Harbinger EV startup medium trucks NAIAS 2022

Harbinger EV Truck

Jack Schroder | harbinger

A new Los Angeles electric vehicle startup founded by veterans of Canoo and QuantumScape said on Wednesday it is preparing to shake up the medium-duty truck market with a turnkey electric truck platform coming next year.

The company, called Harbinger, has developed two EV platforms that it says are optimized for medium-duty trucks, such as vans. The platforms use engines and other technology developed in-house to meet the needs of a market segment where trucks are expected to be in service for up to 20 years – much longer than the average passenger car.

It’s a market segment that — so far at least — hasn’t been well served by the industry-wide move to electric vehicles, CEO John Harris said.

“The businesses at the bookends, in the light and heavy space, have historically been highly vertically integrated,” Harris told CNBC in an interview. “If we look at the medium industry, it’s completely different.”

Harris said that medium-duty trucks, which fall between light pickups and heavy semi-trucks, are generally highly specialized. Those trucks, which can range from dump trucks to vans, are usually built to order for fleets by companies called upfitters, using chassis from one of several established vehicle manufacturers.

It’s an ecosystem that hasn’t changed much in the past 50 years, Harris said. That’s why Harbinger fine-tunes its products to work within that existing medium-weight ecosystem. The company is preparing two all-electric truck chassis that will be ready for mechanics to customize to the needs of their commercial customers — at a price that, Harris said, will be comparable to existing internal combustion options.

Harbinger EV Truck

Jack Schroder | harbinger

Harbinger’s products will feature a “cabin chassis” similar to that of companies like Ford Motor, but electric. Upfitters use cab chassis, which come with a passenger compartment, to build rigid trucks, tow trucks, and other similarly sized vehicles.

Harbinger will also offer a ‘strip chassis’, without a driver’s cab, that can serve as a base for vehicles such as vans. Harris noted that, unlike existing strip chassis options, Harbinger’s does not require mechanics to work around an internal combustion engine, allowing for more cargo space and a more comfortable environment for the vehicle’s driver.

And because they are expected to last up to 20 years, both Harbinger chassis will contain the hardware and redundant systems necessary for autonomous driving. However, Harbinger has no plans to develop its own self-driving software in-house.

What is not yet clear is how the company will manufacture its chassis. Harbinger’s headquarters has tools and equipment to build prototypes and can manufacture electric motors and related parts, but it is not equipped to build a complete chassis at scale.

Harris told CNBC that Harbinger has selected a production partner and will be announcing details soon. Harbinger currently expects to make its first deliveries in late 2023 and begin volume production in 2024, he said.

Harbinger was founded in July 2021 by Harris, who worked at EV startups Faraday Future and Xos Trucks; Phillip Weicker, who serves as Chief Technology Officer of Harbinger and has co-founded QuantumScape and Canoo; and Will Eberts, chief operating officer, who worked with Harris at Faraday Future and Weicker at Canoo.

The company received early funding from Tiger Global Management and “other highly specialized investors with deep experience” in electric vehicles, Harris said.

Harbinger plans to show off its EV truck chassis at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit later this week.

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