President and CEO, Unique Electric Solutions
At UES, picking the right spots for a ‘green’ automotive tech
Leveraging a quarter-century of electrical, mechanical, industrial and computer-science expertise, Plainview-based Unique Electric Solutions (UES) has the next 25 years squarely in its sights.
The sister company to Stony Brook-based engineering-services firm Unique Technical Services (UTS) is busily inventing new all-electric vehicles and converting traditional internal-combustion vehicles into electric hybrids – hitting the gas, ironically, on its quest to reduce carbon footprints by promoting alternative fuels.
The focus right now is on electric power. And according to Joseph Ambrosio, who doubles as the UES Preisdent/CEO and the UTS general manager, UES has been energized by a recent agreement to build 31 delivery vehicles for United Parcel Service (UPS) – with the first already months into its New York City deployment, and the second weeks into its first run through California.
“We deployed the first one in New York City over the (2018) Thanksgiving holiday, and it’s been running ever since – delivering packages, going great,” Ambrosio says. “That’s been very exciting.”
Meanwhile, in Sacramento, a new UES-designed truck has been making UPS deliveries since the beginning of May, with a little extra kick.
“It’s a fuel cell-powered vehicle, which means you’ve got the base electric part just like we’re building in New York, but with a fuel cell that acts like a range extender,” Ambrosio notes. “Now the vehicle can go 150 miles or more.”
Such advances are par for the course for Ambrosio, who earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from NYIT-Old Westbury and boasts a lengthy history in the transportation industry. A longtime member of the Society of Automotive Engineers, his résumé runs the alternative-fuel gamut, from microturbines to virtually all liquid- and gaseous-fuel systems. And this is not his first go with fuel cells, either.
All of those experiences come together at UES, which has benefitted greatly from the resources provided by both the Clean Energy Business Incubator Program (CEBIP) and the Advanced Energy Research and Technology Center (AERTC), where UTS maintains its Stony Brook office.
“CEBIP has been fantastic,” Ambrosio says. “Working with Dave and Shruti and Heidi and the entire team has been terrific at every level. They roll up their sleeves and jump into everything – marketing, fundraising with investors, even manufacturing. They leave no stone unturned.
“And there are so many tools available in the AERTC – access to equipment and software and laboratories,” he adds. “The whole ecosystem is built to advance, and we take advantage of that all the time.”
Those resources are helping Ambrosio’s teams push forward on their next big project – school buses, an ideal use for a clean-gen automotive technology that’s still a little green, in more ways than one.
“Alternative fuels are not a one-size-fits-all solution, not yet,” Ambrosio notes. “But if you fit the technology with the application, it’s a match made in heaven.”
Enter school buses, which like delivery trucks perfectly fit the criteria for an automotive technology that, at current levels, can provide copious environmental advantages over shorter distances.
“The school bus market is just as big, if not bigger, than the delivery truck market,” Ambrosio says. “The duty cycles are very well suited to electric vehicles – they are typically below 100 miles”
“And the industry is really cooking,” he adds. “Parent groups are really interested in zero emissions and quiet all-electric vehicles, and UES is being featured as a real solution, because we have the ability to both build new vehicles and convert old vehicles.
“The conversion provides an avenue for fleets to get into it faster and cheaper.”
As has been the general approach for both UTS and UES, Ambrosio et al. are following a careful expansion strategy and picking their shots. Introducing that fuel cell vehicle in Sacramento was no accident, for instance; there’s more hydrogen fuel available in California, and more support for such projects.
A recent appearance by UES at a Con Edison-sponsored electric-vehicle conference, meanwhile, resulted in two letters of intent from New York City-based private school bus operators, according to Ambrosio.
“These are great opportunities for us,” he says. “The more we can fit our technology to what the exact duty cycle will support, the better.”