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Chicago awards up to $13.4M contract to Motiv Power Systems for 20 Class 8 electric refuse trucks

The City of Chicago has awarded San Francisco Bay Area startup Motiv Power Systems an up to $13.4-million contract for 20 Class 8 electric refuse trucks. The 52,000-lb trucks, powered by a 200 kWh battery pack, will have a range of up to 60 miles.

The Motiv electric Powertrain Control System (ePCS) uses off-the-shelf batteries and motors, which can be mixed and matched to fit the size of the electric truck application. Motiv says that its ePCS can handle electric trucks from medium-duty to Class 8 heavy-duty, weighing 15,000 lbs-52,000 lbs. Motiv suggests the ePCS design approach cuts operating costs by 50% over an eight-year period. With a medium-duty pilot shuttle, Motiv reduced operating cost from 80 cents per mile ($0.80/mi) to 10 cents per mile ($0.10/mi). (Earlier post.)

In total, the City of Chicago has 600 garbage trucks in operation. Recently at the 2012 High-Efficiency Truck Users Forum, 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.

Motiv’s battery pack design typically consists of multiple battery modules. Each module has its own unique Battery Management System (BMS), and is typically in the range of 1 to 20KWh, depending on application. Motiv combines modules to build battery systems, with a system-level controller managing module interaction.

Motiv says that this design allows for the independent management of each module and for coordination of modules across the whole battery system. Since each module is decoupled, problems or failures in one module will not affect other modules.

Motiv’s battery system design is simulation-driven, with a focus on both charge and thermal management. Motiv uses standard ICs to measure voltages of every cell. Its proprietary software combines the present voltage measurement with past voltage measurements and coulomb-counting circuitry and battery cell models to arrive at an accurate measure of cell state of charge. Using cell state of charge, it then actively balances the cells to ensure weaker cells do not bring a module down.

Motiv custom-designs a heat exchanger based on cell, module and system simulation to reduce the thermal gradient across a module, and across the complete system.

Motiv has been validating its ePCS since March 2012 with an all-electric pilot bus. Funded by a grant from the California Energy Commission, the 20 passenger bus contains 5 battery packs (125 kWh) which can provide a range of more than 120 miles on a single charge.

The Motiv EV refuse trucks planned for Chicago will use the same ePCS system as the pilot bus, but include a larger motor, and 10 battery packs. The EV garbage trucks will also use an electric motor to drive the hydraulics system.

Scaling up from the medium-duty pilot bus to the Class 8 garbage truck is really just a matter of switching out components and re-packaging it onto the new chassis. We’ve designed the whole system to be compatible with any off-the-shelf motors and batteries, which are brought to a uniform operating standard by our software. If Chicago ever wants newer batteries, the old ones can be easily swapped out.

—Jim Castelaz, CEO of Motiv

The Motiv ePCS is designed to be assembled by the existing diesel chassis infrastructure already established throughout the world. Motiv will work with its partner, Detroit Chassis, to install the ePCS on to a standard refuse chassis. Loadmaster will provide the truck bodies.



$670,000 per electric refuse truck X ~$.70/mile reduced operating cost = 469,000 mile cost break-even.

469,000 mi./60 mile range = ~7,800 full battery recharge cycles, if final trade-in/salvage value ~0.

Good luck..


It may be as low as 350K miles before payback, you'll also have to deduct the price of the truck it is replacing... 100-200K
Ill have to side with you though, makes little to know sense to have it where it takes that long to break even.
even if they were to run 60 miles a day it could take 21-14 years... even if it were to run 90 a day your still looking at 14-10 years.
I personally think that those figures are not viable, unless they expect a 20-25 year life out of the truck... or $9+ diesel

those poor streets though... cant imagine just how much those trucks weigh.


It could be for low noise more than savings.


According to all calculations it does not make any economical sense, but if taxpayers money are used - that is fine. Somebody is slated to making good profit, though.


Geez guys, we don't have enough facts to know and you sure can't start screaming about tax payer money until you know the pay back period.

I don't know the price of refuse trucks, but I know that some city buses can cost over $200k. I also found that the average refuse truck travels 25,000 miles per year and uses 5,000 gallons of diesel.

So that means they spend about $200k a year on fuel. Assuming the electricity they would need costs about $50K a year, then that is another $150K/yr in savings.

They also have lower maintenance overall so it would be easy to see a 3-4 year pay back.


I'm sure taxpayer money is heavily involved


I think you all ignore the benefits of not having a diesel engine spewing toxic and carcinogenic particulate matter into the neighborhoods. It was also mentioned above that they are lower noise. Now, I know it doesn't matter to most people just what life in the Chicago neighborhoods is like, but the people that live there might like less noise and toxic stench.

Since the contract was from the City of Chicago, it is Chicago tax money being used. If you don't live in the City of Chicago, it's none of your business where the money came from.


As with some previous posts - agree that the noise might also be a factor favoring this approach. It probably allows <60 dbA (typical diesels are over 90 dBA) which allows late night pickups reducing congestion on the PIEK in EU for late night deliveries.
But serious concerns on battery life.



Who cares if tax payer money is involved IF it has a lower ROI? The whole point is that we don't know what the ROI is yet.
Also, as Brotherkenny says, if you don't live in's really none of your business. Their money, their decision.

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