Thor Trucks is the newest electric semi startup

Are zero-emission semi trucks the new black? It certainly seems so, with all the hype (and pre-orders) surrounding Tesla’s recently unveiled electric semi and versions from Cummins and Daimler that preceded it, plus hydrogen-powered versions from Nikola Motor Co. and Toyota. Now add to the fast-crowding mix a new prototype e-rig from a Los Angeles-based startup called Thor Trucks that plans to start shipping in 2019.

Thor’s new truck is called the ET-One, and it promises a range of up to 300 miles while hauling 80,000 pounds of cargo. So it’s essentially targeting the same short-haul regional route market being eyed by Elon Musk, who revealed the Tesla semi last month.

The ET-One will go for $ 150,000 for a 100-mile range version and $ 250,000 for the 300-mile version, which has a top speed of 70 mph. By comparison, Tesla’s semi will start at an expected base of $ 150,000 for 300,000 miles of range, and $ 180,000 for a 500-mile range version, with both to be offered on lease. So, advantage Tesla right off the bat.

Like Tesla, Thor Trucks brings a design-forward approach to the decidedly unglamorous world of heavy-duty rigs, with a broad, curved metal front panel that slopes down to the grille, which features the company’s distinctive Thor’s hammer-inspired logo.

Thor has a team of just 18 employees, according to Trucks.com, so it doesn’t appear to be anywhere near mass production capability, but it plans to use established trucking parts suppliers to scale up. The site also offers some details on the ET-One’s specs, including a Navistar chassis, heavy-duty axles from Dana and a motor from supplier TM4. The company is apparently using its own battery packs but filling them with cells from LG Chem and mounting them to both sides of the chassis under side skirts; they help produce an estimated 4,700 pound-feet of torque. According to Bloomberg, the truck also has a 22-inch touchscreen on the dashboard, and the startup has hired engineers from the likes of Faraday Future, Chinese automaker BYD and Boeing.

Its CEO, entrepreneur Dakota Semler, touts the company’s DIY ethos in a blog post: “We wanted to show the world that you don’t have to be a big original equipment manufacturer, like a Ford or GM, or a tech mogul with deep pockets to start making progress in this space,” he writes. “With no outside funding, we assembled a team of experienced, gutsy, and passionate engineers and went to work researching and designing the ET-One in-house.”

Time will tell whether Thor can contend with bigger and better-funded competitors, or becomes a vaporware footnote.

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