By Kiet Do

SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) – A Silicon Valley company could become the Tesla of the commercial truck world. The company called Wrightspeed is converting dirty trucks into clean, electric machines.

On the outside, it looks like a typical Isuzu delivery truck. But its V8 engine and drivetrain have been ripped out and replaced with two batteries, and electric motors that have been throttled from 500 down to 200 horsepower.

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“To save energy because if we gave the drivers 500 horsepower they’d use it, wouldn’t they?” said Wrightspeed CEO Ian Wright.

The result is sports car-like instant acceleration and power. In a promotional video, Wrightspeed took the truck out to do the unthinkable: drifting, and spinning donuts on the salt flats.

Back in San Jose, there is one quirk: the driver will hardly ever use the brake pedal. To stop the truck, just let off the gas and the regenerative braking kicks in and brings the vehicle to a complete stop. You essentially drive this truck with one pedal.

Wright said garbage trucks burn on average 14,000 gallons of fuel a year, and spend thousands of dollars a year replacing the brakes.

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“When you brake in the traditional sense, you’re just throwing money away. You’re just taking the energy that you got by burning fuel, which you paid for, and you’re just throwing it away as heat in the brakes,” Wright said. “And what we do instead is use the electrical motors as generators and put that energy back in the batteries so you can use that energy the next time you accelerate.”

Companies are taking notice. The Ratto Group, a waste management company in Santa Rosa, has already begun converting their fleet, to meet tough new emissions standards and save money.

Wrightspeed expects to grow ten times bigger, and have more than 200 employees by 2018. And wright himself has electric vehicle street cred, he’s one of the co-founders of Tesla with Elon Musk.

When asked if Musk was jealous of him, Wright said, “I don’t think so. He’s on a different mission. He loves what we’re doing. He says it’s great and of course, everybody does.”

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The truck’s battery range is about 40 miles, but a natural gas powered turbine engine on board can be used to extend range. Wrightspeed said the cost of converting a garbage truck would be $200,000, which they said can be recouped in about four years.