There’s a Sunbelt Rentals not too far from my house. I’ve been there a few times with relatives renting tools, from trenchers to large front-end loaders. It is a great place to get expensive tools that you need for a job here and there but don’t do often enough to justify spending big, big bucks on actually buying those tools. But every time you rent something from Sunbelt, they remind you to bring it back with as much fuel as you take it away with. Like any rental place, they’ll charge you for bringing it back empty.
But now Sunbelt is going to have equipment that doesn’t even have a fuel tank. Recent press releases show that the company has ordered up 700 Fort F-150 Lightning electric trucks.
“This investment highlights our strong commitment to reduce our GHG emissions through the adoption of new on-road fleet technology,” said Al Halvorsen, vice president of ESG at Sunbelt Rentals. “Starting the conversion of our truck fleet to electric alternatives, like the Ford Lightning, is critical to our ability to reach our ambitious GHG reduction goals and still continue to serve our customers with availability, reliability and ease.”
It doesn’t appear that this first batch of trucks will be offered to Sunbelt’s customers for rentals, but it’s important to keep in mind that it has a pretty diverse business. The company, of course, offers day rentals that many contractors and handymen rely on, but it also offers long-term rentals and even sells equipment with service plans, among other arrangements. So its staff actually has to go around in an area and take care of customer needs, replace faulty tools as part of long-term arrangements, and even offer roadside assistance to people using the company’s trailers to move equipment. So, there’s a lot of work to do!
To make sure its employees get the most out of the truck, Sunbelt is going to even install Level 2 charging stations in employees’ homes for night-time charging. How that works when it comes time to pay the power bill hasn’t been announced, but both Ford and other fleet vendors have been able to track such things and it wouldn’t be a problem to reimburse employees or perhaps even pay ahead for electricity .
“The demand in the market already exceeds supply for the next few years for these electric vehicles, so we are incredibly excited to be receiving the first shipment of these groundbreaking trucks this summer,” said Eric Jahnsen, director of transportation at Sunbelt Rentals. “This initiative aligns with the commitment we make to our customers and team members through The Power of Sunbelt — prioritizing continuous innovation among the key values of doing business.”
Who knows? As the company finds the advantages of electric vehicles, it may start to offer electrified rentals to customers. Such things are starting to hit the market, and even for people doing industrial and municipal work, so it’s not that far into the future.
One Thing It Does Offer: Battery Storage
While I was poking around the Sunbelt website, I did notice that it is already another important piece of clean technology: on-site battery storage. From what the pictures show, it is offering custom trailers with battery packs built-in. They’re designed to work in a variety of ways:
One thing they support is acting as a backup to grid power. The power goes out, the battery kicks in, and critical operations of a business or construction site can continue uninterrupted. They appear to be programmable in some way, as they are able to take up “excess power” and deliver that later as needed. To get more details, I’d probably have to reach out to Sunbelt (which I probably will do for some followup articles, so stay tuned).
Another thing its battery trailers can do is work in conjunction with a generator. In some cases, they’re set up to work with a generator intermittently to save fuel, sort of like a hybrid car. If the generator can work at peak efficiency charging the battery, the generator doesn’t have to run at speeds where it wastes fuel. When the battery gets low, it can tell the generator to kick in again and charge it back up. This also helps minimize jobsite noise, as the generator doesn’t have to run full-time.
Sunbelt offers these storage systems for a variety of customers that I didn’t think of when I thought of the company. In addition to contractors, it also offers them to data centers, outdoor entertainment events, offices, warehouses, commercial buildings, and healthcare facilities (including hospitals).
Like other equipment, the company offers rental options, purchase and service options, and other things in between, so Sunbelt is on its way to becoming a greener business that also helps other businesses be their green best.
Looking at another blog post, it is offering a variety of battery storage options. Not only does it offer a battery trailer, but the company also offers a hybrid generator-battery trailer that minimizes generator runtime and pollution, reduces fuel consumption and maintenance, and helps a business meet greenhouse gas goals. Some systems come on trailers or ready to move with a forklift, offering a 24 kW generator with 60 kilowatt-hour storage. The blog post also mentions larger options that live in shipping containers and other things businesses often move.
Sunbelt has even done research and testing to make sure its systems actually deliver on the cost-saving and environmental promises it is making with these systems.
Another thing I see it offering is solar-powered equipment. One thing it offers is a portable light tower on a trailer that can run on battery, with both a small generator and solar panels to charge the battery. For some customers, the generator might not ever turn on, but at least they had the option in case situations changed at the jobsite or event and they needed more power during the night than the solar provided.
For people sure that they won’t need the generator, Sunbelt also offers a version without one, allowing for clean power 24/7.
You know those things that punks reprogram to give us “zombie alerts” and other funny messages? Sunbelt also offers solar-powered message boards and arrow boards for construction sites. So, whether the sign is serving useful information or something funny, it will be powered by clean, renewable energy.
Featured image by Sunbelt Rentals.
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