Electric vehicles are nothing new. In fact, you can trace the history of the electric car way back into the 1800s. But electric vehicles are certainly having a moment now, late in 2017. They’re probably a more popular topic of discussion than they’ve ever been, thanks to some major players in transportation and technology making splashy predictions and product announcements in this space. What’s more, where EVs were once thought of as bug-shaped playthings for Silicon Valley hippies, they’re now being seriously considered as viable options in the otherwise old school and entrenched automotive industry. As someone who cares deeply about the environment and about our sustainable future, I can only say: better late than never for the world to start having this conversation.
Part of the issue, though, with so many of the plans currently being announced for the future of electric transportation (especially in the heavy-duty trucking and fleet management industries) is that while everyone wants to get in on the action, they are also kicking the can way down the road. Some are suggesting things like massive infrastructural overhauls to the transportation grid that won’t even be feasible, much less put into practice, for many years. These moonshot goals for electric transportation are not misguided—more power to the people who are getting everyone to think about how we take care of ourselves and our planet—but can’t we achieve something sooner?
When I founded Thor Trucks along with my friend and COO Giordano Sordoni, our number one goal was to build a practical EV solution that could be implementable and on the road now (or at least in the very near future). We were tired of seeing all these grand ambitions for an electric future that’s way off on the horizon. We wanted to see something done now and we knew that would take building an electric platform from the ground-up.
I’m extremely proud to announce that we succeeded. In six months’ time, after all sorts of trials and research and ideation, we can finally announce Thor Trucks’ electric heavy-duty semi-prototype to the world: the ET-One.
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. 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. This meant rearranging and retrofitting old chassis, experimenting with new battery design, and constantly iterating on our learnings. It was scrappy, it was challenging, but it was also fun. And now we have an electric semi that is on the road and is on its way to being cost-competitive with (and much simpler and more stable from an engineering perspective than) the diesel guzzlers that currently dominate the heavy-duty fleet space.
The natural question, and one I get often, is, why? Why would two guys with no engineering background want to take on such a challenge? For me, it’s simple: I grew up around the trucking industry and have been in love with cars and trucks my whole life—I also know the heavy cost that all-diesel fleets have on the environment and I’ve always felt there was a better way. I’ve been driven by this idea ever since I was 14, when I first successfully converted an old truck’s diesel engine to run on vegetable oil. The answer is simple for Giordano, too. Anyone who grew up like he did, with terrible asthma due to a pollution-riddled Los Angeles, would feel the same way. We’re all united by this idea here at Thor: there has to be a better way. And there is.
The future of electric transportation is happening now. We hope the DIY mentality we encourage and foster at Thor’s lab spreads to other teams in this space. We hope we can get right down to business in 2018. We plan to partner with players in transportation and fleet management to begin implementing EVs at every point in the supply chain. We’re in this together, and we’re ready to take the next step forward toward a sustainable future now, not in fifteen or twenty years.
We’re excited to have you along for the (electric) ride. We’re so proud to show off ET-One to the world, and we’ve got big plans for 2018. See you on the road.