When the future of vehicles is in perspective, the significance of the electric drive can never be overstated. Electric vehicles (EV) have been in existence for many decades now, but never broke into mainstream contention for a long time as the image of an EV was docile at best, compared to the muscle of gasoline or diesel engines.
But times have changed, with EVs covering a lot of ground now while creating ripples in the ecosystem - be it with the investors, consumers, or the reigning OEMs. Public incentives to the cause of electric drive is fueling innovation. Quite recently, the governor of California announced an additional $1.25 billion towards zero-emission vehicles which would go a long way in reducing the carbon footprint of the state and in making cities more environmentally sustainable.
Motiv Power Systems, a company based out of San Francisco is producing an all-electric chassis that offers the same performance and functionality as a diesel or gasoline equipped equivalent. “Motiv is in the business of freeing fleets and the truck industry from their dependence on fossil fuel by providing solutions for all-electric trucks and buses,” said Jim Castelaz, CEO, and founder at Motiv. “The nice part of our electric chassis is that the manufacturers of trucks and buses can drop it into their assembly line as a direct replacement for the gasoline chassis that they are using today.”
Castelaz explains that social forces have aided in the substantial reduction in the price of battery packs that are used in the production of electric passenger vehicles. “The volumes that they are selling is really driving down the costs of battery packs, just like what we saw with solar panels and LED light bulbs,” he said.
This inherently helps Motiv, because it is in a unique position of using these mass market passenger battery packs on commercial vehicles via its patented control technology. This essentially helps in performing battery pack management, allowing the company to place multiple passenger car batteries on a commercial vehicle while reaping the reliability and cost benefits associated with the technology.
“We also see a change in investor opinion that electric drive will dominate the future of vehicles. I think this creates an ecosystem where there is capital that we need, technology at a reasonable price, and there is demand. The year 2018 is a special time for our market,” said Castelaz.
Motiv is a market leader in the medium-duty electric segment and works with major OEMs, with Ford notably being one of them. “We are displaying a Motiv chassis in the Ford booth at The Work Truck Show in Indianapolis, as they requested one and we are happy to oblige,” said Castelaz. “We see all other electric solutions are trying to reinvent the wheel. We instead partner at work with the key chassis parts providers like Ford, where they provide the base chassis which we then electrify and sell.”
Motiv is at the forefront of the electric drive business as it makes it easy for truck and bus builders to integrate the electric chassis into their assembly line - with zero necessity for sourcing parts or fretting over installation requirements. The flawlessness of the procedure is what Castelaz believes would drive electric vehicles to mass adoption in the future.
“The early adopters are out in front of the curve, trying out this new technology and I think other fleets learn from their success. We think it is an important way to demonstrate to the fleets that electric is ready for them to get and that it saves time and money,” he said.
Castelaz insists that an electric chassis is fundamentally more valuable than the gasoline or diesel variant as it is cheaper to operate and is easier to maintain, while also being silent and causing zero pollution. Electricity prices are stabler than gas prices, and thus, it is easier to zero in on the exact costs of running an EV.
“We find that when fleets use electric trucks, everybody involved has a better experience - be it the drivers, fleet managers, or the customers. It helps them do their job better and deliver products at hours when they couldn’t deliver products before. Since the electric truck is quiet, it helps them head out early in the morning or later at night,” said Castelaz.
Motiv calls its new product line as EPIC - an acronym for Electric Powered Intelligent Chassis - named thus to signify that it is under continuous development, getting new functionalities and software updates while out on the road. In some ways, Motiv powered electric trucks are analogous to Tesla cars, as the company keeps pushing boundaries and scaling up its market presence in the medium-duty commercial segment. For now, Motiv provides drop-in replacement for commercial strip chassis like Ford F59 and Ford E450, which the company believes would address a significant part of the market segment.
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