Harbinger EV NAIAS 2022 medium truck launch

Harbinger EV truck

Jack Schroeder | Precursor

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

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

According to CEO John Harris, this is a market segment that, at least so far, has not been well served by the industry-wide transition to electric vehicles.

“Light and heavy duty truck companies have historically been highly vertically integrated,” Harris said in an interview with CNBC. “When we look at the medium-duty industry, it’s completely different.”

Harris said that medium-duty trucks, which sit in between light pickups and heavy semi-trucks, tend to be highly specialized. These trucks, which can range from dump trucks to delivery vans, are typically built to order for fleets by companies called upfitters, using chassis from any of several well-known vehicle manufacturers.

According to Harris, it’s an ecosystem that hasn’t changed much in the last 50 years. That’s why Harbinger is tailoring its products to work within the existing medium-duty ecosystem. The company is preparing two all-electric truck chassis that retrofitters can tailor to the needs of their commercial customers — at a cost that Harris says will be comparable to existing internal combustion engine options.

Harbinger EV truck

Jack Schroeder | Precursor

Harbinger’s products will include “chassis cabs” similar to those made by companies like Ford Motor, but electric. Installers use the cab chassis that come with the passenger compartment to assemble vans, tow trucks and other similarly sized vehicles.

Harbinger will also offer a “strip chassis” without a driver’s cab that can form the basis for vehicles such as delivery vans. Harris noted that, unlike existing strip chassis options, Harbinger will not require specialists to upgrade the internal combustion engine, which will increase cargo space and create a more comfortable environment for the driver of the vehicle.

And since they are expected to last up to 20 years, both Harbinger chassis will include the hardware and back-up systems needed for autonomous driving. Harbinger, however, has no plans to develop its own self-driving software.

What’s not clear yet is how the company plans to manufacture the chassis. Harbinger’s headquarters has tools and equipment for prototyping and can produce electric motors and related parts, but it is not equipped to produce complete chassis on a large scale.

Harris told CNBC that Harbinger has selected a manufacturing partner and will announce details soon. Harbinger currently expects to make first deliveries at the end of 2023 and begin series production in 2024, he said.

Harbinger was founded in July 2021 by Harris, who has worked at electric vehicle startups Faraday Future and Xos Trucks; Phillip Weiker, CTO at Harbinger, who has worked at QuantumScape and Canoo, where he co-founded; and Will Eberts, COO, who worked with Harris at Faraday Future and with Weiker at Canoo.

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

Harbinger plans to showcase its electric vehicle chassis at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit later this week.

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