Running Tesla has helped turn Elon Musk into one of the world’s richest people. As of Friday, he was fifth on Forbes’ ranking of the world’s billionaires, ahead of Warren Buffett and just behind Mark Zuckerberg.
A handful of startup founders have attempted to match Musk’s success at Tesla over the years, but most have failed to overcome the brutal economics of the car business. Now, a new wave of CEOs is hoping they can learn from their predecessors’ mistakes and capitalize on projected growth in EV demand over the coming decades.
Read on to learn about eight CEOs who are hoping they can become the next Elon Musk.
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Scaringe founded Rivian in 2009 and kept the company in stealth mode for nearly a decade before unveiling its first two vehicles, the R1T pickup truck and R1S SUV, in 2018. Each is scheduled to arrive in 2021.
Rivian has attracted more money, and arguably more attention, than any other EV startup that hasn’t gone public. Amazon has contracted the company to make 100,000 electric delivery vans, and Ford plans to use Rivian’s EV platform in one of its own vehicles.
Company: Lucid Motors
Before joining Lucid in 2013, Rawlinson worked for Musk at Tesla, where he learned the importance of relentless optimism. Now, Rawlinson is taking on Tesla’s Model S with the Lucid Air, a luxury sedan scheduled to arrive in 2021.
One of the Air’s key innovations is a compact powertrain that will help it achieve an industry-leading 517-mile range and a spacious interior.
“We’re creating a car which is going to be the best car in the world,” Rawlinson told Business Insider in July. “People are going to want it.”
A former BMW executive, Kranz co-founded Canoo in 2017. The startup is diverging sharply from the auto industry’s styling and retail conventions with a vehicle shaped like a loaf of bread and available only through a subscription.
Canoo has positioned the vehicle, also called the Canoo, as the next step in a lineage that includes the station wagon, minivan, and SUV. The company says it will have more room for passengers than a Honda Odyssey minivan while being shorter than a Tesla Model 3 sedan.
Canoo will debut its subscription service in 2022. The company is also helping Hyundai build an EV platform.
William Li founded Nio 2014. The company is one of the few post-Tesla EV startups that has actually put vehicles in customer driveways. Its cumulative delivery count topped 50,000 in August.
Nio, which is based in China, appeared to be on shaky financial ground earlier this year, but its fortunes improved after securing $1.4 billion in financing from the government of Hefei, the capital of China’s Anhui province. In August, Nio set a record for monthly sales and revenue.
Company: Faraday Future
Breitfeld led a competing EV startup, Byton, before joining Faraday Future in 2019. Faraday has struggled to bring its debut vehicle, the FF91 luxury SUV, into production, repeatedly missing deadlines and, according to a report from The Verge, leaving one pre-production model in flames. The company has also had financial difficulties, nearly running out of money while fighting with a major investor.
But Faraday may be on the verge of a fresh start. In an interview with Reuters, Breitfeld said the startup is in talks to go public through a reverse merger with a special-purpose acquisition company, a maneuver that has become increasingly popular among EV startups.
Company: Fisker Inc.
Henrik Fisker is taking his second shot at breaking into the EV market with Fisker Inc. One of Fisker’s prior companies, Fisker Automotive, competed against Tesla before going bankrupt in 2013.
Fisker Inc. has missed a few launch timelines and shifted its debut vehicle from a sports car to an autonomous shuttle to an SUV, the Ocean, which is expected to launch in 2022. This summer, the company announced a plan to go public by merging with Spartan Energy later this year.
Mark Russell followed his former employee, Trevor Milton, to Nikola in 2019. After Milton stepped down from Nikola amid allegations of fraud and sexual assault, Russell has been left to repair the electric-truck maker’s image.
Much of Nikola’s business revolves around hydrogen-powered semi trucks. By building hydrogen-fueling stations and selling bundled leases that include a truck, fuel, and maintenance, Nikola says it will earn more revenue per vehicle than its competitors in the trucking industry.
Nikola also contributed to the development of a pickup truck, the Badger, that GM will engineer and build, assuming the companies’ deal doesn’t fall apart.
Company: Lordstown Motors
Steve Burns (shown above with President Trump) founded Lordstown Motors in 2018. The startup is developing a pickup truck, the Endurance, that is designed for commercial use. Lordstown will build the truck at an old General Motors plant starting in 2021.
Lordstown joined the wave of EV startups going public through SPACs this summer by making a deal with DiamondPeak Holdings.