Motiv to Supply Electric Trucks for U.S. Postal Service Test

February 05, 2019 by John O'Dell

Electric truck specialist Motiv Power Systems has landed a seven-vehicle contract with the U.S. Postal Service.

The first of the Class 4 medium-duty vans began service late last year. The remainder are to be delivered over the next few weeks, Jim Castelaz, Motiv’s founder and chief executive, told Trucks.com.

The contract is part of the Postal Service’s ongoing trial of zero-emissions vehicles as it works to slash operating costs and reduce its huge vehicle fleet’s emissions footprint.

It is a pilot project calling for a one-year test of the battery-electric step vans. If the vans live up to their promise, Motiv could be in line for additional business with the Postal Service as well as with private delivery services seeking cleaner, more efficient vehicles for their fleets.

Symbolic value

“It is just seven vehicles now, but its symbolic value is big,” IHS Markit trucking industry analyst Antti Lindstrom told Trucks.com.

“It is validation of what they are doing, and it could be a good door opener for them,” Lindstrom said.

Potential competitors Chanje Energy and Workhorse Group already have made inroads in the commercial delivery business with their all-electric step vans. Workhorse is selling Class 3 medium-duty vans to UPS, and Chanje just landed a 1,000-vehicle order with Fed Ex for its Class 5 medium-duty van.

Workhorse also is part of a team with VT Hackney, a commercial truck and van body manufacturer, bidding on building the next-generation mail delivery truck. The team is one of five competing to build up to 180,000 new mail trucks. The contract is worth up to $6.3 billion over five years. The Postal Service is in the final stages of evaluating prototypes for the truck and could award the contract later this year.

The Motiv truck would be bigger and supplement the standard mail truck fleet.

Cost-savings claims

Motiv claims its proprietary electric drive system for medium-duty vehicles can shave fuel costs by up to 85 percent and routine maintenance costs by up to 66 percent versus a gasoline or diesel truck, van or small bus.

The Foster City, Calif., company, founded in 2009, isn’t a newcomer – it has been selling its electric chassis to a variety of clients, including the AmeriPride linen and uniform service, for several years.

Collectively, medium-duty trucks, shuttle buses and vans using the company’s EPIC-branded chassis have logged more than 500,000 miles in “real world” use, Castelaz said.

Vehicles using a Motiv chassis can cost 30 percent more than conventionally powered models. But the lower operating cost, coupled with various incentives in California and several other states, can make the payback period just slightly more than two years, Castelaz said.

For the U.S. Postal Service contract, Motiv is providing seven EPIC chassis, based on the Ford E-450 chassis but equipped with electric motors, rechargeable battery packs, and sophisticated power and battery control systems. The chassis will be outfitted with van bodies by Michigan-based truck body builder Morgan Olson – another bidder, with Karsan Otomotiv of Turkey, for the mail truck contract.

70-mile range

The Motiv system for the postal vans is designed to provide at least 70 miles of range per charge.

That’s well within a mail truck’s typical daily workload, delivering parcels and packages to residential and commercial addresses.

The program was funded with a grant from the California Air Resources Board. The board’s clean-transportation programs are financed with proceeds from the state’s carbon emissions cap-and trade program.

The electric postal vans are to be deployed in the cities of Fresno and Stockton in California’s Central Valley, a region with some of the nation’s worst air pollution.

The aim is to determine whether the electric van chassis meet Postal Service goals of a per-van annual savings of $4,000-$6,000 in fuel costs and 37 metric tons in greenhouse gas emissions versus a same-size diesel van, Castelaz said.

Since 2001, the USPS has operated 30 electric two-ton vehicles on the streets of New York City. These were later joined by a pair of two-ton hybrid electric vehicles in Long Island.

Read Next: Postal Service Wrapping Up Testing of New Mail Truck Prototypes

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