STARTING LIFE AS A HAULAGE CONTRACTOR
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The Electric Vehicle as a Source of Income.
FOR VARIOUS REASONS, the electric vehicle least Often occurs to\ the mind of a man who is consedering haulage questions. To a certain extent, this is no doubt due to its comparative rarity. The electrie, like every form of mechanical traction, started badly; it has taken longer than other types to recover from its preliminary set-back, and this is largely the fault of its one-time sponsors, whose extravagant claims were their .own and their protégés undoing.
The fact that the majority of the interested readers of these articles are returned soldiers anxious to make a new start in life, and whose predilection for the commercial vehicle as a source of income is largely due to their observation of its reliability Sand capacity for work, as demonstrated by its war work,is also likely to prevail to a considerable extent against their thinking of the electric chassis. A dim, although rnayhap, fairly correct realization of its limitations would also act as a deterrent, if the intending haulage contractor did not go thoroughly into the matter and consider exactly how 'far they really affected him. , In many cases, he would find, not only that those limitations were boundaries, metaphorically and literally,' within which he could profitably work, but that his choice must, if made to the best advantage, undoubtedly fall on the electric chassis. A fair comparison is often rendered almost impossible bee the unconscious exaggeration on the part. of the owner, present or prospective, of the mileage which he is covering or expects to cover.
There are many owners of petrol vehicles to-day who, if questioned, would estimate their daily mileage as from 50 to 60, but who, on investigation' will be found to run not more than 30 miles, the limit of the electric on one charge, during each working day. Nor will this daily average be exceeded frequently enough to call for other than a mid-day boost of the battery to meet the occasion. In the rare event of a long out-and-home run in which facilities for recharging do not exist, a petrol vehicle could readily, and with advantage, be wired to carry out the contract, That the electric vehicle is suitable for the work of a haulage contractor has been amply demonstrated in these pages by articles which have appeared from time to time describing their operation in that capacity. We, need only refer to two instances : that of the Hay's Wharf Cartage Co., Ltd., whose service of electrically-propelled meat-carrying vehicles was discussed in the course of an article entitled "One Day's Work," which appeared in our issue of January 28th, 1915, now unfortunately out of print. That company still employs electrics, and has purchased several more of the same kind as those which we saw, since the occasion of our visit. The Midland Railway Co. is another large owner of electric vehicles, which are used entirely in connection with the collection and delivery of parcels and goods, precisely the form of work which interests the haulage contractor. The company's fleet had reference in our issue of January 10th, 1918. In this case, too, satisfaction is evidenced by the continuation and expan
sion of the service. _ After all, the only basis of comparison which gives satisfaction all round is that of cost, and we may therefore with advantage discuss the running cost of the electric vehicle so far as that is possible with the information at present awa.ilable concerning the use of electrics in this country. It has often been urged in these columns that too little is yet known of the electric to allow of a complete statement being. made and, unfortunately, we have not yet arrived at
a period when tables of running cost can be made up with no fear of their being challenged upon some point or other.
The information which is so freely afforded from certain sources, and to which considerable publicity is given, as a tule concerns chassis which nave not been in use sufficiently long for the data provided to be of real value. This, by.the way, is not to dis parage in any way the electric vehicle. We are of opimon that there is a vast field for exploitation of this particular type of commercial motor, and that the time is rapidly approaching when the electric will be appreeiated at its true worth, which is considerable. .
