Startup 'Thor Trucks' Hopes To Hit Electric Semi Market Before Tesla

A new startup in California, Thor Trucks, is preparing to create an electric semi that targets the short-haul market. The ET-One will feature a range of 300 miles while hauling up to 80,000 pounds, and it will focus on customization features.


Nov. 19 2020, Updated 9:40 p.m. ET

After Tesla’s long-awaited debut of their all-electric semi, it was expected that other companies would be serving up their own version of Class 8 trucks. Toyota has been busy testing out their hydrogen fuel-cell trucks. A brand new startup out of Los Angeles, Thor Trucks, has also announced their initial semi, the ET-One, and it could be out prior to Tesla’s launch.

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The new offering sounds comparable with the lower-end Tesla Semi. It provides a range of 300 miles on each charge while carrying a full load of 80,000 pounds. It would take approximately 90 minutes to fully power the vehicle from depletion. Thor Trucks’ target market is short-haul distances, meaning one full charge per day would be enough to meet the average distances of 250 miles.

Advantages of using the ET-One over traditional diesel trucks is being 60 percent cheaper in maintenance costs and 70 percent cheaper in fuel cost per mile. The company is striving to bring down the heavy amount of exhaust that diesel trucks are responsible for, which is nearly one-fifth of all on-road vehicle emissions.

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Considering there’s a team of just 18 people that work at Thor Trucks, there will be a different production method than Tesla when manufacturing the ET-One in 2019. They’ll be focusing on optimizing battery packs with their own software and retrofitting existing trucks with an electric drivetrain. Preorders aren’t offered yet, but they are expected at some point before 2019. Range on cost is between $150,000 to $250,000, depending on what features are added.

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Thor Trucks already has a working prototype of the ET-One and they will be offering fleet demos to those interested in purchasing. Founder and CEO Dakota Semler has driven the prototype around Hollywood, which features a large 22-inch touchscreen on the dashboard. He’s grabbed a number of high-level electrical engineers to help him out, but Semler has a lot of experience working on alternative trucks growing up.

Bloomberg detailed Semler’s history of converting diesel trucks to run on vegetable oil waste when he was a teenager at the Malibu Wines vineyard. After running safari tours with the converted vehicles, he turned to electrification just a year ago by retrofitting a diesel semi. The company works in a large warehouse not far from where the prototype was built.

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Instead of being a mass manufacturer, it’s more realistic to think of Thor Trucks as a customization service. Semler believes their success will come in working with customers closely and delivering a fleet that fits their exact needs. Instead of trying to beat a company like Tesla, he expects there to be enough room for a variety of options.

“There’s a tendency to simplify the truck market and think there will be one winner here,” Semler told Bloomberg. “The reality is that there are all kinds of work trucks, and we’re designing a type of transportation lab to cater to all of these.”

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