Startup Thor Claims It Will Drop Hammer On Tesla Semi With Its Own Electric Truck

DEC 18 2017 BY DOMENICK YONEY 58

You, dear reader, probably already knew this, but Tesla isn’t the only outfit with skin in the electric truck game.

You’ve no doubt heard of the E-FUSO efforts of Daimler and the hydrogen-based hopes of Nikola Motors, for instance. Now, there’s a new startup working to make a space for itself in the constellation of battery-powered heavy haulers: Thor Trucks.

Leather seats embossed with the Tor Trucks logo.

A young company — it was started just last year by 25-year-olds Dakota Semler and Giordano Sordoni, and is located in one of the Semler family’s buildings — it has already built an impressive-looking demonstrator that it calls the ET-One. With its imposing-yet-aerodynamic bodywork, the class 8 rig is said to be capable of a 300-mile range, though there will be shorter range variations as well. The largest battery option is said to be one MWh, packed, reportedly, with cylindrical LG Chem cells.

Unlike other would-be truck manufactures, Thor isn’t about building vehicles from the ground up. At least not yet, anyway. Beneath the eye-grabbing bodywork of this behemoth lurks a chassis from Navistar sitting on Dana axles. The big single motor is sourced from Canada’s TM4.

With 18 employees, though looking to grow much further, what they currently lack in size they hope to make up in speed. Among their small number are professionals formerly with the likes of Faraday Future, Navistar, and BYD, whose abilities will be tested as they prepare to build more prototypes next year, leading up to completing the first customer order in 2019.

When it does arrive to the market, the ET-One is expected to wear a price tag of $150,000 for the 100-mile tractor, $250,000 for the 300-mile variant. That’s certainly less value for money than what Tesla is promising, but if this underdog is up to the challenge and can meet its own timeline, it could find customers ready to pay a premium for a product ready to hit the pavement a year or two ahead of the Tesla Semi. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, and all that.

And the the visual lovers among us, here are a bunch of screen grabs from the video and from Thor’s ET-One site:

Thor ET-One

Thor ET-One

Thor ET-One

Thor ET-One

Thor ET-One

Thor ET-One

Thor ET-One

Thor ET-One

Thor ET-ONe

Thor ET-ONe

Thor ET -One

Thor ET-ONe

Source: Bloomberg Businessweek, Trucks.com

Categories: Tesla, Trucks

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58 Comments on "Startup Thor Claims It Will Drop Hammer On Tesla Semi With Its Own Electric Truck"

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Gerhard Hauer

Why would this work?

Dav8or

Why wouldn’t it work?

floydboy

Answer a question with a question?

Hauer

Price. Specs. Aerodynamics. Capital….

They need to work more on the aerodynamics – the cab doesn’t meld very well with the trailer. It is not wide enough. Why does it have a maw? Is it an attempt to look tough / powerful?

AtlantaCourier

The grill is there to accommodate the cooling of “drive train components” according to Fox News. Where the Tesla might use vents to augment the liquid cooling tech, this thing uses a gaping hole. Leads me to believe that the whole she-bang is air-cooled with no liquid-cooling at all.

Dav8or

No kidding, they went with the “angriest truck on the road look”. Pretty cartoony. Still, it’s not all bad, they just need to tone that grill way, way down and both this truck and the Tesla truck need to put proper bumpers on them. On a truck, the bumpers are actually functional and plastic fascia material does not hold up.

I think it’s a great idea that they are demoing this with an ordinary trailer and not some custom one off trailer like Tesla is doing because this is how it will actually work in the real world. With ordinary, mass produced leased trailers.

The cab is narrow because they have a low budget and are working with an existing truck’s cab with a different covering on it. I’m sure if they ever get the financing to actually go into production, they may actually address this. However, if this is intended for short hauling locally and not long haul, aerodynamics aren’t as important because the average speed is so much slower.

