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Top Pop Sci Tech Prize Goes To This Sky Blue EV (updated: V2G in the works, too!)

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The tubes have been buzzing over a new modded out sky blue Tesla Model S, but the folks over at Popular Science had another sky blue electric vehicle in mind when they handed out this year’s “Best of What’s New Award” in the Green Technology category. That would be the 30 ton, all-electric garbage truck delivered to Chicago in September by the company Motiv Power Systems, which sports the company’s award-winning powertrain control system.

We took note of that all-electric garbage truck earlier this year, as well as the company’s all-electric school bus, so let’s take a deeper dive into that powertrain, which Motiv markets under the apt moniker “electric Powertrain Control System (ePCS).”

Motiv Power Systems Electric truck electric vehicle

The Motiv Power Systems 30-ton all electric garbage truck (courtesy of MPS).

Award Winning System For Electric Trucks And Buses

As cited by Motiv, Popular Science editor-in-chief Cliff Ransom characterizes the award as the “magazine’s top honor.” There are 100 awardees among twelve categories and each one represents “a revolution in its field.”

Motiv also reminded us by email yesterday that the company has been ranked #19 on Silicon Valley Business Journal’s 50 of 2014’s Fastest Growing Companies. In Inc. magazine’s list of 500 fastest growing companies in 2014, Motiv scored #12 in Energy category and #241 overall.

So what is this Motive Power Systems ePCS that everybody is all excited about?

The company’s press materials are a little light on detail, but basically the system enables you to convert any truck or bus chassis to an electric vehicle using off-the-shelf battery packs and motors. You just plop in your ePCS instead of an engine/transmission combo and off you go.


No, really. The company’s pitch is that once you have a class 8 chassis, you can outfit it with an ePCS just as easily as you could a gas or diesel engine.

That’s a pretty big deal when you get past the light duty stage and venture into larger vehicles like school buses, which Motiv produces in partnership with the company Trans Tech Bus (Motiv also has a shuttle bus version going on with Ameritrans Bus).

Here’s a nifty little video about the bus:

The even bigger deal is the garbage truck, which is a collaboration between Motiv and the company Cumberland ServiceCenter.

Aside from its sheer bulk a garbage truck has all kinds of other things going on that draw power, and then there’s the issue of efficiently completing a route without having to stop for a few hours to recharge, so let’s see how Motiv gets that all going.

One Electric Truck Powertrain System To Rule Them All

Chicago’s specs for the electric garbage truck were pretty stiff. The city expected its new electric garbage trucks to be used just about anywhere, so it asked for a range of 60 miles per charge with a payload of nine tons.

In addition, the batteries had to provide enough electricity to perform the required compaction rate of 1,000 pounds per cubic yard.

Motiv’s solution was an array of ten battery packs that provide a total of 200 kilowatt-hours of energy. It’s worth noting, btw, that the battery array is designed be upgradable, so fleet owners can take advantage of new, more efficient EV battery tech as it emerges.

Courtesy of Motiv Power Systems EV garbage truck

Courtesy of Motiv Power Systems (screenshot, cropped).

Motiv’s ePCS also includes a remote real time data system. It provides constant feedback on vehicle performance via the company’s cloud database, which drivers and fleet managers can access from smart phones and tablets.

As for what really makes ePCS that’s the secret sauce until Motiv feels like letting the cat out of the bag. We’re guessing that what really impressed the folks at Pop Sci was the unique combination of software and hardware that takes virtually all of the guesswork out of adding EV tech onto a standard heavy duty chassis.

So, futurethinkers, go for it: how many municipal fleets do you see rolling over to EV tech as soon as their gasmobiles are ready to be turned out to pasture?

Let’s not forget the bottom line, either. Although petro-fuel prices are dropping now, they are bound to spike up again, and meanwhile ePCS is still competitively priced. You can also factor in the public health advantage of zero emissions for civic fleets, including school buses and garbage trucks.

Update: More Info From Motiv

In an email this morning, Motive shared some more details about ePCS and the savings opportunities that it provides. Here’s the lowdown, slightly condensed:

…Motiv’s electric Powertrain Control (ePCS) is a suite of electronic boards which uses software changes for rapidly implementing new designs with the same boards…We can use different, newer and less expensive battery packs by configuring the software to work with the new hardware.

This is similar to the PC world, where a new printer just needs a new driver. As the same boards are used in all of our electric trucks from 10,000lbs to over 60,000lbs, the cost comes down due to economies of scale and only having to test the software and not the hardware.

…Having a CPU in the controls allows us to track the health of all the components (batteries, motors, etc) for preventive maintenance and in the longer term predictive maintenance, as we gather more use data. In addition, we have all of the data needed for fleet management.

With the use of software, our charger can be flexible, handling power from 120V to 480V, 1-phase or 3-phase for faster charging without requiring expensive infrastructure in the form of fast DC charging…We will also shortly be supporting V2G (Vehicle-to-Grid) which is a potential revenue generator for fleets as utilities will pay them to access these batteries to reduce peak loads and keep grid frequency constant. V2G is very software intensive.

With multiple battery packs per vehicle, that vehicle-to-grid potential could be huge, so stay tuned.

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Written By

Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.


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