Smith Electric Vehicles Scoops Up $22M More from Feds

Smith Electric Vehicles has already won a $10 million grant from the Department of Energy. Now the maker of electric commercial trucks is getting $22 million more under the same program.

The DOE funds are meant to support the company’s “future vehicle development costs,” according to Smith, and provide a subsidy for Smith customers who agree to participate in a commercial electric vehicle demonstration program. The demo program will collect “data on vehicles placed in service in different regions of the country and in a broad range of applications.”

Smith has hit some key milestones (notably, starting production in Kansas City), but also changed course since the DOE first awarded the initial $10 million last summer. In October, less than a year after Ford and Smith announced plans to collaborate on an electric version of the Detroit automaker’s Transit Connect van for the U.S. market, the two companies called it quits on the deal.

While the companies “mutually agreed” to part ways, Smith explained at the time that it would be better off putting its resources into its production-ready Smith Newton truck — in order to keep pace with what it called “swift growth in demand” and to gain market traction more quickly. By contrast, Smith said it was “concerned” that the market for electric car-derived vans like the Connect would become increasingly competitive.

The tripling of Smith’s award today in a highly competitive grant program marks a vote of confidence in how the company is progressing.  But Smith does not plan to rely on subsidies for long. CEO Bryan Hansel told us in an interview this month that the company is on track to become, “a sustainable business without subsidies” by January 2011.

Smith has its eye on an initial public offering that it hopes will help fund a major expansion, and Hansel said that the company’s IPO should be expected “sooner rather than later.”