A Race to Become the Tesla of Delivery Trucks and Vans


A fleet operator might spend about $300,000 to own and operate a diesel truck over 20 years, but the cost of owning an electric truck may be less than half that, according to Workhorse.

Between its founding in 2007 and 2019 Workhorse delivered 365 vehicles, mostly diesel trucks retrofitted to operate on batteries. Some were used by UPS as test vehicles. Using knowledge gleaned from working with the delivery giant, Workhorse designed its C-Series to be electric from the ground up, and analysts think it is a strong contender. The company has firm orders for 1,700 vans.

In 2019, Workhorse was thrust into the national spotlight when its founder, Steve Burns, reached an agreement to buy an idled car plant in Lordstown, Ohio, from G.M. President Trump hailed the deal on Twitter before the companies made a public announcement. Mr. Burns eventually formed Lordstown Motors to buy the plant and use it to make electric pickup trucks. Workhorse owns a 10 percent stake in Lordstown and will receive royalties when it begins producing trucks.

Workhorse’s challenge now is to get its own production started. It had hoped to build 300 to 400 trucks in the current quarter, but more than a third of its 90 production workers fell ill with the coronavirus, causing production to shut down from most of November. Its supplier also had trouble producing enough battery packs. The company reported a net loss of $84 million in the third quarter, and had $80.2 million in cash as of Sept. 30.

Mr. Schrader said production had resumed, but because Workhorse hand-builds most of its vans at its factory in Union City, Ind., it can take days to assemble one truck. The company’s goal is to speed up to five a day by the end of the first quarter, and 10 a day by midyear.

Still, he said he was optimistic about his company’s chances in the crowded field of electric-van makers. While Rivian and Arrival have deeper pockets, Workhorse has already sold a bunch of vans to customers who are using them to make deliveries.

“We’re making stuff now,” he said. “From our standpoint, we think we have two- to three-year lead time. We just need to take advantage of it.”


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