How One Chicagoland Company is Driving the Future

It looks more at home on the set of a science fiction movie than the streets of Chicago, but the eStar truck could be the future of the delivery van.

The zero-emission, 100 percent electric truck is now being rolled out by Warrenville-based Navistar.

EStar trucks are designed from the ground up to be electric vehicles. The batteries ride between the frame rails beneath the load floor that can support more than two tons of cargo

Navistar’s director of sales for eStar took us for a ride in the smooth-sided vehicle on a rainy Tuesday morning through crowded Chicago traffic. Our driver had no problem maneuvering in often-competitive Michigan Avenue traffic. T

he 70kw motor develops 102 horsepower, but because it is electric, it feels quick. It is also agile.

"It’s built on a very narrow chassis," Mark McGrew said. "Getting through narrow streets is no problem."

The eStar can go 100 miles on an overnight charge. A monitor on the dashboard shows how much juice you have left and how your driving can extend the vehicle’s range.

Every time you take your foot off the accelerator, the eStar’s regenerative braking system kicks in recharging the batteries.

Navistar manufactures the eStar in Wakarusa, Ind. in a joint venture with UK-based Modec Vehicles.

 eStars are already in service with companies like Fed Ex, Pacific Gas and Electric and the Canadian Post.

The cost is about three times that of a traditional gas-powered delivery truck, but McGrew said the low and relatively consistent cost of electric power makes the eStar more economical to operate.

Pure electric vehicles like the eStar can also lower a company’s carbon footprint. The company estimates the vehicle can displace 876 gallons of fuel every year it’s driven.

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