Electric school buses set to roll

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The fascination for electric vehicles (EV) started for Motiv Founder and CEO Jim Castelaz at an early age. When he was eight he predicted his own future by drawing an electric car for a class project on what he planned to do when he grew up!

During his college years, Jim earned a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University and a Bachelor of Science in Engineering and Economics from Harvey Mudd College. After getting his Master’s degree, Jim caught a particularly virulent strain of the Silicon Valley Entrepreneurship Bug.

While on a sabbatical from his PhD studies at Stanford, Jim started an EV company with another founder, to build electric buses for China. He hired a team of engineers and started work on the electric bus design, but quickly realized the effort was a very capital intensive business. Jim and his partner shut down this company and moved on.

Still, Jim couldn’t let the problem go. He was fully convinced that this problem of oil dependence in the trucking industry was the most important problem he could try to solve. Without a clear focus on how he might solve the problem, Jim decided to figure out what the industry really needed for EVs. This was the start of Motiv Power Systems. In August 2009, Motiv was formed as a consulting company to handle many different projects for battery management systems (BMS), solar bus design, prototype electric cars, etc. It didn’t take long for Jim to discover that every new EV required engineers to redesign BMS’s, chargers and powertrain electronics. They were starting each design from scratch with huge inefficiencies. Jim knew where there was significant efficiency to be gained; he could build a compelling, paradigm shifting business.

Jim immediately started work to develop the Motiv concept of a modular, scalable power train electronics system, much like the operating system in a computer. When adding a new peripheral in a computer system, you only need to write a new driver. With Motiv’s ePCS (electric Powertrain Control System), the hardware remains the same, but new EV designs or changing components like batteries, motors or even chassis’ require only a minor software rewrite. Additionally, Jim developed a system where the EVs could also be built on standard diesel/gas truck assembly lines, opening the opportunity for EV truck manufacturing to the existing infrastructure and OEM supply chain.

The next major milestone for Motiv was in October 2010 when the company won it’s first grant for .3 million from the California Energy Commission (CEC). The grant was to design and build a prototype of the ePCS and deploy it in an all-electric shuttle bus. It also specified the use of different battery types in the same vehicle, something that had never been done before or since. This demo shuttle bus was launched at the Work Truck 2012 Show, in Indianapolis in March 2012 and was driven by numerous fleet managers and reporters in that show’s Green Truck Ride-and-Drive event.

Ultimately, the demo shuttle bus and two others were assigned to be delivered to Bauer’s Transportation of San Francisco. The fourth was slated to be a work truck with a dump bed for the City of Bakersfield. By the fall of 2012, Motiv was starting to turn heads within its industry. Inc named the company one of the GoingGreen Global 200 Ones to Watch, for being one of the most promising private greentech companies on the planet.

Then in November Motiv announced its biggest win yet. The City of Chicago contracted Motiv to build up to 20 Class 8 refuse trucks for total contract of up to 3.4 million. Earlier that fall at the High-Efficiency Truck Users Forum (HTUF), Chicago said it evaluated the option of hybrid and compressed natural gas (CNG) refuse trucks before requesting bids for the 20 EV refuse trucks. The city ultimately found that its garbage routes did not enable hybrid or CNG vehicles to be financially viable, and turned to the all-electric option to meet its needs. The city confirmed this analysis by placing a hybrid garbage truck into service.

In August 2012, Motiv received a second CEC grant for .2 million to deploy the Motiv ePCS on four more Class 4 trucks to be built on a traditional diesel truck assembly line. The CEC granted us a third .4 million in May 2013 to install a manufacturing line in San Jose, CA with the capacity to build 20 ePCS sets a month.

Today, the Motiv pipeline is steady with a wide variety of customers looking to integrate more reliable, cost-effective flexible electric trucks into their fleets. The stability and growth Motiv enjoys owes its beginning to Jim’s vision of freeing truck fleets from oil, and his third grade teacher, who gave him the assignment to draw what he wanted to be when he grew up.

Learn more here http://www.motivps.com/got-started.php

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“Electric school buses set to roll”