Hybrids & Electrics

Another Auto Maker Is Throwing Its Hat in the Electric Truck Ring

It’s time to add another manufacturer to the growing list of electric truck makers. In contrast to the splashy promises from Tesla, Ford, and Rivian, Lordstown Motors Corp. is starting small with big aspirations. The startup plans to build its electric truck, the Endurance, at an assembly plant it bought from General Motors in Lordstown, Ohio.

Lordstown Motors CEO Steve Burns spoke with the Warren, Ohio news outlet The Vindicator about the manufacturer’s plans. He said the electric truck company will soon begin retooling GM’s 6.2 million-square-foot facility to fit its production needs.

Until March 2019, GM had produced Chevrolet models like the Cruze, Cobalt, Cavalier, Impala, and Vega as well as some Pontiac models at the plant. The Lordstown Complex was an active assembly site for GM vehicles since 1966. The plant’s closure resulted in a layoff of over 1,400 workers.

Lordstown’s electric truck

According to Burns, the full-size Endurance will use hub motors in each wheel instead of driveshafts and other parts. The wheel hub motor design differs from the more conventional design of using one or two motors to drive the truck’s axles. This reduces the truck’s weight and battery size.

Lighter vehicle weight can also reflect in lower manufacturing costs. All of these factors fall in favor of the Endurance. Burns did not, however, mention any specs related to the truck’s range or performance.

Lordstown’s CEO claims it will produce the U.S.’s first electric truck and the startup can roll it out by late 2020. This is an ambitious goal as Tesla is unveiling its Cybertruck this week. The maverick EV maker is looking at a late 2020 production date and delivery of its truck by early 2021.

Rival Rivian also promises a late 2020 release for its R1T. The Michigan-based startup Bollinger won’t release its electric truck until 2021.

But there’s an important difference between Lordstown’s targeted buyers and other competitors. Lordstown has set its sights for the commercial fleet market. Tesla, Rivian, and the others are aiming mostly for individual buyers.

Burns indicated that marketing the truck to commercial fleet buyers who want an alternative, along with having the ability to adjust rapidly to new technology, will give Lordstown a competitive advantage over other electric truck makers.

What it will take to launch the Endurance next year

Lordstown Motors is working on two parallel objectives: moving the Endurance through regulatory requirements and crash testing as well as reconfiguring the former GM plant for electric truck production.

The work on updating the factory focuses on initially scaling it for smaller production numbers, allowing the company to grow into the facility. GM reportedly sold this plant to Lordstown for $20 million.

Burns indicated that he envisions the plant becoming an EV production hub, with component makers like battery cell manufacturers nearby. He told News5Cleveland that it’s unusual to be able to buy a fully stocked plant.

Another advantage is the experienced workforce that GM previously employed. Lordstown plans to hire 400 workers initially and hopes to have 5,000 workers onboard long term. 

But Lordstown is also trying to drum up $300 million from investors. A current partner is the Workhorse Group Inc. (Burns was a founder). The Cincinnati-based electric delivery truck manufacturer agreed to let Lordstown use its technology and transfer its 6,000 existing preorders for its W-15 prototype in exchange for a 10% stake.

For the next three years, Workhorse would receive 1% of the gross sale of each truck Lordstown Motors sells through the first 200,000 units. If met, the preorders represent about $300 million for Lordstown Motors, which was hit with an $11.5 million net operating loss in Q3 this year. No news about the Endurance’s pricing has been released, however.

A U.S. flag flies near the Lordstown, Ohio, Chevrolet factory
A flag flies near the Lordstown, Ohio factory | ELEONORE SENS/AFP via Getty Images

For its part, GM is trying to stay in the EV game. It’s rumored to be working on its own electric truck at its Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly, with a target rollout date of late 2021 or early 2022. And the carmaker intends to stay near its former Lordstown site. It plans to construct a nearby EV battery cell factory that a joint venture will operate.

Burns has said that both his company’s and the truck’s names are an acknowledgment of the people of Lordstown. If his bold electric truck strategy succeeds, it will put Lordstown and its residents not only on the map but also back in business.