Goodbye, Diesel: Inside Romeo Power’s Plan to Electrify Trucks Nationwide

Samson Amore

Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He holds a degree in journalism from Emerson College and previously covered technology and entertainment for TheWrap and reported on the SoCal startup scene for the Los Angeles Business Journal. Send tips or pitches to and find him on Twitter @Samsonamore.

Goodbye, Diesel: Inside Romeo Power’s Plan to Electrify Trucks Nationwide

At a time when most electric vehicle manufacturers are struggling to deliver cars or finance their operations, electric battery maker Romeo Power is surging ahead. The five-year-old company founded by former SpaceX and Tesla engineers manufactures and sells renewable electric batteries to the makers of delivery vehicles and long-haul trucks.

The company went public last December and so far this year has reported $47.5 million in income, compared to a net loss of $22.7 million this time last year.

Romeo Power President and CEO Susan Seilheimer Brennan said the company has secured orders from several buyers — though she won't disclose who — including at least one commercial customer in Southern California. To keep up with demand, the company will be moving to a new 215,000 square-foot headquarters in Cypress from their home base in Vernon. The layout will give Romeo more lab space to develop new battery products.

But Brennan has larger goals. She wants to electrify the pollution-emitting trucking industry, one fleet at a time.

Romeo Power President and CEO Susan Seilheimer BrennanRomeo Power President and CEO Susan Seilheimer Brennan

With over three decades of experience in the auto industry under her belt, she has worked at legacy auto manufacturers including running plants at Ford, General Motors and Nissan, where she led development of its electric Nissan Leaf vehicle and was the vice president of Nissan North America's manufacturing. Right before coming to Romeo, Brennan was the chief operations officer for San Jose-based clean energy firm Bloom Energy.

Brennan spoke with dot.LA over the phone to discuss Romeo's recent earnings and how its business might be able to mitigate the damage the trucking industry is causing to our planet.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

What are some of the buyer concerns you've had to address and what converts them?

The number one concern is reliability. Trucking companies are only making money when the truck is moving, so if there is an issue with reliability, and the truck isn't moving, that's their most significant issue. You can have whatever opinion you have on diesel, (but) there's probably 100 years of reliability data on diesel. It's challenging to make change anyway, it's exceptionally challenging to make change, when the incumbent has most of the attributes that are most important to the customer.

Today diesel has the reliability. (But) it's noisy, which is something I hadn't thought of until I heard one of our customers on a panel speaking about truck drivers they had interviewed after driving our product and how the (electric) driving experience is so much better for them — it's quieter, it doesn't rattle them to death, they can see that their knees and their backs will take much less wear and tear.

But if you look at just the pure economic model, we need to make sure that we are not having any negative impact on distance, charge time (which would be the equivalent of filling it up with diesel) and reliability.

People generally will convert based on total cost of ownership.We're in a little bit of a unique situation, because we're not selling the vehicle, so we have to convey that our piece of the total cost of ownership of their vehicle is a sell.

What in your background drew you to working with Romeo Power? What about the company made you decide to take the role of CEO?

I'm passionate about solving really, really hard problems — that's my passion and that's followed me throughout my career. I grew up in a steel town, so air quality is more than just theoretical. For me it's something I'm very passionate about, and my family still lives in that field town.

So I want to see American manufacturing be successful and I completely believe that manufacturing and communities can coexist, if done the right way. What I saw in my community — what is now known as the rust belt — is these factories pollute or these industries pollute, so let's move them somewhere else and that's not the right answer. The right answer is to figure out how to make the factories better and make the communities better and have that coexistence.

Now I find myself taking my scientific background, my automotive experience, and my energy experience along with my passion for technology and for a planet that everyone can coexist in and putting that all into Romeo power. Being on the board of Romeo got me immersed into the auto industry from a 50,000-foot level. So the reason I chose Romeo was really that it is a company that's trying to solve really hard problems.

Romeo Power's electric batteries.Romeo Power's electric batteries.

What are your goals for Romeo Power's upcoming next fiscal year? Where's the company headed?

Our goal is to sell to vehicle manufacturers that have fleets.

With our customers right now, because our goal is to have as much range as possible. So the vision that I painted for my team is let's understand what drivers do today, and how do we make that trip the same for them, if you can imagine a charger there instead of a gas pump. Ultimately, our goal has to be that we don't add any more burden to the user of the product, we actually take away the burden.

