EV truck startup Atlis’ founder quit his engineering job to build his own carmaker. Here’s how he did it.

  • For a decade, Atlis Motor Vehicles founder Mark Hanchett worked as a mechanical engineer.
  • He incorporated Atlis Motor Vehicles in 2016 with the hopes of building electric trucks.
  • Atlis plans to have a prototype of the first truck, the $45,000 XT, by this summer.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

For a decade, Mark Hanchett worked as a mechanical engineer and eventually became a director at Axon, a tech company specializing in law-enforcement gear.

Hanchett, who drives a pickup truck, noticed Tesla’s accomplishments while working there — its Supercharger network, driver satisfaction, and especially its Model S sedan. With his liking for pickups and the lack of other rugged electric pickup manufacturers in the space, Hanchett saw an opportunity. 

In 2013, Hanchett set out to create an electric pickup truck company. He incorporated Atlis Motor Vehicles in 2016 and left Axon a year later to fully pursue Atlis, a startup so nascent he was the only employee.

“I thought: How can I make the [pickup] buying experience better?” Hanchett said. “How can I make the ownership and maintenance experience better? How can I make the transition to my next vehicle better?” 

The Atlis XT.

Atlis Motor Vehicles


Seven years later, Atlis has a pickup on the way. It’s called the XT, and Hanchett wants production to be in full swing by 2022. 

The XT will offer three battery packs ranging from 300 to 500 miles on a charge. The base model will start at $45,000 and qualify for the $7,500 federal tax credit, and Hanchett said he has “39,000 individuals who raised their hands and said, ‘Hey I’m super interested in that truck'” — 9,000 of whom are investors. Atlis doesn’t take deposits on its vehicles, so that number could vary greatly in the future.

Hanchett considered several options to produce and sell his electric pickup in the early stages. One early plan for Atlis was to retrofit internal-combustion trucks into electric vehicles. 

“I was really busy building an understanding of the industry before I hit the ground running,” Hanchett said. “I did consider retrofits early on, which is kind of the start of the platform, but I very quickly realized there’s no business in that.”

The Atlis XT.

Atlis Motor Vehicles


Hanchett eventually settled on an idea: to create a platform his young company could “drop anything on top of.” 

Not only would this platform be the underpinning for his truck, but it could also be sold to other manufacturers for use in just about any commercial or niche vehicle. From work trucks to delivery trucks, the possibilities with a capable platform are essentially limitless.

In 2019, Hanchett hired his first five employees. With his small team and a plan to develop a platform, Atlis Motor Vehicles had to create almost everything in-house, from the batteries to the motors. 

At Atlis’ 44,000-square-foot facility in Mesa, Arizona, the team worked on refining its powertrain technology. But since the facility is far smaller than most, Atlis needed a partnership to assist in the mass production of battery cells. The company tapped Malaysia-based Greatech Technology and Mexico’s Metalsa for the job.

“Greatech specializes in the pack assembly side of things, so automation of taking basically cells and stuffing them into a pack and doing that particular assembly,” Hanchett said. “Metalsa specializes in the cell side of things: the battery cell itself.” 

The Atlis XT.

Atlis Motor Vehicles


Instead of contracting out the production to Greatech and Metalsa, representatives will come to Atlis’ headquarters and help build out its infrastructure. Hanchett’s goal, he told Insider, is to create a “cell-to-pack assembly line,” which would cut out any intermediates and let Atlis own all of its means of battery production. 

“I have always been focused on vertical integration,” Hanchett said. “I’ve gotten some experience in my life of sort of outsourcing and contract manufacturing things, and it’s higher cost than is realized, and it’s typically longer lead times, and it’s much more difficult to accomplish.

“If you want to control cost, you have to control manufacturing; if you want to control speed, you have to control the development of that technology and the manufacturing and the assembly of that technology. You have to do that in house as much as you can.”

The Atlis XT.

Atlis Motor Vehicles


Today, Atlis has 45 employees. It also has a prototype platform at its headquarters, and Hanchett plans to have a truck prototype by this summer and 300 production units by the end of 2022.

Despite more electric pickups scheduled to arrive on the market in the coming years, Hanchett wants to attract current pickup drivers — the ones buying traditional, high-end gas and diesel trucks — rather than the EV crowd. 

“If we want to make the biggest impact in this world or the biggest shift, those are the ones we have to shift to electric,” Hanchett said. “It’s not the daily commuters, it’s the ones who use their trucks for work.

“They go to and from the job site every day — whether it’s utility, construction, mining, agriculture, it doesn’t matter. Those are our target markets we are focusing on.” 

Atlis’ flat-bed truck.

Atlis Motor Vehicles


From there, Hanchett’s plan is to grow his company and its sales — fast.

“In five years, Atlis Motor Vehicles will be shipping between 50,000 and 70,000 pickup trucks per year,” Hanchett said. “We’ll have between 300 and 400 charging locations deployed along highway corridors.”

Hanchett said developing trucks isn’t the end goal, and that his company wants to create platforms for RVs, last-mile deliveries, and first responders. But for now, it’s about getting the first product off of the ground. 

“There’s a real opportunity there to not just build vehicles, but to build the rest of this sort of ecosystem and really truly change the world,” Hanchett said.

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Andrew Lambrecht