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Navigating an EV Fleet Market Production Build with Partnerships

By Tom Ninneman Chief Operating Officer, interim President, Spartan Emergency Response

As we continue to grow our business, we not only have to keep up with automotive trends, but also the changes we see in each market our customers serve. We identified the significant need to lead the fleet market in EV production. To that end, we partnered with Motiv Power Systems.

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One of a 20-unit order of all-electric platform walk-in vans for AmeriPride Services—one of the largest uniform rental and linen supply companies in North America.

This successful project undertaken by Utilimaster, one of the go-to-market brands of Spartan Motors Inc., provided our team with a challenge. As with any customer order, the mission of our team is to deliver vehicles, technology, and service solutions that meet the needs of each client. This rigor and commitment to custom solutions, one customer at a time, is why we serve many of the largest fleets in the world. It was also the driving force behind our design and buildout of the EV walk-in van for AmeriPride.

Our Utilimaster team has worked alongside AmeriPride for more than 20 years. The familiarity and success of past product builds was a key factor in landing this new concept contract. From there, we connected with Motiv to lean on their expertise in the EV space and build a walk-in van that could incorporate its electrified chassis. This process, identified as our proprietary Work-Driven Design process at Utilimaster, involved ensuring our engineers worked hand-in-hand with Motiv and AmeriPride teams to design and build a vehicle that not only fits the electrical features required, but was designed with the driver in mind. This process emphasizes on-site fleet review and ride-along insights that inform solution-based designs.

Motiv provided the technical insights required for our team to navigate through the next step: manufacturing an all-electric vehicle with its chassis. Our outstanding production team in Bristol, IN, was excited and proud to tackle this unique project. Our primary focus was the preparation needed to ensure a successful build and to equip our team with the necessary information to work effectively with the Motiv chassis.

A key challenge we encountered was the vehicle had to remain plugged-in during production. This required power solutions well beyond our standard production flow and forced our build team to be strategic in materials flow and electric accessibility while working on the chassis.

A primary benefit that plant managers and mechanics will tell you about working with EVs is how clean the entire build and maintenance of the vehicle is. With less fumes and fewer lubricants commonly found in fossil fuel powered vehicles, one notices a significant difference in plant-floor safety and cleanliness. In addition, EV production is less harsh on the employee senses with no gas or diesel fuel smell, exhaust or idling, and a much quieter motor.

At Utilimaster, we offer our customers warranty and maintenance packages, and our research has found the maintenance operation is much more cost effective with EV products. Without the need for oil changes and motor tune-ups, the maintenance burden is significantly lower.

At Spartan and especially under the Utilimaster go-to-market brand, we strive to be a customer-focused, disruptive innovator in the alternative-fuel fleet market. Our goal is to lead the fleet industry’s transition to incorporating more advanced technologies from the automotive space into fleet delivery.

Our recent partnership announcement with Motiv that gives Utilimaster exclusive access to Motiv’s EPIC all-electric chassis in vehicle class 4 – class 6 walk-in vans. With this partnership, we will continue our work in the EV space to produce zero-emission, economical, and reliable all-electric walk-in vans for fleet customers.

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