“Our goal is 20,000 vehicles in the first year of production,” Steve Burns, CEO of Lordstown Motor Corp., told the Bobit fleet team in an interview this week. With existing preorders, “We have the whole first year spoken for.”
Burns is referring to orders for the Endurance all-electric pickup, revealed June 25 at the company’s manufacturing plant in Lordstown, Ohio.
Visits from Vice President Mike Pence and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine brought gravitas to the festivities. Upon touring the plant yesterday, “It's an exciting day for the state of Ohio,” Governor DeWine said. “We just got a good look at the future.”
The coronavirus pandemic has delayed the Endurance’s release, Burns said, but not too much. The first registration-worthy Endurances will start rolling off the assembly line in mid-2021. Before that, Lordstown is on track to build 30 beta vehicles for crash and durability tests by December.
Unlike Tesla’s Cybertruck, preorders for the Endurance are strictly commercial customers, and that’s by design. “We're starting exclusively in the commercial market,” Burns said. ServPro has put in an order for 1,200 units and Clean Fuels Ohio ordered 250.
With only fleet and commercial sales for the foreseeable future and no retail sales, there is no need for a dealer network right now, Burns said. He hinted that lease programs and partnerships with fleet management companies may be announced soon.
Organizations considering the Endurance should get in line now — orders placed today might be looking at mid-2022 for delivery, Burns said.
While Lordstown planned for 20,000 units a year, with significantly more demand the plant could be retooled for more production. When GM owned the Lordstown plant it was producing 400,000 Chevrolet Cruze models a year at its peak.
“We can't just go from zero to 400,000, but if the demand is there, we want to meet as best we can,” Burns said.
The Endurance is opening up the most important vehicle segment in the U.S. to electrification. With no track record, will the trucks perform at levels work truck customers need?
“We built (the Endurance) so it can tow and haul just as much as an internal combustion engine counterpart,” Burns said of the Endurance, which has an electric motor at each wheel and no transmission or axles.
Yet the big unknown when it comes to electric trucks is how towing and payload affect range. Burns said the estimated unladen range for the Endurance is 250 miles.
For ICE-powered pickups the EPA uses an empty truck to determine fuel economy. The same factors — weight, speed, weather, size and shape of load, and wind resistance — will greatly affect electric trucks too, Burns said.
With too many variables, the range question will only be answered with miles of various on-road usages. “Once the vehicles are out in mass, we’ll better understand how much range is lost, just like we do for cold weather’s effect on electric cars,” he said.
One range factor to consider, Burns said, is that most pickups are empty 90% of the time. “The average fleet pickup truck drives 60 to 70 miles per day,” he said. “We think that’s a good range buffer to get most jobs done.”
The $52,000 Endurance has a production head start on seven announced all-electric pickup models due within two years. At the end of that timeline, Lordstown will have to contend with the electric Ford F-150.
Burns wouldn’t speculate too much on what the world will look like for Lordstown Motors after Ford releases the electric F-150. He stressed there are too many unknowns at this point in terms of specs and performance compared to the traditional ICE-powered F-150.
“We know we'll already have a good lead with millions of miles on the road, which is important with new technology like an electric pickup truck,” he said. “It's going to be tough to catch the early leaders because those learnings quickly help (the vehicle) evolve.”
“That’s why we really want to get out there and become the leader in our lane of electric full-size work trucks.”
The development of the Endurance actually began in 2016, with the Workhorse W-15 electric pickup prototype. Burns left his post as CEO of Workhorse Group, makers of electric trucks including the C-650 electric step van, to form Lordstown Motors. Lordstown paid Workhorse $12.2 million to license its technology.
“In the modern automotive world, it's very hard to have a clear lane. We think we do, and it’s the electric full-size truck,” said Burns. “The appetite, the pent-up demand for an electric work truck is there, and we want to fulfill it.”