Endurance Rolls on Tech and Timing

By Jeremy Lydic & George Nelson

LORDSTOWN, Ohio – As the prototype of the Endurance all-electric pickup truck rolled onto the stage at Lordstown Motors Corp. June 25, it was clear there was more than technological innovation riding on its four wheels.

The professionally produced videos and heartfelt speeches by CEO Steve Burns and partners – punctuated by a keynote address by Vice President Mike Pence – indicated this wasn’t just another product launch for the Mahoning Valley. In a region that has seen large employers pack up their plants and eliminate thousands of jobs, the launch of the Endurance, for the Mahoning Valley at least, is a corporate redemption story.

“You are leading a comeback here in Lordstown,” Pence said. “Thanks to the resilience of this community, thanks to the innovation represented here today, once again Lordstown is going to be back big time in the “making things business.” And you’re going to make history right here at Lordstown Motors. I believe it with all my heart.”

The excitement was evident by the outpouring of support from the region’s business community and elected officials, Democrat and Republican alike.

Lordstown Motors CEO Steve Burns is questioned by reporters from numerous news organizations.

Local, regional and national news outlets picked up the story of the next evolution in automotive manufacturing in Lordstown, which 18 months ago saw the final Chevrolet Cruze roll off the production line as General Motors closed the plant.

The fact that Lordstown Motors is operating in that very facility was not lost on those who addressed the live and virtual audiences, invoking the vehicle’s name as the token character trait of the Mahoning Valley.

“The people of this Valley have endured,” Burns said. “The grit – that’s the only word I can really think of to describe how the workforce is in this part of the world. That’s why we’re here.”

Burns spoke of his dream to make the Mahoning Valley the epicenter of electric vehicles in the United States by bringing the first electric pickup to the market. He acknowledged the challenges of brand loyalty in the pickup truck market, as consumers are “buried in their Ford F-150.”

To distinguish the Endurance from typical gas-powered pickup trucks, LMC designed a 75-MPG-equivalent pickup “built for people who need tough trucks,” he said. The Endurance weighs “a little less” than a conventional pickup truck of the same size, the CEO noted.

Four in-hub electric motors located in the wheels are built tougher to withstand typical road travel, he explained. The electronics involved in each motor provide all-wheel drive, giving drivers an advantage when on construction sites compared to gas-powered trucks.

As described by the trade journal Verge, the system delivers differing amounts of torque to each wheel, which is beneficial in off-road or poor driving conditions.

“So if we’re in the mud next to a Ford F-150, we should come out first,” Burns said.

On average, gas-powered trucks get 16 to 17 miles per gallon.

“That’s just the physics of an internal combustion engine and transmission,” Burns said. “It’s stuck there for a reason. You cannot bend physics.”

The Endurance is built to travel about 250 miles between rechargings, he said. Fewer moving parts in the drivetrain make the model more efficient than a typical pickup truck, which has thousands of moving parts. And the lack of a V8 engine allows for more crush area for safety.

Charge time ranges from about 40 minutes using a fast charge station to four to eight hours at home depending on what level charger is being used, Burns noted.

“We will have the best traction of any pickup truck ever made. We will be the safest pickup truck ever made,” he promised. “We’re getting the best fuel economy of any pickup truck ever made.”

While Burns said the uniqueness of the Endurance will give it a boost in the market, reviews by trade journals covering the reveal event noted it was short on specifics. CNET reported nothing was said about how much energy the house-made battery pack stores, and details on power, towing and payload were not made available.

Electrek’s review suggests concern about the use of the hub motor, which it says has typically been used for lighter electric vehicles, such as scooters and bikes.

“The problem is that they are taking the part of the truck that takes the most beating – the wheels – and they are putting the most critical and high-tech parts in them – the motors,” the trade journal said. “Lordstown Motors says that their hub motors are really robust, but they are going to have to prove that with extensive testing, which could take a while.”

There also was skepticism about the company’s ability to beat competitors such as Rivian to market.

Then there’s the question of financing, which has already forced the company to delay the first pickups from hitting the road until summer 2021. The launch event on June 25 came just a week after GM extended to Aug. 31 its option to repurchase the Lordstown complex, in order to give LMC more time to secure investments. Initially, the option was set to expire May 30.

In December, GM provided a $40 million mortgage so LMC could purchase and retool the plant. The startup has said it needs about $450 million to retrofit the plant and begin production of the vehicle.

When asked where the company stands on its capital raise, Burns offered no numbers.“All I can say is we’re highly confident it’ll get done soon,” he said.

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-13 Ohio, is urging the Trump administration to make financial support available through the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program. But funding has been cut for these loans.

Ryan also is pushing for federal tax credits for consumers to buy electric vehicles, including the Endurance. The price of the truck, initially intended for commercial sales, starts at $52,500.

Burns is confident Lordstown Motors is hitting the market “at just the right time,” he said. With its first year of production presold, Lordstown could be “the electrification hub of the Midwest, if not the country,” he said.

“The Midwest is where cars are made, and the Midwest happens to be where most pickup trucks are sold,” he said. “We thought, why should California have all the fun? We think our people can do the same or even better.”

Pictured: “You are leading a comeback here in Lordstown,” said Vice President Mike Pence at the Endurance reveal event.