Earlier this year, Motiv Power Systems – a San Francisco-based supplier of all-electric chassis for commercial trucks and buses – announced that it would be selling its all-electric EPIC 4 Series Dearborn chassis to Champion Bus
Michigan-based Champion Bus is integrating the electric EPIC 4 Dearborn chassis with its own Champion Challenger electric vehicle (EV). According to Motiv, this collaboration represents the first of its kind of OEM (original equipment manufacturer) integration for the North American shuttle bus market.
Motiv is a Ford eQVM-approved provider of all-electric chassis and its Electric Powered Intelligent Chassis (EPIC) represents an EV variant on the Ford E-450 conventionally engined platform (the Ford Qualified Vehicle Modifier, or QVM, programme was expanded in 2017 to add eQVM, taking in companies that develop and install electrified and hydraulic hybrid powertrains for commercial vehicles).
Challenger shuttles that run on gasoline are already in widespread use at many airports and Champion expects the electric versions to be popular too. And, says Motiv CEO Jim Castelaz, the Dearborn offers a drop-in replacement electric power version of the diesel E-450 and users of the E-450 can thus easily transition to the EV EPIC Dearborn variant.
And doing so would bring several advantages, he stresses. Electric-powered airport shuttle buses represent an improved experience for the passenger compared to their diesel alternatives, Castelaz points out, being quieter and not puffing out harmful engine emissions. They are also good news for the operator, he continues, offering high levels of reliability and low maintenance costs; in fact, while the initial cost of an EV might be high, the total cost of ownership (TCO) over its lifetime will be less than that of a diesel bus.
Kash Sethi, director of sales at Motiv, told Airside at the end of July that the first EPIC 4 delivery for Champion would take place the following month (August), with subsequent deliveries taking place as and when firm orders arise. He expects further sales in September/October; indeed he and his colleagues are expecting plenty more over the course of the ensuing months, and have been talking directly to some airports and airport bus service providers about the value of the Motiv offering.
“We have spoken to San Diego Airport, Los Angeles Airport and [Hartsfield-Jackson] Atlanta International Airport,” he confirmed. “More conversations are in the works.”
The EPIC product is a “very elegant solution for airport shuttle buses”, Castelaz declares. And, as the cost of the technology associated with EVs – especially battery power pack prices – comes down, so the electric bus alternative to conventionally powered buses becomes ever more attractive.
Also adding to the appeal are the various incentives offered by state and federal bodies in the US for operators to convert to greener technologies. There are plenty of financial incentives in states such as California and New York, says Sethi. Motiv keep track of these various initiatives and can help to make potential users more aware of yet another upside to EV operation.
“We are excited to be part of this programme with Champion,” Sethi enthuses. “With fixed routes and high fuel costs, we’ve long seen the shuttle bus market as an ideal use case for the EPIC chassis. Past deployments have borne this out and having Champion on board as an OEM marks the realisation of this vision on a much larger scale.”
“Both from an economic and carbon reduction standpoint, we have strong demand for clean energy alternatives to gasoline and diesel in the shuttle bus market,” adds David Rhode, vice president and general manager of REV, parent company of Champion. “Our integration with Motiv Power Systems helps meet this demand with the proven EPIC chassis… to deliver the performance and reliability that our customers have come to expect from Champion.”