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Hydra Design Labs Designs Lordstown Motors Endurance Truck

This last year has seen a number of fledgling new companies reveal their intent to produce an electric pickup truck, one of the most popular vehicle segments in the US. From the Atlis XT to the Tesla Cybertruck, the growing list of electric trucks coming to market include the Bollinger B2, Hercules Alpha, Neuron T.One, and Rivian RT1. Everybody wants a slice of the pie. But it’s looking like Lordstown Motors, a new start-up based out of the Mahoning Valley in Ohio, might be the first company to deliver.

Building a new car company from scratch is not an easy feat. Lordstown Motors took over a former 785-acre, 6.2 million-square-foot General Motors plant in 2019 and is using the factory as its headquarters and production facility, harnessing the local talent pool that was put out of work when GM ceased operations. The company is now fast-tracking plans to produce the Lordstown Endurance electric pickup truck, which is slated for production in late 2020 (deliveries are scheduled to begin in the first quarter of 2021).

With so many aspects of the business to consider, Lordstown Motors sought the help of an external consultancy to design its first product, and formed a strategic partnership with California-based Hydra Design Labs, a full-service automotive design firm founded by veteran automotive designer Jon Hull in 2010.

Consisting of principal designers and specialists who bring over 30 years of OEM experience to the table, Hydra designed the exterior, interior and CMF of the vehicle and delivered this along with CAD design surfacing, scale modeling and the final full-size prototype model, which was built on Lordstown’s chassis. The team’s design was revealed in renderings in May 2020, with the full-scale model unveiled in late June.

Lordstown Motors’ brief to Hydra was to design a work pickup truck specifically tailored for commercial and fleet use. Some keywords were ‘tough’, ‘rugged’, ‘clean, simple lines’, and a ‘unique, innovative look’, which would appeal to the targeted utility company and delivery business customer demographic. The design would be based on an all-new battery-electric platform that utilized innovative in-hub motors.

The key members of the Lordstown Endurance design team consisted of Jon Hull, Dan Sims, Mike Desmond, Chris Schuttera and Gary Ragle. All four principal designers worked on this project at every level. Mike Desmond’s design was selected for the exterior and Chris Schuttera’s design for the interior – based on the initial sketches created by the team. Mark Ferrara led the modeling team that created the 40 percent clay model in-house, while Jon Hull and Dan Sims oversaw the design aspects of the model.

“As a team we wanted to have some elements that conveyed, in an intuitive manner, the electric nature of the drivetrain,” says project lead and principal designer Dan Sims. “The front end departs from the traditional, grille dominant design of current ICE pickup trucks. We also had to achieve a new look within a relatively traditional profile.”

The wheels use the hub motors as a design element, and there is a ‘ribbon’- like element on the exterior that neatly contains a lot of the functional elements on the exterior and interior, such as vents, cooling, and lighting. The design is reminiscent of circuit lines, as a nod to the EV drivetrain.

The project started in mid-June of 2019 and progressed quickly in the span of just one year. According to Hull, the initial design ideation phase went by very fast, with the Hydra Design Labs team providing a broad range of sketches in several theme directions.

“The interior and exterior theme directions were selected by Lordstown Motors during the third week in August last year,” Hull says. “We have been working nonstop, refining the design and collaborating with the Lordstown Motors engineering team since then. This was an accelerated program to meet our client’s timeline.” 

Hydra did all of the design work for the Lordstown Endurance in Orange County, California, starting in the studio facility and shifting to remote work during the pandemic. “We were in constant communication with Lordstown Motors and worked remotely with the company’s engineering team,” says Hull. “Since our beginning, Hydra Design Labs has been equipped to work remotely as needed, so our design process was not slowed down at all while transitioning to remote work in March.”

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Creating a new product always comes with its own set of challenges. For Hydra, this came in the form of retaining a certain level of familiarity and utility in the design as a pickup truck while still taking a bold step forward in the overall shape and form.

“The truck’s design needed to convey the technical innovations of the platform while still being a robust vehicle capable of standing up to tough duty,” says Sims. “It needed an authentic pickup truck profile that enabled the use of bed-mounted toolboxes and other truck accessories for fleet use, but at the same time communicate a clean, new all-electric powertrain. We strived to balance a no-nonsense, work truck profile that features headroom and tauter lines with fresh new details and a front-end design never seen before.”

In designing the Endurance, the team found that the electric drivetrain layout and compact in-hub motors opened up space under the hood, allowing the team to explore new packaging opportunities. “Since we no longer had to design the vehicle to accommodate a traditional front-mounted engine, the Lordstown Endurance features a lockable front trunk — something no other pickup truck in history has ever offered,” Hull notes.

“We approached the wheel as a unique design challenge,” adds Hull. “Knowing that we wanted to highlight that the Endurance will mark the first production use of in-hub motors, we explored many different design directions before choosing the final design. We incorporated cooling fins between the spokes to help disperse the heat of the motors and we ended up choosing anodized orange for a copper-like look, suggestive of electricity. Since the in-hub motors are so unique, we wanted to create a talking point that highlights this feature.”

Ultimately, the Lordstown Motors team wanted an appealing, functional truck that workers would use with pride, while also delivering a smarter, safer, and more productive work vehicle that would appeal to business owners. Hydra Design Labs was able to achieve this goal while also providing some unique features enabled by the package.