This article was originally published by FleetOwner, a partner publication of IndustryWeek.
LORDSTOWN, OHIO. General Motors’ Lordstown Assembly could spit out 400,000 Chevrolet Cruze sedans annually, and the new owner of the 6 million-square-foot plant, Lordstown Motors, projects they could make 600,000 of their battery-electric pickup trucks here. A prototype of the sleek, high-tech truck called the made its public debut on June 25, rolling up a ramp and onto the stage to reveal the latest best hope for the area to knock off its Rust Belt image and become something new and innovative.
The fleet-focused Endurance will reportedly have a 250-mile range, 600 HP, and 6,000-lb. towing capacity. An onboard power export will also be able to run power tools. The cost of the five-seater is expected to be $52,500 and the truck could start production next year, meaning it would beat out battery-electric competitors such as the Tesla Cybertruck and Nikola Badger.
Factoring in the of $7,500, the total cost of ownership could be $52,000, or $19,000 less than the Ford F-150 Lariat 4WD. This is also due to a 35% less maintenance cost and 36% less in fuel cost, comparing kWh cost to gas being $2.57 per gallon. Fast charging (level 3 DC) could be done in as little as 30 minutes, while normal charging in a home garage (Level 2-7kW AC) could take 10 hours.
To show what a big deal this startup truck’s unveiling was for one of the most critical swing states in the upcoming presidential election, out of the passenger side popped Vice President Mike Pence, former governor of neighboring Indiana.
“It’s a new beginning for Lordstown and it’s a new day for leadership in electric vehicles,” he proclaimed before going into a 15 minute or so speech to promote the efforts of his boss, President Donald Trump.
“The recovery is on,” the vice president touted, “which makes it more timely and more appropriate to be here at Lordstown Motors, a part of the great American comeback.”
The president and this particular factory have had a complicated relationship since GM ceased production in March 2019. That didn’t fit his narrative for a booming economy and bringing jobs back, but GM wanted to move away from the internal combustion engine and downsize, making the plant that’s been in operation since 1966 expendable.
Following months of speculation that an electric delivery truck manufacturer named Workhorse would buy the plant to produce some vehicles, the CEO of that company left and started up Lordstown Motors Corp., which took ownership of the assembly plant last November. Workhorse licensed some pickup truck designs that would carry over to the Endurance and has a 10% stake in the startup.
Lordstown Motors has been developing the truck for less than a year, with the 100 engineers on the project starting from scratch in many areas. Instead of a typical electric drivetrain, the Endurance has four independent in-hub motors, each with its own computer brain.
“The modern-day pickup has thousands of moving parts,” Burns explained, citing the pistons, valves and crankshaft as a few. “And every moving part is a decrease in efficiency.”
Fewer parts also increases ease of manufacturing, which is why he thinks they can eclipse GM’s production volume at the plant, which needs to go through some serious retooling. GM, which also provided a $40 million loan, left the factory intact at the behest of Lordstown Motors.
That will allow the tires to sense what they need to do while stuck on a muddy jobsite. A partnership with Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, based not far away in Akron, will also help uncover new innovations where the rubber meets the road.
“We have the best traction of any truck ever made,” Burns boasted, adding, “We will be the safest pickup truck ever made.”
He claimed that replacing the engine with more crush area provides a safety advantage, and previously told Green Car Reports the truck can reach a five-star crash rating in a software simulation.
By the end of the year, beta customers will be able to get behind the wheel and prove one of Burns’ more incredible claims, that the truck “handles like a sports car.”
The question on Burns’ mind was if fleets could believe in a new startup OEM. It seems that at least some do, as the first year of production is already pre-sold, Burns said.
“We know we got the chops to make it, but do people want it?” Burns asked.
Pence said the company has 14,000 trucks pre-sold. If true, that means the company in year one of operation will be at 2.3% of what it believes to be the potential capacity.
But on what Burns called the biggest day for a vehicle maker, when the product is shown off for the first time, he felt confident that lofty goal is in reach.
“Even before anyone saw the truck, it was clear that the demand for the Endurance was there. Most Americans know that the number one, number two and number three best-selling vehicles are pickup trucks, and even with so many cars going electric, there still isn’t an all-electric pickup truck,” Burns said. “We founded Lordstown Motors to change that and we are dedicated to that mission.”
Much work has to be done, and there’s no telling how the COVID-19 pandemic will delay things, but if this underdog comes out on top, it could lead to big things for a small city that had lost 4,500 manufacturing jobs. It’s unlikely all those jobs will return, as the Endurance requires fewer workers and leverages industrial robots for many tasks, but it’s a start.
GM also announced a partnership with LG to build a $2.3 billion battery factory across the street, leading to a potential new name for the area: Voltage Valley, which Burns sees could compete with Silicon Valley in the area of electrification.
“There's nothing wrong with California, but the Midwest is where the cars are made,” he said. “The Midwest happens to be where most pickup trucks are sold. And so we thought, ‘Why should California and all the fun?’”