Pushmi-Pullyu

“I think it’s a great idea that they are demoing this with an ordinary trailer and not some custom one off trailer like Tesla is doing…”

Is this just more Tesla hater FUD, or was there something special about the trailer that the Tesla Semi Truck was pulling in the Reveal? It looked like a standard semi trailer to me.

Based on your history of serial Tesla bashing, Dav8or, I’m guessing this is just more of your B.S.

John

“Gonna eat Tesla’s lunch..”

Blah, blah, blah, blah…

Same song, different singer. Wonder when up-and-comers are gonna figure out how cliche idle threats in Tesla’s direction sound at this point. It’s like the finals game when Michael Jordan dropped 35 and looked at the Trailblazer’s bench and shrugs.

Go out and beat Tesla. Don’t say a word, just go out and beat them. Saying you’re gonna beat them is waving the white flag, because if these upstarts REALLY thought they could, then they’d come off the bench and shut down Jordan.

Dav8or

You know, Thor never said anywhere in the video that they were out to crush, kill, or beat Tesla. It was Bloomberg news that suggested that. Watch it again and tell me where that CEO kid says he’s out beat Tesla.

It sounds like he’s more out to do what Tesla is not and that is get an electric truck to market in a timely and realistic way. However they will have to lean heavily on an existing manufacturer to do it. I imagine they will find interest from some.

John

Fair enough. But my words weren’t speaking to Thor as much as to those that have endlessly gone before with great aspirations of dethroning Tesla.

And honestly, past my observations, I’d really like to see it done- because if some company can honestly create a viable competitive alternative to Tesla, then we all stand to gain.

floydboy

Yep, that was all Bloomberg’s clickety bait.

Pushmi-Pullyu

I hardly think it’s fair to blame Thor for Bloomberg trying to gin up a “Let’s you and him fight” antagonism between Thor and Tesla.

Let us please lay the blame where it belongs — and that is with media outlets like Bloomberg trying to create a more interesting “story”; delivering “infotainment” rather than hard news.

“Just the facts, ma’am.” (Fun fact: That phrase was never actually uttered by Sgt. Joe Friday on “Dragnet”!)

John

Oh, and by the way, Tesla never compares themselves to anyone else.

I wonder why that is…

Dav8or

Neither did these guys. The media does that for them. Just like they do compare Tesla to other cars and now trucks.

Windbourne

No, tesla is not compared to others.
Others are compared to Tesla.
They are the primo vehicles in the industr.

SJC

Musk has said lots of negative comments about fuel cells, that is comparing.

G2

Because fool cells are stupid, so it’s not a comparison its a fact.

SJC

He should just keep his mouth shut.

DJ

They really need to fix that grill. Some may think it looks cool but bumping in to something at 2 MPH is gonna cause a lot of damage to the body work of the truck!

Dav8or

Yes, it seriously needs a proper bumper.

Ray

I’ve been rear ended by a semi before, going about 10 mph and it bent the frame in my minivan. This thing might have smashed my whole rear end into my backseat. This is probably not legal and will need to be fixed.

AtlantaCourier

With that snout, Hoover might sue them for patent infringement.

Kdawg

To me, the grille looks like Bugatti meets Bentley meets Semi truck.

God/Bacardi

Here’s what happened, they had this plan to “eat Tesla’s Semi lunch”, then the reveal came out and they were shocked by the lower than expected price for the specs…They decided there’s no better option than to move forward with the “eat Tesla’s semi lunch” marketing plan…And why not? Are they supposed to announce “we’re not as good as Tesla but second place isn’t a bad place to be”…

Some concern is “a chassis from Navistar sitting on Dana axles. The big single motor is sourced from Canada’s TM4.”

So you still have a mechanical driveline and the single motor power is presumably allocated to the mechanical diffs vs Tesla’s four independent motors…

Furthermore on ET’s own site:

“We started by helping fleets go electric to help them stay competitive in the world of “on-demand free shipping”.”

