John Knudtson is the Vice President of Business Development for Motiv Power Systems. His long career in commercial vehicles includes more than 20 years with Utilimaster, a major manufacturer of delivery van bodies, where he served as Vice President of Product Development. While there, he developed relationships with many of the major U.S. delivery fleets, such as FedEx, Frito-Lay, UPS and the USPS. By gaining an understanding of their business, he was instrumental in developing innovative solutions to reduce their total cost of operation. He also worked with a major automotive OEM to initiate, plan and execute the development of a brand new, highly innovative, fuel-efficient commercial van.
John has also worked very closely with many major vehicle OEMs such as Ford, GM, Navistar, Mercedes and Isuzu on joint vehicle development projects. Many of these projects involved the development of new vehicles using alternative propulsion systems and other highly innovative systems. These included the development of a diesel-electric hybrid van with Freightliner and Eaton, a gas-electric van with Ford and Azure Dynamics, and an electric straight truck. John brings an exceptional understanding of delivery van and truck requirements to the Motiv team. He leads tasks that require technical expertise in these vehicles and the use and maintenance systems of the vehicles.
How did you first get involved in the green industry?
I came out of college as an engineer with a strong interest in the automotive industry. At the time, fuel prices were very high and there was a lot of talk about building more fuel-efficient vehicles. My first job was with Winnebago Industries, designing RVs, and one of my first assignments was to work on a team to develop a small, very fuel-efficient, front-wheel-drive motorhome using a vehicle platform supplied by Renault. I guess I was hooked from there on.
What interests you most about being green?
I guess my engineering training taught me to always work to maximize efficiency and minimize waste. Whether that is wasted fuel, wasted energy, wasted movement and effort by a driver or waste hauled to the landfill. The motor vehicle industry has come a long way in improving vehicle efficiency, but it still has a long way to go. We can still do a lot better at matching vehicle powertrains to the application, and improving the efficiency of these powertrains.
What is your biggest “green” pet peeve?
This is a tough one. I guess it is the perception that you have to make sacrifices to become more green. You have to drive slower, or sit in a cramped little vehicle, or turn your thermostat down, to conserve energy and reduce emissions. Not true. By designing something to be more energy efficient, you can actually improve overall performance and still reduce energy usage. For example: an electric bus. Zero emissions, and much quieter to ride in and be around.
What green trend is most exciting to you or your industry?
Charging electric vehicles from renewable sources. Using wind energy, solar energy or even the gas emitted from landfills to produce the electric energy to charge our electric buses and trucks. There are many landfills in the U.S. that are now capturing the gas emitted by decomposing trash and using it to power generators that create electricity. The gas emitted by a large landfill could easily provide enough energy to power all of the electric refuse trucks that are dumping there. And, it’s a ‘double dip,” because you are not emitting that gas into the atmosphere.