A bright pink $15,000 electric truck hit Washington's streets Monday looking like an old fashioned milk truck and acting like a prima donna.
Oblivious to the dreams pinned on its success, the truck moves along city streets with the whine of an electronic toy. On the road for Call A Messenger, a message and delivery service, the pinkmobile began its run with a bad case of premiere jitters.
"The first day that I took it, we had to push it back," recalls Reginald Beaner, a courier charged with coming to an understanding with the new truck.
Human error was to blame, however. Beaner had carefully recorded the miles he drove on his rounds that day, but forgot to keep track of mileage put on the truck as it was paraded before journalists. So it ran down like an overworked top.
But he is not deterred.
"I think it's fine. It just doesn't go far enough," he said, referring to the truck's need for frequent recharging.
The second day on its schedule, the pink truck was forced to remain in the wings. Human error again; its $4,000 battery had been improperly recharged. Normally the battery takes about eight hours to recharge for a day's work.
Its owners have high hopes.
"Because of the gas problem in the country today we're experimenting with electric vehicles and other modes (of transportation)," said Lewis Levy, president of Air Couriers International, Call A Messenger's parent company. "We have to be on the road, ready to go."
It is Air Courier's first electric vehicle in a national fleet of about 1,500 vehicles, and if it makes a successful debut, Levy said, "Call A Messenger will put on more."
Despite the truck's initial bugs, Levy is optimistic.
"It's not very difficult to service," he said, with no gas motor or complex transmission system. It has only two gears for city driving and two for highway driving, needs no tuneups, oil changes or spark plugs, and is built on an aluminum body that is supposed to last 25 years, along with all the mechanical parts and the interior.
Although the truck is supposed to get up to 70 miles per charge, Beaner said so far "we're only getting 40 out of it." A dashboard dial that looks like a gas gauge lets him know when the battery is running down.
The company plans to buy a replacement battery, so that one battery can be plugged into its recharger while the other carries the truck on its round of short hops downtown. Changing batteries is supposed to take only five minutes.
Eventually, an additional battery recharger will be placed at the downtown office on L Street NW.But there are potential bugs in that, too. The battery is cumbersome and the office is on the third floor.
"It's going to be one heck of an extension cord," a spokesman laughed.