A collage of white battery-electric trucks is shown, with inset photo of the company's founder.

Jim Castelaz, founder of Motiv Power Systems, talks about the design process and the key advantages of the company’s new Class 4-6 truck, Argo.

Photo: Motiv Power Systems/WT Illustration

As the Advanced Clean Transportation Expo nears, Motiv Power System prepares to unveil its latest creation, the Argo. While many companies will display their latest battery-electric trucks, Motiv pulls that off with a twist, a unique cab design for the Argo.

Talk to anyone representing Motiv and they will tell you Class 4-6 battery-electric Argo was designed to accommodate everyone — tall, short, and anyone in between. The new truck was unofficially promoted in small ways at NTEA Work Truck Week in March, but the big reveal will be at ACT Expo.

“Because we built it from the ground up to be electric, we could include some features and functionality that you're not going to find on your internal combustion truck or even any truck that looks like an internal combustion truck,” explains Jim Castelaz, Motiv Power Systems founder and chief technology and revenue officer.

The first feature, which Castelaz says was an easy solution after listening to customers, is internal stairs. He says the significance is the stairs are protected from the elements.

“So this is the only medium-duty truck where the stairs to get in and out of the truck are inside the truck protected from getting covered with mud and snow, and the driver can step forward, not backward, with Argo,” he says.

That means, he adds, that drivers can both walk into the truck facing forward and also exit facing forward.

That makes the truck safer, according to Castelaz, who reports the number one source of injury for delivery drivers is getting in or out of their trucks.

“The pickup and delivery guys have had this benefit for years in step vans, but we're bringing it to the entire medium-duty industry,” says Castelaz.

With Argo being a medium-duty truck, Castelaz points out that the drivers will not exit and re-enter as many times as drivers behind the wheel of a smaller delivery truck. But, he says the way many of the truck configurations will be, some of the Motiv customers will have drivers enter and exit up to 30 or 40 stops per day.

A computer-generated image shows a view into the cab of the truck, with driver seated behind the wheel, and an interior set of stairs.

The Argo features interior stairs and easy entry and exit for drivers of the Class 4-6 truck.

Photo: Motiv Power Systems

New Structural Design for Cab

While Castelaz is excited about the exit and entry advantages and the stairs being sheltered from the weather, he is equally excited about the structural design of the cab. Hey says it is one of his favorite aspects of the cab.

“The whole cab is built with structural composites,” he explains. “So, it's much lighter weight, has much better thermal performance, but keeps you warm in the winter and cool in the summer because it's got much better insulation than a metal can.”

With a lighter-weight cab, additional payload is freed up for the Argo. That means with the low weight of the Argo it can haul more than 14,000 pounds of payload yet still stay below the 26,001 GVWR that would require the driver to have a CDL.

“There's not another EV out there that can get near this payload without requiring a commercial driver's license,” adds Castelaz.  “So we're pretty proud of that.”

It will be available in 150-mile and 200-mile ranges with what Castelaz calls a “real payload.”

Step Van Convenience in a Medium-Duty Platform

“There are a lot of fleets that don't necessarily want a step van and they need a dock height truck for loading and unloading, or they want something that they can use as a dump truck, or put a bucket truck on, and step vans don't work well for those applications. But that's exactly what Argos targeted,” says Castalez.

Those workers and drivers, the Motiv founder says, should have the entry and exit convenience of a step-van type cab.

“Just because the drivers are only getting in and out, maybe only half a dozen times a day, why not give them the same experience that these other vehicle classes provide? Now that we've got the space because it's electric, there's no engine to step around, we can provide that nice flat floor and the nice entry and exit steps,” he adds.

Advantages of the New Argo Cab Design

The new Argo line of vehicles will boast a futuristic cab that Motive says “was designed from the ground up for an electric vehicle, distinguishing it from traditional internal combustion trucks while maintaining the utility of the vehicle.”

Key design features, according to Motiv, promote:

  • Energy Efficiency: Energy optimization is everywhere in the Argo cab’s composite structure, including windshields with built-in heat to save on defrosting energy, seats heated with specially designed airflow, and a shorter bumper-to-back-of-cab distance to create more maneuverable trucks. The weight savings of composites means more payload, offsetting incremental battery weight.
  • Command Seating Position for Driver Comfort: The Argo cab features a command seating position designed according to customer experience to relieve driver fatigue and decrease work compensation-related injuries. This feature provides superior visibility and ergonomics compared to conventional cabs, includes sightlines at the four points of the vehicle, incorporates lower belt lines for better visibility, and features door access with full-size interior steps.
  • Safety: The Argo Series leverages both active and passive safety features, and provides what Motiv calls best-in-class visibility and ingress/egress for the driver, reinforcing safety at every turn.
  • Superior Thermal Performance: Built from structural composites, the Argo cab outperforms other cabs for both heating and cooling. Using less battery energy to keep the driver comfortable translates to more energy available for driving range. The advanced thermal performance also lends itself to less road noise, ultimately reducing driver fatigue.

Design Influence Came from Customer Feedback

The design of the Argo was what Castelaz called a team effort — the Motiv team working with the customers and taking time to brainstorm how to build the ground-up electric truck rather than basing an electric truck on a conventional-fueled chassis.

First, Motiv talked to customers going electric and asked if they wanted electric trucks that look like fossil-fueled trucks. At first, they said “Yes,” recalls Castalez. But, then Motiv dug deeper into the topic.

“I think a lot of their vision was ‘Electric’s going to be worse,’ but once we started brainstorming these ideas of how electric could actually be better for their drivers, better for their operations, they got pretty excited,” says Castelaz.

A large medium-duty fleet visited Motiv’s design studio to check out the features that would be on the Argo. Castelaz said that fleet’s engineers walked up and down the Argo’s steps about a 100 times, asked about tread depth, the step height of where railings would be, and more. That, according to Castelaz, demonstrated how much those engineers care about the drivers in their fleet.

“So that's what we learned — that we need to care that much about their driver experience,” he says.

Also, the Argo is designed for shorter drivers.

“Given how the world is evolving and the availability, or lack thereof, of drivers for these trucks, we wanted to make sure whether you're 6’3” or 4’11” you have great visibility,” Castalez says.

Motiv even has team members that fit that height range, and both give the Argo a thumbs up. One is a marketing person who is 4’11” and the other is an electrical engineer who stands 6’3”. The two got in and out trucks from various manufacturers and tested the fit, for both tall and short people.

“It was not a good experience across the board, trying to get in and out of these cabs is difficult. So we said we're going to make this better,” explains Castelaz.

And now, with the Argo, there is a truck coming to market that works well both for the taller electrical engineer and the shorter marketing representative, plus drivers of similar heights and anything in between.

Intended Market for the Motiv Argo

The Argo series is designed for Class 4 to Class 6 medium-duty applications including:

  • Box trucks
  • Step vans
  • Shuttle buses
  • Refrigerated vehicles
  • Vocational vehicles
  • Other specialized vehicles

The Argo Series vehicles will be on the road in late 2024. They will be manufactured in the U.S. and are eligible for the IRA tax credit and select incentives programs, according to Motiv.

About the author
Wayne Parham

Wayne Parham

Senior Editor

Wayne Parham brings more than 30 years of media experience to Work Truck's editorial team and a history of covering a variety of industries and professions. Most recently he served as senior editor at Police Magazine, also has worked as publisher of two newspapers, and was part of the team at Georgia Trend magazine for nine years.

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