On demand free shipping changed a long time ago…50% of the time, when I receive weekend deliveries or on demand deliveries such as “Prime now” it’s delivered by independent contractors couriers who often drive for uber…

Sans-Ice

That is the ugliest vehicle I have ever seen bar none. – God awful – Sorry but I am a visual person and I see that cartoon of a truck and I want to run away screaming.

Another Euro point of view

First EV trucks will be bought for either short haul or, if long haul, mostly for green washing (PR) purposes I am afraid. At this point it seems no one knows for sure how much those trucks will exactly cost to operate therefor I suspect that most EV semi orders right now are done in hope to get a little share of Tesla’s coolness. At that game Thor is beaten right from the start.

HVACman

This attempt is pretty amateurish. Slapping an electric motor on a relatively-conventional drive axle, a cartoonish-cab, disastrous aero missing the most basic details that all current-generation conventional tractors have.

That said, the bottom line is that EV semi-trucks may be easier to engineer and build than passenger EVs. Tesla will have a lot of competition in the market very soon.

Tesla’s main advantage is an engineering/cost benefit by re-purposing as many mass-produced Model 3 driveline elements as possible – motors, inverters, battery modules, charge controllers.

The frame, wheels, body, gears, controls are things that Freightliner, Volvo, Kenworth, and others all have decades of semii-truck experience with massive engineering and production line capacity and can adapt to an electric drive train.

See Volvo’s Supertruck. It is more aero and lighter than Tesla’s – it gets 12+ mpg on diesel. If fitted with an electric drive train it could go 500 miles with just a 700 kWh battery pack.

https://www.volvotrucks.us/about-volvo/supertruck/

CDAVIS

HVACman said: “Tesla’s main advantage is an engineering/cost benefit by re-purposing as many mass-produced Model 3 driveline elements as possible – motors, inverters, battery modules, charge controllers.”
————-

Correct… and add to that list the re-purposing of Tesla software systems including AutoPilot.

… then add to that Tesla’s knowledge/capabilities of building out destination chargers and a supercharger network… which much of that can be applied to a Tesla Semi destination chargers and a Tesla Semi Megacharger Network.

… then add to that Tesla’s Gigafactory battery supply advantage.

I’m thinking that Tesla has created a huge advantage for itself in the commercial semi space.

HVACman

Anyone who assumes that Tesla is “inventing” new ideas for the trucking industry is assuming the trucking industry is clueless. They aren’t. Autonomy is well under development, along with platooning:
Sept. 2017 – “‘Platoons’ of Autonomous Freightliner Trucks will Drive across Oregon”. (Note that Freightliner is now owned by Daimler)

https://www.engadget.com/2017/09/25/platoons-of-autonomous-freightliner-trucks-will-drive-across-o/

I still believe Tesla’s advantage is re-purposing their mass-produced EV components at a lower cost than what others can do. Most of the fleets will probably install their own chargers at their own facilities to re-charge trucks between shifts and during loading/unloading. I don’t see a good business model for charging on-route for the truly long-haul rig.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Tesla ultimately ends up partnering with one of the existing truck manufacturers.

CDAVIS

@HVAC said: “Anyone who assumes that Tesla is “inventing” new ideas for the trucking industry is assuming the trucking industry is clueless. They aren’t. Autonomy is well under development, along with platooning“
———-

I’m not suggesting the trucking industry is clueless but EV wise (and all those things that go along with EV) Tesla is far ahead of the tranditional commercial truck makers because amongst other things Tesla is not distracted by having to maintain/transition from legacy ICE. Same as for traditional consumer ICE car makers… they are not clueless and have been working on EV programs before Tesla was formed but Tesla is now ahead of them EV wise.

CDAVIS

@HVACman said: “I wouldn’t be surprised if Tesla ultimately ends up partnering with one of the existing truck manufacturers.”
——————-

Tesla originally did some production partnering with Lotus, Toyota & Mercedes which all those deals fizzled out. It seems Tesla is clearly now on a program of vertically integrated production for its automotive products… I don’t see them changing that for Tesla Semi.

