EV startup Harbinger, founded by Canoo and QuantumScape veterans, aims to shake up medium-duty truck market

Key Points
  • Electric vehicle startup Harbinger is aiming to electrify medium-duty trucks with two chassis coming late next year.
  • The company was founded by veterans of Canoo and QuantumScape.
  • Harbinger hopes to tap into a market segment that hasn't been well-represented as the auto industry moves to electric vehicles.
Harbinger EV truck
Jack Schroeder | Harbinger

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

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

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

"The companies out at the bookends, in the light-duty and heavy-duty space, are historically highly vertically integrated," Harris told CNBC in an interview. "When we look at the medium-duty industry, it's completely different."

Harris said that medium-duty trucks, which fall between light-duty pickups and heavy-duty semitrucks, are generally highly specialized. Those 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 established vehicle makers.

It's an ecosystem that hasn't changed much in the last 50 years, Harris said. That's why Harbinger is tailoring its products to work within that existing medium-duty ecosystem. The company is preparing two fully electric truck chassis that will be ready for upfitters to tailor to their commercial customers' needs – at a cost that, Harris said, will be comparable to existing internal-combustion options.

Harbinger EV truck
Jack Schroeder | Harbinger

Harbinger's products will include a "cab chassis" similar to those built by companies like Ford Motor, but electric. Upfitters use cab chassis, which come with a passenger compartment, to build box trucks, tow trucks and other similarly sized vehicles.

Harbinger will also offer a "strip chassis," without a cab for the driver, that can serve as a foundation for vehicles like delivery vans. Harris noted that unlike existing strip-chassis options, Harbinger's won't require upfitters to work around an internal-combustion engine – allowing for more cargo room and a more comfortable environment for the vehicle's driver.

And because they're expected to serve for up to 20 years, both of Harbinger's chassis will include the hardware and redundant systems needed for autonomous driving. Harbinger, though, has no plans to develop its own self-driving software in-house.

What isn't clear yet is how the company plans to manufacture its chassis. Harbinger's headquarters has tooling and equipment to build prototypes, and can produce electric motors and related parts, but it's not equipped to build complete chassis at scale.

Harris told CNBC that Harbinger has selected a manufacturing partner and will announce details soon. Harbinger currently expects to make its first deliveries in late 2023 and to 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 Harbinger's chief technology officer and worked at QuantumScape and Canoo, where he was a cofounder; and Will Eberts, chief operating officer, who worked with Harris at Faraday Future and with 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.