US truck startup, Thor Trucks says it will be profitable from the start of production next year because of environmental subsidies available for electric trucks, co-founder Giordano Sordoni said at the 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show this week.

During a presentation, Sordoni said the Los Angeles company has “millions of dollars” in orders and expects to make money even without subsidies from the California Air Resources Board and other regulators in two years based on truck volume in the low thousands.

“They have customers in the pipeline, and there’s a lot of viability for the business,” said Tarek Elessawi, a senior associate at Plug and Play Ventures in Sunnyvale, Calif.

Thor recently started a new funding round and will soon be pitching Plug and Play, Sordoni said.

“Mobility is a big focus for venture capitalists,” he said. “Networking with VCs, whether they’re the right person for you or they know the right person for you, is always important.”

Thor, which has doubled its employment to about 35 in the last year, signed and agreement with UPS in July to develop two Class 6 delivery vans for testing next year in Los Angeles. The program is on track, with UPS “very involved in giving feedback,” Sordoni said.

He said road testing of the Thor ET-One heavy-duty electric tractor is continuing. Thor has signed an agreement for contract manufacturing and will ship parts for assembly rather than build trucks itself. Sordoni declined to name the manufacturer.

“We didn’t want to spin up our own multibillion-dollar manufacturing facility when there are plenty of original equipment and suppliers that are better established to assemble trucks than we are today,” Sordoni said.

Neither Sordoni nor co-founder Dakota Semler are trained engineers. They decided to focus on certain parts of electric trucks rather than trying to do everything in-house.

Thor recently signed a partnership to merge its battery technology with an electronic axle developed by Michigan-based AxleTech. Thor also buys electric motors.

As a technology integrator, Thor has found new customers, such as a recent project making an electric powertrain for an industrial forklift company.

Seventy per cent of medium- and heavy-duty trucks travel less than 250 km a day, Sordoni said. Package delivery services like FedEx and UPS cover about 100km a day.

“It goes to show that even outside the glitzy supercars and heavy-duty trucks that get all the headlines, there are customers in each of these vocational segments that are excited about the potential of electric vehicles in their arena,” he said.