This Startup Aims to Beat Tesla Semi to Market With Its Electric Truck

©. Thor Trucks

Thor Trucks is planning to begin production of its all-electric Class 8 semi tractor in 2019.

What seemed like a frivolous idea just a short while ago is looking more and more like a very viable future for transportation fleets, and although Tesla, as always, gets the most coverage for its heavy-duty Semi solution, there are a number of other companies building their own electric cargo haulers. Among the latest to surface in the news is the startup Thor Motors, which just announced its own offering, the ET-One, said to be available as soon as 2019.

Thor Trucks ET-One electric truck

© Thor TrucksThe Class 8 ET-One is claimed to have a hauling capacity of 80,000 pounds and a range of about 300 miles per charge, with a 90-minute charge time. It intends to deliver a 70% savings in fuel costs per mile, as well as 60% lower maintenance costs, with the intended market being short-haul and regional fleets. The price is expected to be about $150,000, which is significantly cheaper than the presumed $180,000 Tesla Semi, but they're also two completely different animals, so to speak. Even aside from the differing specs on the two models, the companies themselves are virtual opposites. Whereas Tesla has not only its vehicle production facilities up and running, as well as its own battery production pipeline in place, Thor Trucks is operating out of an LA-area warehouse, where it currently takes existing truck platforms and retrofits an electric drivetrain and battery pack into them according to the needs and specifications of customers.

According to Bloomberg, one of the founders of Thor Trucks, Dakota Semler, managed the fleet of trucks at his family's vineyard, first converting them to run on waste vegetable oil, and then turning his sights to the electrification of semis. Instead of building an entire vehicle from the ground up, Thor Trucks focuses on what it believes it can do best, which is to optimize its battery packs and electric drivetrain, as well as work on the software that helps to make the most of the capacity.

The company now has a working prototype of its ET-One, and offers fleet demos to prospective buyers, and expects to be able to produce the truck in 2019. However, there's no indication what the time to ramp up production might be for this 18-person company if some of the big fleet customers place initial orders to trial the trucks, as they have with Tesla.