Kelleigh Ash – Battle Motors
It may not be true to say that Battle Motors’ work manufacturing electric vehicles has been more than 75 years in the making.
However, Kelleigh Ash says it took acquiring Crane Carrier Co., founded in 1946, to enable Battle Motors to make the heavy truck chassis to incorporate the electric vehicle batteries the company has pioneered.
And as Ash points out, it has also taken overhauling and modernizing the assembly line process at the former Crane Carrier facility in New Philadelphia, Ohio, which has tripled production capacity.
In her role as chief technology officer, Ash has helped guide transforming the engineering team while also collaborating with the other executives to drive innovations in operating systems, improve production efficiencies and lead innovations in Battle’s battery electric vehicles.
“The industry is in a critical mass point, it has never accelerated at the rate it is now,” Ash says. “So, Battle Motors is focused on innovation—we’re in full scale-up mode.”
Have tech, need chassis
Based in Los Angeles, Battle Motors was founded by Romeo Power founder Michael Patterson, and co-founder and former InAuth Inc. Chief Strategy Officer Paul Marsolan.
After acquiring Crane Carrier, Battle Motors completed two rounds of investment that raised a total of $270 million that funded expanding the New Philadelphia plant from 135,000 square feet to 325,000 square feet. Expansion also nearly tripled the workforce to more than 450 employees.
The truck chassis now move along automated assembly lines instead of being advanced on overhead cranes while manual tasks such as bolting components in place have been eliminated. The assembly line went into full operation in September 2022. The added workforce and automation enables the company to turn out six or more trucks per day where one or two were previously produced.
Ash says Battle Motors has not just succeeded in building EVs for heavy use, such as refuse collection or beverage delivery, but has done so with astounding speed. For instance, she worked with other company teams to go from concept to a chassis prototype in four months. The company has also worked with Miami-based PositivEnergy for charging units for the batteries.
Ash supported Marsolan as he guided development of Battle Motors smart cab technology with Mobileye 8 Connect advanced driver-assistance systems and RevolutionOS, a proprietary connectivity software system.
In 2022, Cummins, the Indiana-based manufacturer of engines transmissions and transmissions for trucks, certified the use of RevolutionOS software in the first digital dash displays linked to its commercial engines.
Ash says the RevolutionOS digital dash displays provide companies and drivers with a full range of information about operations. She worked with the company’s digital engineering team as it created the user interfaces and worked with T-Mobile to link data and information, including warnings about components, to the dash as well as to fleet managers. That enables drivers and fleet managers to order replacement parts from tablets or other devices as well as communicate route changes or other information in real-time when drivers are out on the road.
It took about nine months to develop and test the software, which included testing mechanical and electrical components in extreme heat and cold as well as in heavy industrial conditions such as construction, Ash says. Her team also had to create all new diagnostic codes—think “check engine” light—to identify any problems or breakdowns in the truck’s battery or engine.
“Battle Motors was proud to be the first company to receive approval for a digital dash from Cummins,” Ash says. “And these are designed so they can be retrofitted to trucks that are using analog dash displays, too.”
Ash is helping guide the implementation of a new wave of technology in vehicles that have operated in much the same way for decades. She’s also overseeing a division that has grown from eight engineers to almost 80 since she joined the company.
She’s come a long way from learning how to fix motorcycle engines with her father when she was 7 years old.
A native of Michigan, she earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a concentration in automotive aftermarket management and a master’s degree in organizational leadership from Northwood University. In 2021, Ash earned her Ph.D. in organizational leadership with a focus in automotive engineering from Northcentral University.
Ash also geared her career toward sales in the automotive parts and components aftermarket. From February 2009 to October 2011, she was national sales manager for Prestolite Performance LLC, which is part of ACCEL Performance Group. From there, she became strategic accounts leader for retail for Bosch North America and its automotive service solutions division from October 2011 to December 2014.
In January 2015, Ash became vice president and general manager at Rolling Big Power-Pilot Automotive. She joined KW Automotive North America as director of sales, marketing and brand management in September 2019 and held the position until joining Battle Motors.
Ash was recruited to join Battle Motors by CEO Michael Patterson and says it was an easy match because “his vision is to accomplish the transformative,” she says.
“I very quickly figured I don’t belong in a box. But our industry is evolving quickly, and you can’t do the same thing repeatedly and innovate,” Ash says. “It’s great to be part of an organization that embraces that.”
View this feature in the Summer I 2023 Edition here.
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