God/Bacardi

This is how diesel will survive…If everyone improves the aero including add cab and trailer skirts, tweaks the engines and coverts from duals to super single tires from the factory, Tesla’s promised cheaper per mile claim may be cut in half…

Pushmi-Pullyu

Tesla didn’t add trailer skirts, and I don’t see any large freight trucking company putting itself in the position of having to add skirts to every trailer it hauls, or even most of them. A big advantage of semi tractor-trailer rigs is that, at least in theory, any tractor can haul any trailer. If a trucking company is forced to use specialty trailers, or to add skirts and/or boat-tails to trailers hauled by its tractors, then that would at best create a logistics nightmare, and more likely simply put the company out of business.

There may be a place for a niche specialty hauler using non-standard trailers, but no large national trucking fleet is going to cripple itself that way.

But there’s no reason why Tesla’s setup for reducing the gap between cab and trailer can’t be used by diesel semi tractors. In fact, it may even be possible for an aftermarket supplier to make a kit to retrofit those to existing diesel semi tractors.

HVACman

At least what I’m seeing out here on I-5 in Nor Cal, most of the big fleet trailers already have belly fins to close off most of the below-trailer space. And most of the new tractors are pretty aero and have extensions off the sleeper back to reduce the trailer/cab gap. Low rolling-resistance tires may be pretty common.

I believe Tesla’s 500 mile range and 0.36 Cd is based on assuming the trailer also optimized with appropriate aero features, low RR wide-base tires, and the trailer/tractor gap is minimal. That can be done by adjusting the fifth wheel position. All of that shouldn’t be a big deal for the major fleet operators, which is Tesla’s current target market. Freelance owner-operators who contract-haul anything will be at a disadvantage.

Pushmi-Pullyu
“most of the big fleet trailers already have belly fins to close off most of the below-trailer space.” I’m not familiar with the term “belly fins”. Is that the same thing called “skirts” elsewhere? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trailer_skirt If those are as commonplace as you suggest, then it seems strange that the trailer Tesla used in the Semi Truck reveal lacked them. From what I see on the roads around here, those skirts are seen on only a fairly small minority of semi trailers. “And most of the new tractors are pretty aero and have extensions off the sleeper back to reduce the trailer/cab gap.” I don’t know what you mean, but whatever it is, I presume those don’t come so close to the trailer that they have to swing out of the way when the truck turns, as the moving panels on the back of Tesla’s Semi Truck do. If you’ve got facts to show I’m wrong then I’d certainly like to see them, but my impression is that Tesla has done significantly more to reduce the gap between tractor and trailer, with those moving panels, than anything seen in production semi tractors. My real concern is over just how practical those… Read more »
Kdawg

Whatever name we call them, it won’t be as interesting as what the Australians call them.

Brian

Diesel survives electric until self driving semis become legal and common place. Diesel rigs with a driver can’t compete with a computer on wheels that doesn’t tire, self refuels, needs lower maintenence and drives silently all night every night, platoons and doesn’t jackknife.

Gasbag

It looks like an angry aardvark. It even has an angry aardvark emblem on the grill.

Serial anti tesla troll thomas

At least it looks much better than the Tesla semi

Terawatt

Oh dear. This seems more pathetic than Faraway Future. I hadn’t thought it possible.

By all means, best of luck.

EVer

The idea is to replace the dirty diesel trucks on the road with clean trucks. There are about 3.8 million dirty, obsolete, diesel class 8 trucks in the U.S., so the market is large enough for many players. We all should welcome Thor and their challenge to Tesla with open arms.

Get Real

LMFAO, the troll Thomas is going with this cobbled together and cartoonish “Transformers” truck over the Tesla–shows what a pathetic a fool he is!!!

Pushmi-Pullyu

Well, good luck to this startup.

