Lion Electric Company, Canadian Electric Bus Company, Is Going Public in the US

By Bruce Harpham Friday, December 4, 2020

The Lion Electric Company, an electric vehicle company based in Canada, plans to go public via a Special Purpose Acquisition Company (SPAC). By merging with Northern Genesis Acquisition Corp, Lion Electric will become a public company on the New York Stock Exchange. The combined company will have over $300 million in cash.

Lion Is Already Taking Orders for Electric Trucks

Unlike Tesla, which has primarily focused on traditional passenger vehicles, the Lion Electric Company focuses on trucks. Trucks are a significant vehicle category. In 2019, there were approximately three million pickup trucks sold in the United States.

Lion's current customers include Amazon and CN. Amazon's acquisition of electric trucks is particularly significant. It is more evident that Amazon is continuing to build its fulfillment system to deliver packages, including drones, in the future.

The 480,000 School Bus Market

Before the pandemic disruption of traditional in-person schooling, transporting students to and from school was a significant business. Lion is hoping to become a significant player in the United States and Canada's school bus market. There are over 480,000 school buses in the United States which transport about 26 million schoolchildren annually.

The company's electric school bus, the LionC, is marketed as a zero-emissions vehicle. The vehicle has a range of 100 to 155 miles (150 to 250 km) per charge. The bus can carry up to 72 passengers. In terms of power, the vehicle's engine is capable of producing 335 horsepower.

Lion's product compares favorably to existing diesel vehicles on the market. The Blue Bird "All American FE" has a seating capacity of 54 to 90. The Blue Bird's engine has a maximum horsepower of 280 horsepower. However, the diesel vehicle may have a range advantage. The All American FE has a fuel capacity of 60-100 gallons. Assuming 6.2 miles per gallon, the bus would be able to travel about 370 miles. Therefore, diesel vehicles may retain an advantage in rural areas where longer trips to schools are required.

Two Reasons Lion Is Going Public

Lion's drive to become a public company is based on two goals. First, the additional funding will help the company to improve its battery technology. Second, by listing itself on a US stock exchange, the Lion Electric Company will find it easier to establish manufacturing in the United States. While the company is considering multiple states for US-based production, manufacturing is unlikely to start until 2023. The company already has a presence in California and may grow its presence in California further.

Improved battery technology is a crucial goal for the company. As the comparison above with the Blue Bird vehicle shows, electric vehicles can lag behind traditional vehicles in range. Aside from range, there is also the question of recharging. For example, Tesla's electric vehicle charging time ranges between one hour to 12 hours. On the other hand, refueling a fossil fuel-powered vehicle takes only a few minutes.

Lion Electric Makes the Long Term Pitch

Selling electric vehicles requires a different sales strategy. Almost all-electric vehicles cost more than their gasoline or diesel equivalents. Lion Electric is no exception to this industry trend. Lion Electric's early vehicles were about 200-300% more expensive in purchase price than their conventional alternatives. Justifying that higher price solely on environmental grounds was not enough.

Instead, Lion Electric also emphasized lower operating expenses. The estimated savings are approximately 5-25% over the long term. Estimates of cost savings depend on several factors, including oil prices and government support programs. In 2020, oil prices have fallen dramatically due to the pandemic. In January 2020, West Texas crude sold for $63. By December 2, 2020, the price had fallen to $45. Lion Electric and its investors bet that higher fuel prices will eventually return and make electric vehicles more attractive.

The Canadians Behind Lion Electric

The Lion Electric Company was established in Saint-Jérôme, Quebec, Canada, in 2011. The company has already had some early success in Canada. In November 2020, the company sold 12 electric buses and charging stations to the province of Prince Edward Island (PEI). PEI is located on the Atlantic coast of Canada, near Maine. If the initial sale goes well, Lion Electric may win more sales. The Canadian province has announced a commitment to replace all 300 of its school buses with electric vehicles.

About the Author


Headshot for author Bruce Harpham

Bruce Harpham is an author and marketing consultant based in Canada. His first book "Project Managers At Work" shared real-world success lessons from NASA, Google, and other organizations. His articles have been published in CIO.com, InfoWorld, Canadian Business, and other organizations. Visit BruceHarpham.com for articles, interviews with tech leaders, and updates on future books.

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