Tesla’s electric semi truck is drawing lots of attention, not to mention orders from major corporations. But now a new competitor has emerged with an all-electric big rig of its own. The Thor Trucks ET-One is the product of a small Los Angeles-area startup. It may be named after the god of thunder, but does Thor have what it takes to challenge what is arguably the biggest name in electric vehicles?
The brutish-looking ET-One doesn’t have the sleek lines of Tesla’s truck, but it should offer similar performance. Thor promises a 300-mile range and the ability to haul up to 80,000 pounds with a base price of $150,000. All of those figures match Tesla’s estimates for the base-model version of its truck. But Tesla also plans to offer a version with 500 miles of range for $180,000. Both trucks are expected to enter production in 2019.
It’s unclear if Thor Trucks will try to match Tesla’s claimed 0-to-60 mph time of 5.0 seconds (which admittedly isn’t very relevant to truckers), or whether it will include a comparable amount of bells and whistles. Tesla has said its semi truck will get many electronic driver aids that are already common in passenger cars, including autonomous emergency braking, lane keep assist, and forward collision warning, as standard equipment.
Thor Trucks also faces the same hurdles as every other startup trying to build vehicles. Tesla faces significant challenges because it’s never built a commercial truck before, but Thor Trucks hasn’t built anything before. Vehicle manufacturing is a complex and expensive undertaking that has left a number of companies broken and defeated.
Tesla and Thor Trucks aren’t the only companies looking to tackle zero-emission trucks. Cummins unveiled its own prototype electric truck earlier this year, and Daimler is already selling its Fuso eCanter electric delivery truck. Toyota is testing a hydrogen fuel-cell semi truck in California, and Nikola Motors wants to use fuel cells to power its own production semi truck.
Whether it’s batteries or fuel cells, zero-emission commercial trucks make sense. Commercial vehicles cover vastly more mileage than the average passenger car every year, and usually with much worse fuel economy. Most commercial trucks are operated by fleets, which can purchase them in batches and set up charging and fueling infrastructure at depots. It’s a much less chaotic process than enticing individual consumers to buy electric passenger cars.
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