial vehicle market has relied on government funding for alternative-fuel vehicles with some success, the partners noted that this is the first program that will eliminate the overall incremental costs associated with buying and operating an all-electric vehicle, making the program attractive to fleets both large and small.

FCCC and Enova plan to deploy a total of 3,000 alternative-fuel vehicles within a two-year time frame beginning no later than the third quarter of 2012 as a result of the Green for Free program.

Enova and FCCC developed an integration method for both new and retrofit applications. FCCC’s all-electric chassis is built on the FCCC MT-45 chassis – with GVWRs of 14,000 to 19,500 lbs – which is capable of handling heavy payloads. FCCC stated it maintains a dominant market share in the WIV chassis market, which it “expects to continue to expand.”

“This business model has the potential to stimulate tremendous and rapid growth, helping achieve economies of scale through cost reduction, resulting in an excellent value proposition for the commercial fleet operator,” said Mike Staran, Enova president & CEO.

“Enova has been delivering proven electric drive systems to a diverse set of domestic and international customers and has the distinction of seeing more of its green drive systems on the road than any of its competitors,” he continued. “The company continues to build on more than 20 years of innovation and traces its roots back to General Motors’ EV1 electric car.”

FCCC noted it was the first chassis manufacturer to bring the hybrid-electric vehicle and all-electric vehicle to market.