Sure, you could make an amazing electric vehicle from scratch like our friends over at Tesla Motors, but a company called Motiv Power Systems has figured out another way to get more EVs into the hands of more people, sooner rather than later. Motiv’s secret sauce is an all-electric powertrain that can be assembled onto three different off-the-shelf chassis using off-the-shelf batteries and motors, which eliminates a lot of fuss and bother, and this explains why the California Energy Commission has provided the company with an $8.1 million grant to ramp its powertrain into the market and rev up a new factory in Hayward.
To be honest, these are not sporty chassis. Specifically, Motiv’s “All-Electric Powertrain Upfit Package” can fit the Ford F59, the Ford E450, and the Crane Carrier cabover class 8 chassis, which covers everything from box trucks to school buses and garbage trucks. However, we just took an immersive look at the sporty side of electric vehicles, as showcased by the very first FIA Formula E racing series this year, so now it’s time to turn our attention to the workaday world of electric trucks and buses.
Motiv On The Move
Along with our sister site Gas2.org, CleanTechnica has been following Motiv since it rolled out its first electric bus in 2013. The next year, Motiv snared $7.3 million from the Magness Investment Group. The company was just rolling out its second electric school bus, and things have been popping since then.
Last September, Motiv fielded the first vehicle in a planned fleet of electric garbage trucks for Chicago, a feat that factored into a coveted Popular Science “Best of What’s New” award the following month.
Earlier this year, Motiv also paired up with Google to launch a small fleet of free electric shuttle buses in Mountain View, Google’s home base.
How’d They Do That?
Motiv’s Upfit package is an all-inclusive deal that leaves the vehicle’s prospective owner nothing to do but turn the key in the ignition. Aside from the battery pack, motor, and universal charging compatibility, the full package includes the power system for hydraulics, heating, and air conditioning.
The benefits of the electric powertrain are substantial. According to Motiv, its school buses, shuttle buses, and garbage truck have an 87% advantage over diesel vehicles, in terms of total operating costs. Then there’s the benefits of zero-emission operation, which is no small potatoes.
In an email to CleanTechnica last fall, Motiv shared some details about the company’s proprietary technology. Here’s that rundown again:
…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.
Did you catch that thing about V2G? Vehicle-to-Grid systems are on their way to becoming all the rage among vehicle fleet owners. V2G basically treats electric vehicles as mobile energy storage units, which raises all sorts of possibilities especially when paired with renewable energy.
450 “Instant” Electric Trucks (Or Electric Buses)
Motiv’s latest announcement takes the company from the demo project stage into full commercialization. The Hayward factory, which officially opens today (May 27), will turn out 480 Motiv powertrains per year.
The rest is up to the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). Motiv has designed its system to work with a number of different batteries and motors, so OEMs can “Upfit” a standard chassis on their regular diesel truck assembly lines.
For those of you keeping score at home, the $8.1 million from the California Energy Commission (CEC) comes on top of a previous CEC grant of $2.4 million. The agency also previously awarded Motiv a total of about $5.7 million to produce the Class C electric school bus and the garbage truck.
So, group hug all you California taxpayers!
Image Credit (screenshot): Courtesy of Motiv Power Systems.
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