WAKARUSA, Ind. — An all-electric commercial truck is getting a test drive in northern Indiana, where manufacturers hope to diversify an area known for its recreational vehicles and bring a much-needed boost to the economy.
Navistar plans to produce 400 of the vehicles as part of a joint venture with Modec Limited of the United Kingdom. It received a $39.2 million federal grant in August for the project, but little more had been heard about it until the vehicle started appearing on northern Indiana streets recently.
Elkhart County has been touted as a potential hub of electric and hybrid-electric vehicle manufacturing since the recession crippled the RV industry, leaving thousands of workers without jobs. Navistar and Think North America, which plans to build electric cars in Elkhart, say production is moving forward.
In August, President Barack Obama visited the Monaco RV plant that Navistar purchased and said the nation's economic recovery is creating opportunities in a place like Elkhart County.
"The battle for America's future will be fought and won in places like Elkhart and Detroit, Goshen and Pittsburgh, South Bend, Youngstown — in cities and towns across Indiana and across the Midwest and across the country that have been the backbone of America," Obama told an invitation-only crowd.
Think North America, a subsidiary of Think Global based in Norway, hopes to begin building its two-seat cars in the first quarter of 2011.
Navistar spokesman Roy Wiley says his company is nearly ready to begin production.
The distinctive-looking vehicle has generated a buzz around town. One police officer was so intrigued by the truck that he followed it back to the Monaco plant to find out what it was, said Town Manager Tom Roeder.
"We kind of want to see it, touch it and feel it," Roeder said. "Way too much talk in the last year. Now, it's time for action on everyone's part. So it's nice to see something."
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