Future Looks Bright for Canadian Inverter/Charger Manufacturer
August 1, 2004
VANCOUVER, B.C. - Xantrex Technology, a Canadian provider of inverter/chargers for heavy-duty trucks, recently completed its first quarter as a public company while continuing to double its OEM sales every year since it entered the business four y...
VANCOUVER, B.C. – Xantrex Technology, a Canadian provider of inverter/chargers for heavy-duty trucks, recently completed its first quarter as a public company while continuing to double its OEM sales every year since it entered the business four years ago.
It’s quite the success story for a company that owns 100 per cent of the OEM inverter/charger market share and between 40 and 50 per cent of the aftermarket business in the trucking industry.
“Things are looking pretty bright at Xantrex right now,” admits Brian Lawrence, manager of heavy-duty truck North American sales. “I can see our sales continuing to double every year until we’re pretty much entrenched with a lot of the major carriers around the country.”
Two of North America’s top 100 carriers have begun equipping their fleet trucks with inverter/chargers in an effort to attract and retain employees in a driver-starved industry.
“These fleets are marketing these inverter/chargers as a way of increasing their drivers’ quality of life while they’re on the road with all the benefits that AC power provides,” he explains. “As news gets out and recruiters find out drivers are switching to Company X because they provide coffee makers and microwaves in the cabs, they will begin purchasing them to remain competitive in the recruitment landscape.”
Inverter/chargers convert battery power into AC power enabling truckers to plug in accessories such as microwaves, TVs, coffee makers, video game consoles and other in-cab comforts. An inverter can generally power such devices for the duration of a 10-hour rest period without requiring the driver to start the engine.
If shore power is available, then drivers can even operate their heating and air conditioning systems without idling the truck, saving a substantial amount of fuel. Lawrence says there will soon be more places for truckers to plug into, making inverter/chargers more of an idle-reduction tool. In New York state for instance, the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority launched a project just last month involving commercial shore power facilities, where truckers will be able to pay a small fee to plug in their trucks.
“Their plan is to roll out a bunch of facilities in New York State and the surrounding states and provide some facilities for people to plug in,” Lawrence says.
In other recent developments, there is talk of electrifying the I-5 corridor along the West Coast and the I-95 corridor along the eastern seaboard.
“Trucks running up and down the east and west coasts from Canada to Mexico and all points in between will be able to connect up to shore power facilities,” explains Lawrence.
In most cases, trends suggest shore power will be launched as a user-pay system, but it’s definitely still worthwhile for truckers according to Lawrence. He points out a charge of 50 cents to $1 per hour only amounts to about $5-$10 per 10 hour rest period as opposed to the $20-$30 in diesel that can be burned over the same time period.
“Our electricity prices are the lowest in the world (in Canada) and our fuel costs are higher here than in the U.S. so electrification really makes sense here,” says Lawrence. In many cases the infrastructure already exists north of the border, as electrification is provided at many facilities for cars and light-duty trucks equipped with block heaters.
He cautions, however, the U.S. is ahead of Canada when it comes to promoting electrification at truck stops, travel plazas and along well-travelled highways. Government must play a key role in promoting electrification in order for it to take off, he says, and there’s been more evidence of that taking place in the U.S.
“I think government plays a really important role because we have a chicken and egg dilemma where trucking fleets are not willing to spend the money on idle-reduction technology because they are afraid there won’t be any facilities for them to plug into,” says Lawrence.
“On the flip side, the travel plaza operators and the truck stop operators are saying ‘Why would we put electrification facilities at our location if there are no trucks out there to plug into them?’ I think the government plays an important role in bringing the two parties together.”
Xantrex is working with FleetSmart towards delivering a shore power demonstration program to help promote the benefits of electrification. Even though inverter/chargers themselves aren’t recognized as an idle-reduction tool, when coupled with a $20 space heater (or oscillating fan for that matter) they can certainly help provide in-cab heating and cooling while eliminating the need for idling.
The cost of Xantrex’s inverter/chargers range from up to $2,000 at the OEM level to as little as $200-$300 through truck stops. The main reason for the variation is purchasing at the factory level includes the professional installation of safety systems providing such things as circuit protection.
Xantrex began selling through the OEMs in 2000, and owners are finding it easier to sell trucks equipped with the systems now that those first trucks to have them installed are reaching the end of their first duty cycle.
“Those first trucks are being turned over by the original owners and most of them are just leaving them in and purchasing their new trucks with inverter/chargers,” Lawrence says.
“They have confirmed that these trucks are much easier to sell. The second owner – typically an owner/operator – appreciates having them so those trucks are more marketable.”
With the environmental benefits of inverter/chargers yet to be fully realized, Xantrex is counting on continued growth in the future and hopes to add more chapters to this emerging Canadian success story. For more information, visit www.xantrex.com