FreshDirect — A Followup

Last week at an unrelated event, William Lyons, Vice President of Mitsubishi/Fuso Truck of America told a Bronx Chronicle reporter that noise from the refrigeration units aboard FreshDirect diesel-fueled trucks are a problem but one which should be resolved when new electric refrigerated trucks hit the road soon. Readers will recall that FreshDirect had vowed that it would use emission-free electric-powered trucks manufactured by Britain’s Smith Electric Vehicles once they moved to the Bronx.

As promised, FreshDirect bought 10 Smith EVs and had them in service. But the trucks broke down prior to the move from Long Island City to its new Bronx headquarters in July 2018, said FreshDirect VP for Public Affairs Larry Scott Blackmon in a telephone interview with the Bronx Chronicle.

“Freshdirect fulfilled its electric vehicle commitment years ago by purchasing and utilizing electric vehicles in our fleet. Unfortunately, all of our electric vehicles are no longer functional and their Bronx-based manufacturer is no longer in business. We are committed to finding electric vehicles that meet our rigorous standards towards delivering food safely and will continue to explore every option available to us,” said the FreshDirect spokesperson. According to the city, FreshDirect has hired more than 1,500 employees from the Bronx since 2014.

It was in 2015 when Smith idled its manufacturing plants worldwide before ceasing all operations in 2017. Smith US closed its corporate headquarters in Kansas City, Missouri at the same time. Since the company went belly up, truck parts and its proprietary battery have been hard to procure. “We went around the world looking but we can’t get batteries for them,” said Blackmon.

Smith was suppose to open a factory in the Bronx in 2011. The city’s Industrial Development Agency approved $1.7 million in tax breaks to pave the way for Smith Electric Vehicle to build an electric truck assembly plant in the Bronx. At the time, the company said the $5.2 million facility would create about 61 full-time jobs in three years. According to the Institute for Energy Research, Smith EV received $29,150,672 in taxpayer funds and had 439 vehicles in service at the end of 2013. NYC Industrial Development Corporation was able to claw-back over $400 million in subsidies from Smith EV after it failed to open its promised Bronx plant.

Crain’s erroneously reported that Smith EV only sold two electric-trucks in the city. Down East Seafood of Hunts Point, a sustainable-seafood supplier bought bought two vehicles but they subsequently broke down and had to scrapped because parts and new batteries could be be procured.

Robert Press contributed to this post.

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