Respected by major automotive manufacturers as a valued partner in engineering and production, and revered by NASCAR fans and general auto enthusiasts, Roush Industries is a modern business success story. The company chases success by seeking opportunities and then developing the best solutions.
This modus operandi led Roush Industries to begin development of a small commercial electric vehicle almost five years ago. Unlike golf cart based NEVs (neighborhood electric vehicles), the Roush Electric Vehicle (REV) was based on the Brazilian Ford Courier pickup truck. Designed to be a low-cost, heavy-duty utility vehicle for industrial, educational, and residential campuses, the REV boasted a 1,112 lb. payload. For a suggested retail price of under $20,000, the REV provided 50 miles of range and a regulated top speed of 25 mph from its array of Exide/Sorrenschein batteries.
Unfortunately, with the NHTSA’s adoption of FMVSS 500 regulations for low-speed vehicles in 2006 (two years after Roush began the project), the future of the REV began to dim. The NHTSA regulations for NEVs stated that these vehicles must not have a GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) of more than 3,000 pounds. The curb weight of the REV is 2,845 lbs. and with a full load, the GVWR is 3,957–nearly 25-percent over the FMVSS 500 limit.
Program champions from Roush Industries lobbied NHTSA on behalf of their REV, but to no avail. A recent round of meetings earlier in 2009 did not convince NHTSA decision makers to change the regulations. When interviewed by AutomobileMag.com, Roush’s Jeff Johnston said, “Because the REV is such a competent and substantial vehicle, officials at NHTSA weren’t inclined to grant us an FMVSS 500 exemption because they felt that too many operators might attempt to drive the REV like a regular vehicle and mix it up with regular traffic. Because the REV doesn’t need to meet any type of crash standards, this simply made them too nervous. In spite of how good our product is, we couldn’t get an exemption. It falls too far outside the current FMVSS 500.”
Johnston went on to explain that this puts their REV in a type of limbo. Roush has not officially cancelled the REV program, but no further development is planned. Roush Industries considered a lighter battery pack and removing the front passenger seat to help lower the REV’s GVWR, but the compromise in performance (range and payload) lessened the pickup’s utility significantly, casting doubt on whether it would be commercially successful.
For now, we’ll consider the REV officially unplugged.