Why medium-duty electric truck maker Motiv Power is keen on CanadaVehicles
Sep 28, 2023
Brian Banks

With 60 Motiv step vans already in Purolator’s fleet, and its new Argo truck in production, CEO Tim Krauskopf says Canada “is a good market for us”

Motiv Power System’s new Argo electric truck features the company’s first purpose-built EV cab. Photo: Motiv Power Systems

With 60 Motiv step vans already in Purolator’s fleet, and its new Argo truck in production, CEO Tim Krauskopf says Canada “is a good market for us”

As CEO of Motiv Power Systems, one of North America’s older medium-duty electric truck companies, Tim Krauskopf knows the value of real-world customer data and testimonials.

That makes him a big fan of the biannual Run On Less series, sponsored by the North American Council for Freight Efficiency, whose 21-day Run on Less – Electric Depot event culminates this week.

“I love what Run on Less is doing,” says Krauskopf, in an interview with Electric Autonomy. “They’re really trying to serve the fleet audience.”

Tim Krauskopf headshot
Tim Krauskopf, CEO of Motiv Power Systems. Photo: Motiv Power Systems

Krauskopf is more than a passive observer. One of this year’s 10 Run on Less fleet participants — Canada’s Purolator Inc. — is an “anchor” Motiv customer, and one of the two vehicles Purolator is running in the event is a Class 6 Motiv step van.

“I like the fact that they’re centring it on the depot,” says Krauskopf. “Because the fleet manager is huge here. We’re always working with our fleet managers, helping them get data on the performance: fuel-wise, the route performance, if they’ve got any drivers with range anxiety, how they plan.”

Strong prospects in Canada

This is Purolator’s second Run On Less. In 2021, shortly after it took delivery of its first five Motiv step vans, it entered one in that year’s event, the first for electric trucks.

Its entry this year follows its purchase of an additional 55 Motiv step vans in March. That deal was announced in conjunction with the unveiling of Purolator’s seven-year, $1-billion network electrification plan last March.

Purolator’s enthusiasm for Motiv’s electric trucks is one of two reasons Krauskopf is bullish on his San Francisco Bay area company’s prospects in Canada. The other is the unveiling in August of Argo, a new truck from Motiv featuring the company’s first purpose-built EV cab.

What makes the Argo transformational for Motiv is that it designed the cab itself from scratch and it will be making the entire vehicle.

In contrast, its existing step vans are built in the manner of most traditional medium-duty trucks — Motiv makes the EV powertrain and then it partners with one of two companies (Morgan Olson or Utilimaster) that build the rest of the truck around it.

While it works perfectly well, “the entire body is still this 1980’s step van,” Krauskopf says. “What we wanted to solve was what should an EV cab look like?”

A “driver-centric” design

The result is a “driver-centric” design that, when coupled with Motiv’s latest generation powertrain, is configurable to create any kind of Class 6 truck.

One of the highlights, Krauskopf says, is the “command seating position.”

With no need to make room for an engine or transmission, “it lets you use more of a cab-forward, cab-over even, approach, where the driver is closer to the road but also can sit up,” he explains.

“You get much better sightlines. We have a really big windshield, so there’s fewer blind spots. And it’s also short from the bumper to the back of the cab, so it’s more maneuverable for the same amount of cargo space.”

Motiv opted to build the cab out of composite material for its lightweight and better thermal properties, Krauskopf says. “It won’t lose heat as fast as a steel or aluminum body. That was important to us as well.”

Throughout the design process, Krauskopf says Motiv spent a lot of time with customers gathering their input.

“The functional specifications of the cab in the medium-duty space are not too hard to hit. But very quickly, with talking to customers, you get into talking about driver comfort, safety, daily tasks, and how they’re going to use telematics.

“And then, especially in Canada, there’s all the thermal comfort. So heated seats, heated steering wheel.”

Deliveries start in late 2024

Motiv is talking to customers about the Argo and taking orders, Krauskopf says, but deliveries won’t start until late next year.

Overall, he says the company has so far been focused most aggressively on the California market because of its size and the regulatory “aggressiveness” in requiring fleets to shift to zero-emission technologies. At the same time, “we are talking to other potential Canadian customers” that he won’t name.

One other Canadian customer he does mention is Canada Post, which last year announced a plan to convert half of its 14,000-vehicle, last-mile delivery fleet to zero emission by 2030.

“We haven’t done a big announcement, but it’s running on the street. Canada Post has got the starter vehicle to take a look at,” says Krauskopf.

He also says Motiv is going through the application process to have its vehicles certified as eligible for the federal medium- and heavy-duty zero-emission vehicle incentive (iMHZEV).

And he also hints at further, as-yet-unannounced sales to Purolator.

“It’s a rolling deal,” he says. “We’re looking at next year’s 50 or 100, beyond the 55 that are getting out in the field right now.”

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