For us to be relevant and stay relevant, we have to grow very quickly. We have backlog (and) we have to satisfy our customers. So in order to do that, we need to take the customers that we have today and have commitments to and fill those orders.

Why open the new facility in Cypress?

The reason that we are successful with the technology is we have manufacturing and engineering under the same roof. As new opportunities, new players and new technology arises, we can test it immediately. So we have engineering, testing and production all under one roof. But we are exploding the roof (in Vernon) right now. We could have left production here and used the floor here for manufacturing and moved engineering and the corporate offices, but it's really imperative for us to keep everybody together for now.

We have about 250 employees and are growing, and we are hiring - we need manufacturing engineers, we need manufacturing technicians. We need (research and development) engineers (and) we need salespeople.

How has the demand for Romeo's power supply changed the business?

So, right now, what we're working on is meeting the demand that has been created. The transition you're seeing is coming out of our backlog, we're converting those orders.

We understand what it takes to build the battery, you know, the industrialization of the battery, we now are targeting people that we are confident will benefit from our battery. We are really working hard so that people can come here and touch and see the product, and drive demand with you know, with reality. So we're here in a real factory, we have real products, we have real throughput.

There's always a fair amount of skepticism when you're changing something, and changing something as significant as a powertrain on a vehicle but we now are very comfortable that we have the visibility and the credibility to start bringing it to customers.

Does being an independent battery manufacturer have any benefits or drawbacks attached?

Clearly if you have the support of a major company some things are easier but what is harder is getting these really interesting technologies through the bureaucracy.

The reason that I enjoy working at Romeo is… if you look at the speed at which innovation comes out of these very large companies, in my opinion, it is much slower than the speed at which innovation comes out of a nimble and smaller company.

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Here’s Why Streaming Looks More and More Like Cable

Lon Harris
Lon Harris is a contributor to dot.LA. His work has also appeared on ScreenJunkies, RottenTomatoes and Inside Streaming.
Here’s Why Streaming Looks More and More Like Cable
Evan Xie

The original dream of streaming was all of the content you love, easily accessible on your TV or computer at any time, at a reasonable price. Sadly, Hollywood and Silicon Valley have come together over the last decade or so to recognize that this isn’t really economically viable. Instead, the streaming marketplace is slowly transforming into something approximating Cable Television But Online.

It’s very expensive to make the kinds of shows that generate the kind of enthusiasm and excitement from global audiences that drives the growth of streaming platforms. For every international hit like “Squid Game” or “Money Heist,” Netflix produced dozens of other shows whose titles you have definitely forgotten about.

The marketplace for new TV has become so massively competitive, and the streaming landscape so oversaturated, even relatively popular shows with passionate fanbases that generate real enthusiasm and acclaim from critics often struggle to survive. Disney+ canceled Luscasfilm’s “Willow” after just one season this week, despite being based on a hit Ron Howard film and receiving an 83% critics score on Rotten Tomatoes. Amazon dropped the mystery drama “Three Pines” after one season as well this week, which starred Alfred Molina, also received positive reviews, and is based on a popular series of detective novels.

Even the new season of “The Mandalorian” is off to a sluggish start compared to its previous two Disney+ seasons, and Pedro Pascal is basically the most popular person in America right now.

Now that major players like Netflix, Disney+, and WB Discovery’s HBO Max have entered most of the big international markets, and bombarded consumers there with marketing and promotional efforts, onboarding of new subscribers inevitably has slowed. Combine that with inflation and other economic concerns, and you have a recipe for austerity and belt-tightening among the big streamers that’s virtually guaranteed to turn the smorgasbord of Peak TV into a more conservative a la carte offering. Lots of stuff you like, sure, but in smaller portions.

While Netflix once made its famed billion-dollar mega-deals with top-name creators, now it balks when writer/director Nancy Meyers (“It’s Complicated,” “The Holiday”) asks for $150 million to pay her cast of A-list actors. Her latest romantic comedy will likely move over to Warner Bros., which can open the film in theaters and hopefully recoup Scarlett Johansson and Michael Fassbender’s salaries rather than just spending the money and hoping it lingers longer in the public consciousness than “The Gray Man.”

