Wheelchair accessible van manufacturer closes

The commercial vehicle industry is going through a massive shake-up at the moment, especially as governments around the world are introducing new legislations and incentives to encourage manufacturers to create more environmentally friendly vehicles. The other day we discussed how the European Parliament Committee agreed on a plan to introduce legislation meaning that all future commercial vehicles will have to have an electric speed limiter installed so that they will no longer be able to go over 75mph, however there has also been schemes introduced by those across the pond.

The American government have launched a number of schemes to improve commercial vehicle emissions including one where companies which created eco-friendly vans would receive a federal loan. However, not all of these companies have been successful, such as the Vehicle Production Group (VPG) from Michigan that has recently closed down after its cash flow dipped below a minimum level agreed upon when given the loan. The Department of Energy gave the company around $50 million in order to start producing vans for disabled passengers that also ran on compressed natural gas; however it seems as though there was not enough demand for this type of vehicle in the US.

Discussing VPG’s closure, a spokeswoman from the Department for Energy said that the fact it had to shut down was “unfortunate”, however went on to say that companies who had taken part in the loan scheme failing was “the exception rather than the rule”. Aoife McCarthy, who also works at the Department for Energy, added that the loan programme “was always intended to involve taking some risks by supporting innovative and cutting edge technologies that hadn’t been tried on a commercial scale before.” Meanwhile, VPS’s former chief executive officer John Walsh said: “Sales took a little bit longer to get going. Cash got depleted.”

The vans that VPG created cost around $39,000 and included a built-in ramp to help those in wheelchairs gain access easily, as well as space for a driver and three other passengers. However, it seems that even though the company sold around two thousand of these vehicles there was not enough demand to keep the company going, which could also be down to the fact that many members of the public are still wary when it comes to buying commercial vehicles that run on alternative fuels.

This is mainly due to the fact that many still don’t understand the technology, and it also doesn’t help that alternative fuelled vehicles are also more expensive to buy and lead to higher van insurance quotes. However, with the help from government schemes we should see more of these types of commercial vehicles on the road soon, meaning other companies may fare better than VPG.

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