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Electric truck and bus retrofitter moving HQ, expanding

School buses being converted by Unique Electric Solutions

School buses being converted by Unique Electric Solutions Inc., from diesel to electric.  Credit: Unique electric Solutions

A Long Island company that converts buses and delivery trucks to battery electric power is moving to a larger facility and going on a hiring spree that will soon double its headcount, executives said.

Unique Electric Solutions Inc. is moving to a 15,000-square-foot headquarters and production facility in Holbrook this month after receiving a $2.25 million funding round from publicly traded holding company Ault Global Holdings Inc.

UES, founded in 2016, will move out of its production facility in Shirley, but retain engineering offices at the Advanced Energy Research and Technology Center at Stony Brook University.

The funding round, announced in September, gives Las Vegas-based Ault — which is changing its name to BitNile Holdings, Inc. as of Dec. 13 — a 7% stake in UES that could grow to 10% if Ault exercises warrants included in the deal.

"This recent round ... has been a shot in the arm for growth," said UES chief executive Joseph Ambrosio, who said headcount will go from 10 to 20 within "a couple weeks."

The potential market for the UES conversions is vast, he said.

New York State has about 250,000 gas and diesel vehicles that drive up to 100 or 150 miles per day before they return to a location where they could be recharged, Ambrosio said.

Long Island alone has about 75,000 of such vehicles, which include school buses and delivery vehicles such as those operated by UES customer United Parcel Service.

The UES business plan calls for scaling from 10 conversions a month to 100, Ambrosio said.

The value proposition for customers varies, depending on the price of gas and other factors, but UES can convert a school bus to electric power for one-third to one-half the price of a new school bus, which can run to $400,000, according to Michael Backman, UES vice president of sales and marketing.

Further, supply-chain issues triggered by the global pandemic are delaying the delivery of new electric vehicles, making retrofitting more attractive, he said.

Even without government incentives, payback on the cost of a conversion is 36 to 48 months based on the lowered cost of operating the vehicle, Ambrosio said. "When people understand it, it's an easy sell."

Government policy initiatives also are hastening the move toward electric vehicles.

In October, the New York City Council passed a bill mandating that all school buses be electric by 2035 in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and curb the impact of climate change.

"New York City is a hotbed of activity for us," Backman said.

The company already is working with Logan Bus Co. Inc., which provides school bus transportation in parts of New York City and Long Island.

The company also has converted UPS trucks to hydrogen fuel cell power. Hydrogen fuel cells are attractive for vehicles that require longer range than can be practically achieved in an electric battery conversion, Backman said.

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