What do you get when you get together a group of West Coast tech heads with family backgrounds in trucking? A whole new electric truck company, that’s what. At least that’s what Giordano Sordoni thinks.
Sordoni is the co-founder and chief operating officer of Thor Trucks, a Los Angeles-based truck manufacturer and technology lab. He told HDT in an interview that the Thor Trucks team is focused on providing long-haul electric truck solutions that are “reasonable and profitable now.” The resulting prototype is a tough-looking regional-haul truck with an aggressive stance and styling that even old school truckers can appreciate.
But styling cues aside, Sordoni said the Thor truck – and his company’s vision – is firmly rooted in future technology and the rapid changes coming at trucking.
“The push toward more in-home delivery is where our vision was born,” Sordoni said. “Our families have a fleet background, so we understand the challenges of compliance, maintenance, fluctuating fuel prices, and other trucking issues today. And an electric truck solves a lot of those problems. You go from a vehicle with 2,000 moving parts to fewer than 20, so maintenance is cheaper. There’s no exhaust treatment or diesel particulate filter to deal with. And, if you get enough of these trucks on the road, you’ll eventually see fuel prices stabilize. So, electric trucks are actually good for fleets that run diesel, too."
The God of Thunder Comes to Trucking
The first Thor truck, dubbed the ET-One, is spec’d for regional-haul applications with daily ranges of 300 miles or less.
The company says the truck features instananeous torque starting at 0 rpm, with powertrain options ranging from 300 to 700 hp. The ET-One features a regenerative braking system and battery packs designed specifically for commercial vehicle applications, and has the highest energy density lithium-ion cylindrical cells available today, according to the company.
While Sordoni and his team think electric powertrains will eventually be feasible in long-haul applications, changing freight patterns and a new emphasis on in-home grocery deliveries are the primary factors driving his design team today.
“Right now, I think regional haul makes the most sense for us,” Sordoni said. “We’re looking specifically at predicable routes that the drivers know like the back of their hand. Fleets know exactly where trucks on these routes are at any point during the day or night. So, we’re looking at developing a vehicle and a charging network spaced in an intelligent way to support those operations. And by doing so, we’ll have a capable truck that appeals to a huge swath of the trucking industry today.”
Based on their collective fleet backgrounds, Sordoni said his design team has focused heavily on giving Thor trucks a familiar, comfortable, and productive environment, noting that many regional-haul routes rely heavily on human drivers unloading the truck, checking inventory, and reporting issues back to headquarters.
“And those types of jobs won’t be replaced by robots any time soon,” Sordoni added. “In fact, my co-workers hate going to lunch with me because I’m always chasing down a truck on a route and talking to the driver. We also make a point of inviting drivers we meet on routes back to our labs to inspect our trucks up close and give us feedback on what we’re doing. They’re pretty skeptical at first. But once they take a drive in the truck and see what our approach is, they convert pretty quickly.”
Partnering with Established Suppliers
Thor also has taken on a business model that is “a little bit different” from the one being pursued by most of his electric truck competitors, Sordoni said.
“We’re seeing a lot of OEMs out there trying to do everything themselves,” he explained. “They’re making huge claims and promises regarding dealerships, service and nationwide charging networks. Our strategy is to partner with existing companies already in the trucking ecosystem to manufacture or service our vehicles. There’s not a lot of value in us designing and manufacturing an axle, for example, when there are a lot of excellent companies out there already producing components like that, and there’s frankly not a lot of value we can add in that area.”
The next steps for Thor, according to Sordoni, will be demonstrating prototype vehicles throughout 2018 with an emphasis on getting the truck into the hands of potential customers. “We want them to run them in their daily operations and make certain they can live up to the duty cycles we’ve designed them for."