Headquartered in Foster City, California, Motiv Power Systems recently announced its 10-year anniversary working in the commercial electric vehicle industry. Electric passenger vehicles receive a great deal of attention in the press relative to commercial vehicles, but large trucks and buses are a very important part of the sustainable transportation picture. Motiv has become a leader in supplying all-electric chassis for these types of commercial vehicles.
In total, vehicles using Motiv chassis have traveled 750,000 miles — that’s electric vehicle miles, meaning no gas or diesel fuel was used. The company has partnered with BMW, Ford, Champion Bus, Transtech Bus, Winnebago, Collins Bus, and the like on commercial vehicle projects. Motiv was founded in 2009 and worked with TransTech Bus in 2013 to release the first production all-electric school bus, for example.
Motiv CEO Matt O’Leary answered some questions about the company’s accomplishments and technology for CleanTechnica.
How has Motiv helped various customers reduce fleet operating costs?
Because Motiv vehicles are 100% electric, our customers pay for electricity in lieu of gas or diesel. The cost of operating a vehicle with electricity vs. fuel is substantially lower. Additionally, our electric powertrains have far fewer moving components (belts, pulleys, pumps, etc) than traditional internal combustion powertrains. This means there are fewer parts to service and maintain, which further reduces the overall cost to operate these vehicles.
Most non-commercial EVs are in California, are most of the commercial EVs there as well?
Today, we are seeing a lot of commercial EV demand generated from California. The state is at the forefront of incentivizing commercial fleets to electrify their vehicles in order to mitigate emissions of these high usage applications. However, we are starting to see several other states follow suit, so I expect the demand to grow across the country.
How did you secure Ford’s electric Quality Vehicle Modifier (eQVM) status?
Motiv’s EPIC chassis products were the first fully electric chassis to receive Ford’s “Qualified Vehicle Modifier” status. We worked with Ford as they audited the modifications we made to their chassis and reviewed our engineering, manufacturing, and quality control processes to ensure that we met their stringent criteria. When they added the electric offshoot of the program, we were a natural fit.
How did Motiv become involved in the production of the first production model all-electric school bus in the U.S.?
Motiv had previously established a presence in the commercial EV industry with some of our early projects, including E450 based shuttle buses. King’s Canyon School District was searching for an all-electric school bus solution after a previous supplier abandoned their project due to complexity with developing a custom electric bus from top to bottom. With our approach of providing an electric version of OEM chassis, we were able to offer a better solution to the school district that was based on a Ford E450 chassis with a standard TransTech Type A bus body.
Does Motiv work more often with commercial Ford vehicles?
Because of their eQVM program and their strong presence in the commercial market, Ford has been an ideal partner for Motiv. However, our technology would be applicable to almost any chassis type and we are continually evaluating ways to expand our product offering.
What is the EPIC chassis, and why is it important?
Motiv’s Electric-Powered Intelligent Chassis (EPIC) is a fully integrated chassis that parallels traditional chassis from OEM’s. Body builders can upfit these chassis with the same bodies they install on internal combustion engine versions resulting in a fully electric vehicle for fleet customers that look and feel like the rest of the vehicles they operate. This approach allows Motiv to participate in a number of different market segments while still meeting the vehicle specifications of a variety of end customers.
What are your plans for the next 5–10 years?
Motiv is in an exciting period of growth. Just a year ago, we changed our strategy to target large fleets. Now we’re in the pilot phase with many of these fleet customers and are focused on optimizing our designs and working with strong industry partners like Detroit Chassis Plant (DCP) to enable manufacturing in higher volumes. Of course, we still keep are eye on our long-term product offering and our R&D team is focused on developing technology to help us take the next leap forward in electrification.
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