By Eric Peterson | Feb 21, 2023
Electric vehicles and batteries
Hanchett brainstormed the vision for Atlis Motor Vehicles while working as an engineer and director at Axon, the company behind the Taser.
"Pickup trucks are sort of our bread and butter in the United States. It's the most popular vehicle. It's actually becoming the new SUV, the new family vehicle," says Hanchett. "I wanted to apply the principles of what we did at Axon: can we take that technology and do something with it in such a way that it really, truly does make a difference?"
Hanchett says he researched the market and met with suppliers from 2013 to 2016 to develop the business model. Atlis' multi-phase approach is the result.
"At Atlis, over the last several years, we've done a concept vehicle, we've done a technology demonstrator," he continues. "Last year, we started building our own battery cells, because that's a critical point. If you want to be successful here, you have to make your own cells. You can't contract that out. The standard cylindrical commodity product that everybody else uses, you can use them, but you're not going to get the performance that completes with a gas or diesel vehicle today."
Atlis launched manufacturing trials of two variants of battery cells in late 2022 at its 44,000-square-foot pilot facility in Mesa. "There's a lot of battery factories in the U.S. There's a lot of companies making announcements," Hanchett says.
"We are actually the first one that is America-owned that is born here in the U.S. that is producing cells in the U.S. at any level of scale."
Hanchett touts the cells' proprietary design. "We re-approached cell design from a more mechanical and electrical perspective… so that we can get the most out of the chemistry," he says. "It's really focused around the things that people want: power density, energy density, high cycle counts, fast charging."
Atlis has delivered 30-kilowatt-hour test packs to British electric van manufacturer INDe-EV and other companies. "We're developing pack solutions for a number of other customers, and then we've got a grid-level battery storage system we're hoping to make some progress on towards the end of 2023," Hanchett says.
After going to market with batteries and charging infrastructure in 2023, the company is slated to go into production with the Atlis XP, an electric vehicle platform, and the Atlis XT truck by mid-2024.
"We found a sweet spot in the market where we can leverage existing players in the market to build out the battery cell and infrastructure pieces," says Hanchett. "When we get to the vehicle, we leverage that from a business plan perspective, and then when we launch the vehicle, it just plugs right in."
It also plugs into Atlis' business strategy. "The long-term manufacturing model is very much a vertically integrated model. We pull other vendors in where it's not critical for us to have expertise," notes Hanchett. "We do our own motors, we do our own control systems, our own power electronics, basically our entire vehicle's electronic systems."
Following five crowdfunding campaigns that raised $32.6 million combined, Atlis went public with an IPO (NASDAQ: AMV) in September 2022. While it has been a rocky time for the markets, Hanchett says he doesn't scare easily. "I'm kind of a guy that runs toward the cliff all the time," he laughs. "We've been able to continue to grow when a lot of people are pulling back right now."
Challenges: Scaling battery manufacturing is at the top of the list. Notes Hanchett, "I always say the biggest challenge is doubt, whether it's internal or external. You're doing something that's very hard, you're doing something that's incredibly challenging, and you're doing it on a tight timeline with budget constraints."
Opportunities: Hanchett describes an opportunity to fill a gap in the electric truck market while supporting other EV manufacturers with batteries and platform.
"On the flip side, we are an energy company," he adds. "While we are selling pack solutions into the energy space with certain partners, one of our larger focuses this year is: We intend to become an energy company. We intend to become a company that's operating some of these energy storage microgrids and charging infrastructure solutions.
Needs: "It's always going to be team," says Hanchett, citing 40 open positions in early 2023. "We're looking for the right people who are interested in doing something big."
Space is also an issue as production scales. "We're looking to expand over the next 18 months," he adds. "We do have other cities in other states that are bidding, so to speak, on incentive plans and things like that from a manufacturing standpoint, but right now, our current plan is to stay here [in Arizona]."