Panasonic's connected miniature fire truck has niches to fill

Tony Markovich



Panasonic began collaborating with Tropos Motors in 2019 to create small electric vehicles with connected technology. A modular design allows for a variety of commercial uses, and for CES 2020, the partnership fruited new applications such as a miniature fire truck and a last-mile cooled delivery vehicle.

Tropos Motors is a Silicon Valley-based tech company that builds all-electric street-legal, low-speed vehicles. Its lineup of Able ST, Able XR, and Able RHV utility trucks with swappable platforms can be used as emergency, cargo and delivery, or repair/service vehicles. Tropos Founder and CEO John Bautista says the goal of linking with Panasonic is to "address the needs of businesses that depend on small commercial vehicles with a practical and efficient solution." 

Panasonic upgrades the go-karts with its OneConnect proprietary software and cloud services platform. This allows for advanced fleet monitoring that includes battery monitoring, predictive maintenance scheduling, tracking and analytics. The information is accessed through two programs called SkipGen and SPYDR. 

For CES, Panasonic brought out a connected "right-size" emergency fire truck and a last-mile refrigeration cargo truck. The fire truck, which is equipped with a Panasonic Toughbook FZ-G1 tablet that could be used to receive emergency information, would be ideal for fitting in small spaces such as parking garages. It is also small enough to drive off-road or go inside certain types of buildings. The refrigerated utility vehicle uses Vacuum Insulation Panel coolers, which do not require any energy or refrigeration to keep the insides cool. This allows energy to be devoted entirely to the vehicle's powertrain.

Panasonic calls these production concepts, and both are essentially showroom-ready.