PEI

P.E.I. company taking orders for small electric pickup trucks it's making out of used cars

A company in Stratford has completed work on two prototypes for a small electric pickup truck, that it is hoping to sell to companies with vehicle fleets looking to save money and the environment.

Upcycle's pickups will sell for $35,000, and will have a range of 150 kilometres

Upcycle takes a specific model of Toyota Corollas manufactured between 2009 and 2013, and transforms them into pickup trucks. The engine is also removed, and replaced by electric batteries. (Shane Hennessey/CBC )

A company based in Stratford, P.E.I., is now taking orders for its first round of production of small electric pickup trucks. 

Upcycle Green Technology takes a specific model of Toyota Corolla that was manufactured between 2009 and 2013, and transforms the cars into pickup trucks.

The engine is removed, and replaced by electric batteries.

The company completed the first two prototype pickups this summer, after two years of refinements. 

The company says the prototypes help people to understand what they mean by a small pickup truck. (Shane Hennessey/CBC )

"It's amazing for us, because it's hard to explain to people, what is a small pickup truck here," said Natal Antonini, a mechanical engineer who moved to P.E.I. through the provincial nominee program in 2019.

"We have a lot of these small pickup trucks in Brazil, but here in North America, it's hard to find one. So we think there is a good niche market for this kind of vehicle." 

Fleet vehicles

The target market for the new pickup is managers of companies with fleets who are looking for a smaller, more economical vehicle to travel short distances.

Antonini said the average light pickup truck on P.E.I. would use 15 litres of gas every 100 kilometres, or about $30 worth.

By comparison, he said the electric pickup will use $2.50 worth of electricity per 100 kilometres.

Russell Peden, left, and Natal Antonini work in the production space at Upcycle Green Technology in Stratford, P.E.I. (Shane Hennessey/CBC )

"It makes sense, if you have a fleet, to have small pickup trucks to mix with the other pickup trucks, and just save money," Antonini said. 

He also thinks professionals like plumbers and carpenters might be interested.

One of the biggest challenges for the company has been sourcing the parts it needs to build the electric pickups, including these batteries. (Shane Hennessey/CBC )

Antonini said there have been challenges, because Upcycle was established just a few months before the COVID-19 pandemic was declared. 

"It was very hard for us and we have a lot of problems with our supply chain, because they are completely broken," he said. "All the car companies are feeling these problems."

'Double the lifespan'

Antonini said Upcycle has had support from the federal and provincial governments, as well as UPEI's school of sustainable design engineering.

Two graduates now work with the company, including Russell Peden, who joined the company in June. 

"We're taking cars that otherwise may go to a scrapyard, and giving them a brand-new life. We're thinking it's going to almost double the lifespan of these cars," Peden said. 

"I'm happy to work here at a company that's so focused on an environmental issue."

Company partner and manager Magali Freiberger says they hope to create 12 jobs when the assembly line is up and running and production on the electric vehicles begins next year. (Shane Hennessey/CBC )

Company partner and manager Magali Freiberger said they hope to create 12 jobs when the assembly line is up and running.

She said Upcycle started taking pre-orders two weeks ago, and already has a deposit on more than 20 trucks. 

"It's amazing. It's a long time that we started to work on that, and this phase is so important for our business, and now we are ready for the next step," Freiberger said. 

This is the prototype in its early stages, in December 2020. (Travis Kingdon/CBC)

Antonini said the vehicles will sell for $35,000, with a range of 150 kilometres before they need recharging, and there will also be a more expensive version that can travel farther.

He said the initial production will be 100 vehicles per year, scaling up to 200 in a few years.

"When do you think a big car company is coming to P.E.I.?  Never, but we can have a small car company here," Antonini said.

"We have a small island, and a small car company. So I think it's pretty nice." 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nancy Russell has been a reporter with CBC since 1987, in Whitehorse, Winnipeg, Toronto and Charlottetown. When not on the job, she spends her time on the water or in the gym rowing, or walking her dog. Nancy.Russell@cbc.ca

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