Amidst the hustle and bustle of Transparency18, FreightWaves’ John Paul Hampstead sat down with Giordano Sordoni, COO and co-founder of Thor Trucks for a fireside chat, giving Sordoni a chance to make the case that you can be successful cold-starting a new OEM.
From in-house battery development to a partnership-oriented business mindset, there’s no doubt that Thor Trucks is changing the driving game.
The first way that Thor Trucks stands out among its competitors, according to Sordoni, is that they have “focused on batteries and building batteries that are right for the job,” taking on “battery development in-house and have built some IP around long range light weight batteries that make a lot of sense and are low cost which is really necessary in the commercial space where you can have 400, 500, 600 kilowatt hours on a Class A vehicle.”
As a smaller company, Thor Trucks has made battery and systems focus a priority. Rather than having an attitude of “the industry is completely broken, nobody knows what they’re doing, we’re going to reinvent every piece of it and take over the world,” as Sordoni put it, Thor Trucks is partnership oriented. They believe “there are folks in the industry that have been doing things really well, and some things have existed the way that they have for the last 50 years for good reason,” Sordoni noted.
“Rather than needing to own every single piece of the value chain, we’re more than happy to focus on the large challenges we have in just the batteries, and the systems, and vehicle design and development” leaving manufacturing to preexisting factories, according to Sordoni. “That way we don’t need to go raise our own billion dollars to build the world’s millionth factory when a lot of the OEMs and bodybuilders have plenty of spare capacity and they’d be more than happy to offer up to a company like us,” Sordoni said.
Thor Trucks has certainly learned a few lessons since its founding in 2016, as Sordoni went on to explain. “The inefficiencies of larger companies are surprising in some ways. When you go to large tier-1 suppliers, you think of them as leaders in the industry, it can be hard to get information, answers, help from them, in areas where it should be easy.”
Sordoni himself is motivated economically, of course, but recognizes the benefits of transitioning trucks into the realm of electric power for the myriad of other benefits. “It’s a noble enough goal in itself to do this for air quality purposes, but this really starts from the other way around. There’s great economic incentives and it’s a great business on its own, it just happens to be the right thing for the environment at the same time.”
As it stands, Thor Trucks has a small batch of trucks on the road right now that are being used for demonstration. “We’re trying to put as many miles as we can on our vehicles, do some durability testing, show the vehicles to customers, gain feedback and be able to iterate quickly, because at the end of the day, one of the few things start-ups have over older incumbents is agility. We can switch directions and change technologies if we need to.”
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