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Tropos zeroes in on last-mile delivery of perishables


January? 13th, 2020 by Neil Abt

Developer of specialized electric compact utility vehicles working with Panasonic to enhance connectivity of commercial and emergency vehicles. Two of them were featured last week at CES.



In crowded urban areas bigger is not better, especially when it comes to commercial and emergency vehicles.

That is the focus for?Tropos Motors, a Silicon Valley-based startup that manufactures specialized electric compact utility vehicles. They are designed to handle large payloads and towing capacities in tight quarters with a short wheelbase and turning radius.

During the annual?CES?event last week in Las Vegas, Tropos displayed a last-mile delivery vehicle and compact fire truck at Panasonic’s massive exhibit booth.


The fire truck can access emergency situations with tighter spaces.


"With an ability to accommodate both large and purpose-built payloads, our vehicles are created with versatility in mind to fulfill the requirements of any corporate, first-responder, agricultural or last-mile application," said John Bautista, founder and CEO of Tropos Motors.

Last May,?Panasonic?announced plans to work in conjunction with Tropos to bring advanced connectivity and efficiency to compact commercial vehicles, which it called the second largest class of fleet vehicles.

“If you can have a vehicle that has all of the capabilities of a larger truck, but in a smaller package, that is what makes it more appropriate for the job. It is not about downsizing. It is about rightsizing,” said Scott Morrison, director of advanced engineering at?Panasonic Automotive.


Scott Kirchner, president of Panasonic Automotive Systems Co. of America, speaks at the company's press conference during CES.


In an interview with?Fleet Owner, Bautista said the last-mile delivery vehicle started only as a concept idea to demonstrate at CES with?Hussman, a fully-owned subsidiary of Panasonic, but has since become a real-life product under development.

Hussman previously created food pickup lockers, where online purchases can be collected at retail locations in secure refrigerated, freezer and room-temperature lockers.?

Bautista noted there is no one regulating the condition of food between the time a delivery driver from a third-party such as Uber Eats picks it up and when it is dropped off to a consumer.

What makes the vehicle with Hussman unique, Bautista said, are the separate compartments and vacuum insulation panels, which allow individual food items to be kept hot and cold simultaneously to the delivery point. As a result, there is no need to refrigerate the entire cargo box, allowing all energy to be devoted to the vehicle’s powertrain.

Bautista pointed out another highlight is dynamic loading — the ability to accommodate various percentages of hot or cold packages during different deliveries.


A look inside the Tropos fire truck.


Right next to the last-mile vehicle was the Tropos fire truck, which Bautista said costs about $50,000, far below the price tag for traditional firetrucks that can often reach $500,000. It ideal for fitting in small spaces such as parking garages and even inside certain types of buildings.

It is equipped with a?125-gallon water tank unit and a 5-gallon foam pump from Kimtek.

Both of the models are equipped with?Panasonic’s OneConnect?platform, which offers predictive maintenance and can be customized to create algorithms that improve battery efficiency to optimize an electric commercial vehicle.

Bautista said Tropos is rapidly ramping up production volumes and its dealership network. He said there are already several hundred vehicles in real-world operations.?


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