As a preliminary, it is necessary to know the first cost of any chassis, and here at once, we find amaz ing discrepancies ,between estimates • submitted by various .makers and importers. The following is a list of prices submitted by two important firms con
cerning three sizes of chassis. The prices relate to chassie only, with tyres, but without batteries. We will call the concerns A and B Two-tcnner : A-2625, B-21,120; 31-tonner :A2778, B-1,395; 5-tonner: A-2891,. B-21,625. It
will be realized that, with difficulties such as this at the outset, the prospect of arriving at satisfactory figures which will not be challenged by someone or other is very remote. In calculating the figures which we give for interest and first cost, we have taken the mean of the various prices quoted. With. regard to batteries, we have, in estimating the annual cost of upkeep, assumed a life, in the case of Ironclad batteries, of two years, and of Edison batteries, four years. We have made the necessary correction for interest on first cost of these batteries and for the occasional renewal of the elec trolyte, etc., which is necessary from time to time. Having in mind the diversity in prime cost of the vehicles, it is remarkable how closely the battery upkeep costs of various types agree when treated in the manner we have described. It will be appre ciated that the figures which we give are on the top side. With anything like reasonable care, both types of battery exceed the ,guaranteed period, so that our figures for cost under this head will frequently be improved upon, often to a considerable extent indeed..
In calculating the cost of current, we have taken as a basis 10, per unit, this being the average price charged throughout the kingdoneand at most of the important stations. In assuming the current used per mile, we have again had recourse to the method of averaging. Consumption varies largely, and is mainly dependent upon locality and method of use. In a hilly district, readers may expect to find the consumption slightly exceed that which is the basis of our figures. Where good roads prevail, and few hills are likely to be encountered, these figures may be improved upon. The oil consumption of the elec tric is naturally considerably less than that of the petrol vehicle ; tyres we have assumed to be the same as for a petrol vehicle of equal capa-ity, on the ground that, although tyres wear better on the electric, the effect of the heavier chassis is to Offset this advantage. No explanation appears to us to be necessary for the other figures which comprise the tables.
Following the lines laid down in our examination of the working costs of petrol vehicles, we have divided the working costs up into two parts : running costs, under which head are included all those charges which are, to all intents and purposes, directly dependent upon the number of -miles run ; and standing 'charges, which are those which remain
In considering the business which he may do,the intending haulage contractor who anticipates using the electric willhave to bear in mind that he is faced with a limited mileage. We assume 30 miles per du, with a boost on two days Per week, sufficient to allow him to accomplish an additional 20 miles on each of thesetwo days, thus arriving at the total of 220 miles per week. We may, therefore, profitably calculate the net cost per mile, assuming he runs this maximum. Dividing the standing charges by 220 reduces this figure to a cost per mile. To it must be added the running charges per mile. The total will be the working cost. Tabulated, this appears as follows : It may be interesting to refer back to the running costs of petrol vehicles, which we gave in our issue of March 20th last, and compare the figures there given on the same basis of mileage. Tabulated, they appear as follows : Working costs for petrol vehicles : Pence per mile.
Size : 10-cwt. 1-ton. 2-ton. 3-ton. 5-ton.
Standing charges ... 3.22 4.01 5.15 6.17 6.42 Running charges ... 4.47 6.99 8.47 10.20 15.09 The difference, it will be noted, is generally in flavour of petrol, but., at the same time, it should be pointed out that this is largely due to the figure for battery maintenance, which is open to considerable imnrovement.
Before coming to a decision to purchase an electric, it. is necessary to make certain enquiries as to the supply of current, times during which it is available, and, most important of all, facilities for charging, both day and night. It is possible, in sonie garages, to arrange for charging and boosting on the premises. Such depots are, however, at the present time so few and far betweenas to he hardly worthy of mention. No doubt they will tend to increase, but for the time being it is extremely improbable that the intending purchaser of an electric will have such facilities close at hand. , The beginner, moreover, will not, in all probability, be able to afford the expense of a charging plant of; his own, this being a considerable item indeed, and involving an outlay which is rarely justified.
The first thing b3 do then, is to become acquainted with the charging facilities, not only on or near one's own premises, but also on the lines of route which it is intended to cover. The price of current should be enquired into, and also as to whether charging is possible at any time without notice, and whether the price varies with the time of day. It will frequently be found that there is a cheap rate prevailing during hours of off-peak load, that is to say, during the times when the general demand for current is not so great. A peak-load time, when there ig the greatest demand, is, of course, in the evenings, when people are at their homes.,