- Founder and CTO, Motiv Power Systems.
- Building Motiv from an idea in my living room to what it has become today is my top professional highlight.
- I’m incredibly proud of the team Motiv has been able to assemble and align towards our mission of Freeing Fleets from Fossil Fuels.
What is your field of expertise?
Electric trucks and buses, and the technology that makes them go. But I’m a “sparky” (i.e. electrical engineer) by training.
Describe your journey to where you are today.
After finishing college at Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, CA, I went to Stanford University to pursue a PhD in Electrical Engineering. There, I was bit by the entrepreneurship bug and eventually took a leave of absence to start Motiv. Two experiences came together in that initial idea. The first was seeing Martin Eberhart, Tesla founder, talk about doing Antilock Brake System testing on the first Tesla, the roadster. He described how all the system complexity was in software, not hardware. Then, I did a class project looking into electric motorcycles and realized the best economic argument for going electric existed in the truck space, where the cost of fuel was the highest percentage of total lifetime cost of vehicle ownership. Putting those two ideas together, I started Motiv with a focus on electric truck software, and we’ve always developed our electric trucks with a software-first mentality, which is a bit unique in an industry that tends to focus on the “greasy bits” as “cost centers.” After Motiv’s start, it has been a journey of working with various customers and making every generation of our electric trucks and buses better than the last generation.
What does your company do, for who, and how does it fit into the bigger picture of solving global issues with clean tech?
Motiv’s mission is to free fleets from fossil fuel dependencies. We do that by making electric trucks and enabling the “backbone of urban commerce” – the medium duty vans and buses running around our cities delivering goods and moving people. Often called the “last-mile” fleets, these trucks are out there every day delivering parcels, business supplies, and food so our economy stays supplied. Motiv works with those fleet owners and managers as they take on the biggest change they have ever faced – changing over to zero-emissions by 2035, 2040 or whatever net-zero-carbon date their company chooses. We call it “freeing fleets from fossil fuels” but it requires understanding EV installation, charging, planning, training, maintenance, and how to pay for it all. We don’t rest until every one of our trucks is deployed every single day in commerce for our customers.
By moving their fleet from fossil fuel to electricity, fleets can take control of their energy future, sourcing that electricity from sunshine or from other renewable sources. Zero-emission vehicles are part of every single plan to combat climate change, with delivery trucks representing an oversized proportion of the opportunity to reduce carbon footprints. Today’s workforce is also looking for improved working conditions. Drivers experience less fatigue in an electric truck or bus, and the ability to run quietly improves safety. And we get cleaner air, quieter streets and healthier cities at the same time. Sourcing our vehicle energy through electricity allows for use of renewable sources, growing every year. There is even the potential for some larger distribution centers to completely self-power their own fleet through roof-mounted solar power, making them entirely energy-independent. Motiv can significantly contribute to a corporate net-zero carbon plan with forward-thinking management of their fleets, helping us all globally.
What do you wish you could tell the younger you — what would’ve been incredibly helpful to you ten years ago?
It seems to me that it is probably impossible to deliver a great product on the first iteration. Never underestimate the value of shipping real products to real customers. As expensive and painful as the first vehicles may be to get running, there is no substitute for the lessons learned from real world driving with real customers. Even one or two vehicles running in continuous commercial operation can provide treasure troves of insight. Also, timing is always key and usually difficult to predict — be ready for things to go slower-than-expected at one stage and faster-than-expected at another.
LinkedIn: Jim Castelaz