But I’m not much impressed by a conversion vehicle, even though they did a nice job of streamlining it… other than, bizarrely, leaving it with a large radiator grille!

If Thor can create their own prototype, then that will be something to truly brag about. At the moment, they’ve got a really kewl logo and a lot of hopes… and that’s about it. Real truck manufacturers have real factories.

As far as Bloomberg making the inevitable and by now tiresome comparison to Tesla… FAIL!

Dav8or

“If Thor can create their own prototype, then that will be something to truly brag about. At the moment, they’ve got a really kewl logo and a lot of hopes… and that’s about it. Real truck manufacturers have real factories.”

They did apparently create their own prototype, did you watch the video? BTW, you just described Tesla Motors circa 2010. Where exactly is Tesla’s truck factory? Do you know for a fact, or just speculation? This guy pulled off a timely working prototype on a shoestring budget in a timely fashion at AGE 25!! How old was Elon when he rolled out his roadster?

I’m personally impressed and I think he has a good approach by doing this budget minded instead of the all new robotruck army of the shiny future style. More down to earth, more pull a load at a reasonable cost. If he can use existing truck components off the shelf so to speak, that is a huge cost savings and gets the truck to market faster.

IMO *BOTH* trucks need to be real world tested for range and load capacity. Would it make you feel better if Thor bought their batteries from Tesla?

God/Bacardi

Somewhat interesting takeaways from their FAQ:

– “allowing for up to 1MWh upon customer request.” What this tells me is because they mention “up to” and “upon customer request” it’s not a standard config most likely because its weigh eats into the payload capacity and the specs (worse braking distance) may be difficult to find…So probably that 300 mile range is closer to 700-800kWh…

– “The battery can be charged from depletion to full in 90 minutes.”

– No warranty info yet…

Some Guy

There is surely a market for this vehicle if they can deliver. Daimler trucks will at least rent one for testing. Also, Detroit might buy a few for internal purposes, because this truck has one advantage (i.e. being no Tesla) for these companies that have been shown time and again that they try to block Tesla from fairly competing in every way possible (influencing legislation in Michigan, for examples).
Also Tesla embraces competition in the EV segment. At least in the beginning, Tesla will not shoot for 100% marketshare, so others will get a chance, too.

ModernMarvelFan

Great! Competition is a great thing. Bring it!

pete

This design has all the limitations of a typical disel tractor. The single motor design with a drive shaft running from front to rear is still going to torque the cab and reduce traction on one side of the axle. Ability to accelerate a load on a steep grade or slick surfaces will be much less than the electric rigs with multi motors with drive shafts paralleling or concentric with the axles. Once a driver experiences the benefits of the multi-motor design, he will not be satisfied with the single motor drive shaft and differential setup.

CDAVIS

Agreed…. also the anti-jackknifing feature that can be programmed into a multi-motor semi setup is a very big deal.

Roy LeMeur

Way Fugly!

Peter

Still ok for certain applications.
Still better then a disel under some circumstances.

Kdawg

It needs windshield wipers.

G2

Thor is really in the conversion business, and there is more than enough work for a company in that field.

Vexar

This is only a massive publicity stunt for the re-make of Maximum Overdrive. They baited Bloomberg into doing a piece on their business. The modern twist will be that this evil semi truck has rogue AI that infects electronics to control them. Amazon Echo being used for ear-splitting sonic attacks, rogue robot lawnmowers, drone copters that fall out of the sky with deadly spikes, and exploding Samsung Galaxy Tab7’s.
I won’t spoil the ending, but you can’t miss this re-make!

Steven

How about this…

First fleet to make it to 100,000 miles per vehicle gets one point.

First fleet to deliver 1000 vehicles gets one point.

First fleet with vehicles in use in 49 states gets a point.

Best two out of three wins.

Vexar

Game on. @Domenick Yoney, can you track Steven’s challenge for us?

Steven

I meant to say “Take delivery of 1000 vehicles”.