Vehicle Technology

Electric Vehicles, the Environment and the Evolution of Mobility

An Interview with Edward T. Hightower, President of Lordstown Motors

If you attended CES this year, you probably noticed an increased presence of electric vehicles (EVs). Companies such as Hyundai Motor, TuSimple and Stellantis featured new EVs and cutting-edge technologies on the show floor.

Mary Barra, Chair and CEO of General Motors, gave a keynote address highlighting an all-electric future. Interest in EVs has grown significantly over the past few years with businesses and consumers alike. These sentiments present an enormous opportunity for the automotive industry as society looks toward a greener future.

CTA spoke with Edward T. Hightower, President of CTA member company Lordstown Motors, to gain a deeper perspective. This EV innovator is developing high-quality, light-duty commercial fleet vehicles, and the Endurance all-electric pickup truck will be the first vehicle launched from the Lordstown, Ohio facility. The company also has engineering, research and development facilities in Farmington Hills, Michigan and Irvine, California.

Q: CTA’s 2021 report Electric Vehicle Landscape and Consumer Sentiment Research found that 39% of non-owners of electric vehicles (EVs) or plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) are likely or very likely to purchase an EV in the future. There is clearly growing interest for these vehicles with consumers – what do you think is driving this interest?

A: During the COVID-19 pandemic when transportation and vehicle usage ground to a halt, we saw a dramatic improvement in air quality. This means healthier and longer lives for thousands of people around the world. That showed us the impact that switching to zero-emissions vehicles can have on the world. But the key point is that we don’t believe consumers should have to choose between air quality and being able to drive high-performance vehicles. Pure electric vehicles provide the opportunity to have both, especially as the technology driving EVs and the surrounding infrastructure continues to improve. The current tax advantages also make it a great, cost-effective time to try a battery-electric vehicle.

Q: What are the biggest barriers to widespread adoption of EVs right now (both commercial and among consumers)? How is Lordstown Motors addressing these issues?

A: Vehicle costs, range and charging infrastructure are the most common barriers.

While Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) can be more costly in the upfront purchase, the total cost of ownership savings can be 10%-20% or more. With in-wheel hub motor design, Endurance has even fewer moving parts and the savings could be even more.

Endurance’s estimated range is up to 200 miles. Work trucks often follow pre-determined routes and are ideal electric vehicles because companies know how many miles will be traveled on a schedule since it repeats often.

Regarding charging infrastructure, companies are getting smarter about adding fast chargers to the workplace.

Q: Can you share some additional insight on Lordstown Motors’ positive environmental impact?

A: The three highest-volume vehicles in the US are pickup trucks. Roughly half of pickup trucks sold go into commercial fleets or are work trucks. By initially focusing on pickup trucks, Lordstown can make the biggest impact in the fastest time. But we also intend to extend into other commercial vehicles. We believe commercial fleets will be the earliest adopters of electric vehicles and we’re dedicated to serving that very large market segment.

Q: What steps can industry leaders take to ensure they are being good stewards of the planet?

A: Industry leaders need to deliver on some of the goals of the recent United Nations Climate Change Conference. These steps include:

· Accelerating the phase-out of coal

· Curtailing deforestation

· Speeding up the switch to electric vehicles

· Encouraging investment in renewables

Q: Beyond the environmental impact of EVs, do you think there will be a greater economic impact as adoption of these vehicles increases? What opportunities does this present for the global automotive market?

A: We are selling the Lordstown trucks to commercial customers. They need to see total cost of ownership improvements to make their business case. The costs associated with an ICE vehicle including purchase price, fuel, maintenance and repairs will continue to rise. With EVs, the equation including the purchase price, electricity and limited maintenance add up to a lower total cost of ownership. Companies will win.

Another bonus: Commercial work trucks might be the EVs a lot of ‘consumers’ will experience first. The commercial market may prove to be a fabulous ‘trial’ for potential future EV buyers.

See You at CES 2023

CES returned home to Las Vegas in 2022, welcoming over 44,000 in-person attendees, with 40,000 joining the event digitally. The show was a true global event, with attendees representing 133 countries. Watch the keynote speeches, conference sessions, and more highlights from the show, now available on-demand.

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