Thor is one of the most powerful gods of Norse mythology. Known for his prodigious strength and fierce loyalty, the website “Norse Mythology For Smart People” describes him as “the brawny thunder god, the archetype of a loyal and honorable warrior, the ideal toward which the average human warrior aspired.” He later became the archetype for the Marvel Comics superhero of the same name.
Thor is also the name of a small company in southern California that is building a Class 8 all-electric truck it says will start production before the Tesla Semi does. Designed for short- to medium-haul duties of up to 300 miles, the Thor ET1 is the brainchild of 25 year old Dakota Semler. He and his co-founder Giordano Sordoni say they don’t want to disrupt the entire trucking industry the way Tesla wants to do. Almost one million commercial trucks are sold in the US every year. All Semler and his 17 employees want is to get a little piece of that market.
At the present time, Thor doesn’t actually make any trucks from the ground up. What they do is rip the diesel engines out of existing trucks and replace them with electric motors. Semler and his team, which includes people who previously worked for Faraday Future, Boeing, and BYD, custom design the batteries and control systems for each vehicle to meet the specifications of clients. “There’s a tendency to simplify the truck market and think there will be one winner here,” Semler tells 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.”
For much more context on this market, see: “Electric Semi Trucks & Heavy-Duty Trucks — Available Models & Planned Models.”
Mike Britt spent 30 years at UPS handling the maintenance of its trucking fleets and working on alternative-fuel vehicles. He tells Bloomberg Semler’s approach just might work. A small team working quickly stands a decent chance of carving out a niche market because, “The big trucking companies just aren’t quite as nimble. UPS used many small startups to build 200 to 2,000 alternative-fuel vehicles. It’s when you start to ramp above those numbers, and need real production expertise and facilities, that things could get trickier for Thor.”
Semler became interested in electric trucks while running a fleet of delivery vehicles for his family’s vineyard. That made him aware of the increasingly rigorous pollution standards for diesel trucks being imposed by the state of California. An inveterate tinkerer, he started teaching himself how to substitute electric motors for diesel engines. Thor Trucks evolved from there.
The ET1 is beautiful in a brutal sort of way. Unlike the svelte Tesla Semi, it features an enormous grille that sports a large logo inspired by the Norse god of thunder himself. It will cost $150,000 for the base model, which comes with a 22″ center touchscreen. Like all electric trucks, lower maintenance and fuel costs are touted as the main reasons to buy one. The lack of tailpipe emissions is just an extra bonus.
Production is scheduled to begin in 2019. The Tesla Semi? 2019 is also the target, but Thor intends to get there quicker. Being first to market may be the advantage Thor Trucks needs to break into the heavy truck market and establish itself as a player in the electric truck world Musk and his minions have created. However, there’s certainly growing competition.
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