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Xos (formerly Thor Trucks) is receiving many accolades and awards while transforming its business model. Yet its CEO and co-founder Dakota Semler recently survived a devastating fire, whilst protecting the safety of many wild animals at his Malibu Wine Safari – including the now famous Stanley the Giraffe.

Semler is now back in full gear speaking at ‘The Future of the Automobile’ and creating new partnerships. Our reporter Lynn Walford caught up with him.

“I have to be a jack of all trades at Xos. However, many smart people in management and engineering help out.” Semler was talking about leading the company whose ET-One medium duty electric truck with a 300 mile (482 km) range, fully loaded with up to 40 tons (36,287 KG) powered by proprietary modular lithium-ion batteries, can be fully charged in less than an hour.

I was first going to interview Semler during Automobility LA at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November, last year. Unfortunately, Semler could not attend the event where Thor Trucks was a finalist for the Top Ten Automotive Startups Competition because of the fire that swept through Malibu.

Semler owns the Malibu Wine Safari, best known for Instagram star Stanley the Giraffe (53.6k followers on Instagram). The property was evacuated and the large animals (including Stanley) were taken to a safe clear area. There were controversy and concern from animal activists who thought the animals should have been evacuated. However, Semler was able to reopen Malibu Safari just three days after the fire.

Instead of Semler, Giordano Sordoni co-founder of Thor Trucks took to the Automobility stage and gave a presentation garnering the company the grand prize of $15,000.

The win can be attributed to the deep understanding the company has of fleet trucking.

Semler says he started the company because the Semler family had its own fleet of vehicles in Southern California when the California Air Resources Board (CARB) made new requirements and they looked at all the possibilities. The only thing they could do was liquidate the assets at the time.

“We looked at CNG and hydrogen fuel cells and the only way to go zero emissions is with battery electric trucks,” says Semler who notes in order to invest in new technology, commercial vehicle operators want a return on their investment.

“We are focused on short-haul trucks that drive under a hundred fifty miles such as UPS, cash and hauling, We are also focusing is on safety and maintenance and how to achieve value today. We are conserving CSR and the impact of vehicles on the environment,” says Semler.

ROI for Xos

Xos is working with fleets larger than five trucks that need a return on investment – in most cases two to three years – while some companies can wait for five to seven years. Xos uses readily available parts from Tier 1 suppliers to make maintenance easier for the fleets.

“The total cost to reach parity with diesel trucks with Xos’ trucks will be 3 years,” says Semler. He adds who the company doesn’t plan on autonomous vehicles because it does not make sense when 50% of the time a driver will be outside of the delivery vehicle.

Xos recently announced it is working with Loomis Armored for a truck that will have a 100 mile (160.9 km) battery range. The Xos battery pack and chassis are delivered and Loomis installs the bulletproof body. There are electric Xos’ UPS trucks in testing on the road. The battery packs are assembled in Los Angeles using robotics, reducing assembly hazards. The chassis are assembled in Tennessee.

Game Changing and Name Changing

Semler says the company changed its name from Thor to Xos, because “we wanted to expand beyond hardware.”

Semler is very personable (and almost as animated as Stanley the Giraffe). But what about Stanley? I had to know – how is Stanley after the fire? Semler, who likes to feed Stanley lettuce confirmed, “Stanley is fine. He has had several physical exams since then and he is doing well.”

Today, when Stanley goes for a ride at Malibu Wine Safari it’s in a gasoline-powered truck.

When asked if Xos is making a special electric vehicle for ‘Stan the Man’ – Semler smiled and replied, “Mmmm. Stanley should get one… someday.”

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