Electric Truck Developer Motiv Signs Deal With Detroit Chassis

February 26, 2019 by John O'Dell

Motiv Power Systems, a fast-growing startup in the electric truck business, has signed a production deal with Detroit Chassis, the builder of Ford’s F-59 glider for medium-duty commercial vehicles.

The pact means customers for electric trucks based on Motiv’s EPIC chassis no longer will have to foot the cost of dismantling an internal combustion drivetrain, Matt O’Leary, the new chief executive of the Foster City, Calif.-based company, told Trucks.com

Detroit Custom Chassis, a Michigan-based builder of rolling chassis assemblies for Ford, will turn out the fully electric Motiv glider – essentially the complete underpinnings of a truck, minus body and interior – alongside Ford’s internal combustion version at its Detroit Chassis plant.

Cost savings

The privately owned companies did not disclose financial arrangements. For Motiv, however, it eliminates the need to disassemble the F-59 gliders and the cost of shipping internal combustion gliders from Detroit Chassis to a third-party upfitter before a customer can take delivery.

“The savings will be reflected” in EPIC chassis pricing, said O’Leary, Motiv’s board chairman and a former top Ford truck executive who assumed the chief executive role just last week.

Trucks built on the Motiv chassis now run about 30 percent more than comparably equipped internal combustion models.

Such production agreements can be a huge benefit in jumpstarting growth, reducing costs – a critical element in electric truck marketing – and ensuring quality products, said John Loehr, a managing director in the automotive and industrial practice at global consulting firm AlixPartners.

On the flip side, a major production deal based on a single platform could limit future expansion if the deal involves an exclusivity agreement, Loehr told Trucks.com.

That apparently won’t be the case with Motiv and Detroit Chassis. Motiv’s Epic electric chassis is based on a pair of Ford medium-duty chassis, the F-59 and the E-450. But the company intends to work with other major commercial truck builders and isn’t limited to Detroit Chassis’ facility, O’Leary said.

Indeed, daily operating responsibilitPhoto Motivies were turned over to O’Leary so that Motiv founder and former chief executive Jim Castelaz could take on the role of chief technical officer. His focus now will be to concentrate on expanding Motiv’s efforts to provide zero-emissions solutions to trucking fleets, and fleets use chassis from a variety of manufacturers.


Motiv sees its arrangement with Detroit Chassis as “a partnership” that will enable Motiv to bring EPIC F-59 chassis production to the scale that major fleet buyers need from their suppliers, O’Leary said.

The electrified chassis will be built by Detroit Chassis employees trained by Motiv, he said. Detroit Chassis has the capacity to produce 90,000 electric and internal combustion F-59 chassis at its facility, O’Leary said, and production of EPIC chassis for Motiv already has begun.

The first of those chassis will be delivered to Motiv customers this quarter, he said, declining to provide specifics on timing or volume.

The agreement “is a big step for Motiv, and the fact that the new CEO comes from Ford will help move things forward a lot faster,” said Antti Lindstrom, trucking industry analyst with IHS Markit.

While Motiv is the major provider of electrified Ford chassis, the company isn’t alone in the medium-duty commercial electric truck segment.

Chanje Energy and Workhorse Group also have made inroads. Workhorse sells Class 3 medium-duty vans to UPS, and Chanje recently landed a 1,000-vehicle order with Fed Ex for its Class 5 medium-duty van.

Motiv has a pilot project with the U.S. Postal Service and sells electric chassis to a number of clients including uniform and linen supplier AmeriPride, and its EPIC chassis have racked up more than 500,000 miles in real-world use, Castelaz told Trucks.com.

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

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