Telo is a new company, based in San Francisco, that believes it has created ‘urban adventure vehicle with a difference’. Founded by Jason Marks, a specialist in Lidar and autonomous driving, and Forrest North, a battery specialist and one of Tesla’s early employees, Telo is debuting its first EV this summer.
American truck culture is out of control. For the past few years, the number one selling vehicle across the US has been the Ford F-Series; in its largest spec, the F-150 King Ranch, this pick-up is over 6m long. All well and good if you live and work in a field that requires heavy hauling capacity, but spectacularly ill-suited to the urban environment.
While the big names in trucks are pivoting to electrification, the prevailing approach is to retain the scale and cram in as big a battery as possible. Hence you get the GMC Hummer EV, weighing in at 9,000lb, the Dodge Ram 1500 REV (6,600lb) and Ford’s F-150 Lightning (63,60lb), vehicles that offset their lack of emissions with their propensity for blocking out the sun for everyone else.
The design, branding, and digital presence of the Telo EV has been handled by Yves Behar and Fuseproject. Behar worked on North’s previous company, e-motorbike maker Mission Motors, and is a longstanding advocate and user of EVs. ‘It was a no-brainer to go with Yves,’ says Marks. ‘His experience in industrial design is unprecedented, and when we told him about what we were doing, the enthusiasm was palpable.’
‘The idea was to redesign the EV truck for city dwellers and weekend warriors, thinking about the pick-up in a completely different way,’ says Behar. The Telo EV takes full advantage of the benefits of EV packaging. The chief difference is scale. Without a long, long bonnet/hood, the Telo has the appearance of a cab-over-engine style van like the original Volkswagen Kombi. The overall length is truncated still further by locating the front axle right at the front of the vehicle, with wheel arches that double up as cooling vents for the battery pack.
From A-pillar backwards, the Telo is more conventional, with a four-door cab ahead of a traditional truck bed. Behar points out that the Telo combines a standard 60in truck bed with a five-person cabin, yet it fits into exactly the same footprint as a Mini Cooper. At 3.86m, the Telo is a minnow compared to the largest pick-ups, yet it still packs in as much space as a Toyota Tacoma. ‘It is really adapted to urban environments,’ he enthuses.
The details are delightfully simple. Six oval LED headlights create a distinctive face, while a lozenge-shaped indent in the rear door ducts the air from the wheel arch vents, the shape mirrored in the door handles. The truck bed itself is endlessly configurable. ‘One of the beautiful things about our platform is that it's easily reconfigurable,’ says Marks. ‘All within the same vehicle, we can be a five-seater, five-foot-bed pick-up, or a two-seater eight-foot-bed pick-up, or an eight-seater SUV, or a two-seater cargo van, or even a no-seater driverless delivery van.’ Surfboards and pieces of 8x4 fit just fine, and there’s also a special bike holder attachment.
The all-wheel-drive Telo is expected to have a 350-mile range, as well as the searing acceleration of any EV, with a four-second sprint to 60mph. ‘I’ve driven an EV for about 12 years – I’m a veteran of the genre,’ says Behar, who currently owns a Rivian R1T pick-up and enthuses about the low maintenance and running costs. ‘It’s not very often that an industrial designer gets to work on a mobility project,’ he says, adding that although there have been a few under-the-radar projects over the years, ‘this is the first one I’ve been able to share’.
‘We think no one has introduced something that can solve so many of the challenges that our consumers have at once,’ Marks says. ‘You shouldn't have to trade off a 300-plus mile range, five seats, cargo, and four seconds to 60 in order to park your car outside your favourite restaurant in downtown. And we think consumers will be excited about that.’
The Telo EV is available to pre-order now from TeloTrucks.com
A version of this article appears in the August 2023 issue of Wallpaper* – a guide to creative America – available in print from 6 July, on the Wallpaper* app on Apple iOS, and to subscribers of Apple News +. Subscribe to Wallpaper* today
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Jonathan Bell has written for Wallpaper* magazine since 1999, covering everything from architecture and transport design to books, tech and graphic design. He is now the magazine’s Transport and Technology Editor. Jonathan has written and edited 15 books, including Concept Car Design, 21st Century House, and The New Modern House. He is also the host of Wallpaper’s first podcast.
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