CNET did the math last month and determined that it’s still cheaper to choose a few subscription streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime over a conventional cable TV package by an average of about $30 per month (provided you don’t include the cost of internet service itself). But that means picking and choosing your favorite platforms, as once you start adding all the major offerings out there, the prices add up quickly. (And those are just the biggest services from major Hollywood studios and media companies, let alone smaller, more specialized offerings.) Any kind of cable replacement or live TV streaming platform makes the cost essentially comparable to an old-school cable TV package, around $100 a month or more.

So called FAST, or Free Ad-supported Streaming TV services, have become a popular alternative to paid streaming platforms, with Fox’s Tubi making its first-ever appearance on Nielsen’s monthly platform rankings just last month. (It’s now more popular than the first FAST service to appear on the chart, Paramount Global’s Pluto TV.) According to Nielsen, Tubi now accounts for around 1% of all TV viewing in the US, and its model of 24/7 themed channels supported by semi-frequent ad breaks couldn’t resemble cable television anymore if it tried.

Services like Tubi and Pluto stand to benefit significantly from the new streaming paradigm, and not just from fatigued consumers tired of paying for more content. Cast-off shows and films from bigger streamers like HBO Max often find their way to ad-supported platforms, where they can start bringing in revenue for their original studios and producers. The infamous HBO Max shows like “The Nevers” and “Westworld” that WBD controversially pulled from the HBO Max service can now be found on Tubi or The Roku Channel.

HBO Max’s recently-canceled reality dating series “FBoy Island” has also found a new home, but it’s not on any streaming platform. Season 3 will air on TV’s The CW, along with a new spinoff series called (wait for it) “FGirl Island.” So in at least some ways, “30 Rock” was right: technology really IS cyclical.

As TikTok Faces a Ban, Competitors Prepare to Woo Its User Base

Kristin Snyder

Kristin Snyder is dot.LA's 2022/23 Editorial Fellow. She previously interned with Tiger Oak Media and led the arts section for UCLA's Daily Bruin.

As TikTok Faces a Ban, Competitors Prepare to Woo Its User Base
Evan Xie

This is the web version of dot.LA’s daily newsletter. Sign up to get the latest news on Southern California’s tech, startup and venture capital scene.

Another day, another update in the unending saga that is the potential TikTok ban.

The latest: separate from the various bills proposing a ban, the Biden administration has been in talks with TikTok since September to try and find a solution. Now, having thrown its support behind Senator MarkWarner’s bill, the White House is demanding TikTok’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance, sell its stakes in the company to avoid a ban. This would be a major blow to the business, as TikTok alone is worth between $40 billion and $50 billion—a significant portion of ByteDance’s $220 billion value.

Clearly, TikTok faces an uphill battle as its CEO Shou Zi Chew prepares to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee next week. But other social media companies are likely looking forward to seeing their primary competitor go—and are positioning themselves as the best replacement for migrating users.


Last year, The Washington Post reported that Meta paid a consulting firm to plant negative stories about TikTok. Now, Meta is reaping the benefits of TikTok’s downfall, with its shares rising 3% after the White House told TikTok to leave ByteDance. But this initial boost means nothing if the company can’t entice creators and viewers to Instagram and Facebook. And it doesn’t look promising in that regard.

Having waffled between pushing its short-form videos, called Reels, and de-prioritizing them in the algorithm, Instagram announced last week that it would no longer offer monetary bonuses to creators making Reels. This might be because of TikTok’s imminent ban. After all, the program was initially meant to convince TikTok creators to use Instagram—an issue that won’t be as pressing if TikTok users have no choice but to find another platform.


Alternatively, Snap is doing the opposite and luring creators with an ad revenue-sharing program. First launched in 2022, creators are now actively boasting about big earnings from the program, which provides 50% of ad revenue from videos. Snapchat is clearly still trying to win over users with new tech like its OpenAI chatbot, which it launched last month. But it's best bet to woo the TikTok crowd is through its new Sounds features, which suggest audio for different lenses and will match montage videos to a song’s rhythm. Audio clips are crucial to TikTok’s platform, so focusing on integrating songs into content will likely appeal to users looking to recreate that experience.


With its short-form ad revenue-sharing program, YouTube Shorts has already lured over TikTok creators. It's even gotten major stars like Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift to promote music on Shorts. This is likely where YouTube has the best bet of taking TikTok’s audience. Since TikTok has become deeply intertwined with the music industry, Shorts might be primed to take its spot. And with its new feature that creates compiles all the videos using a specific song, Shorts is likely hoping to capture musicians looking to promote their work.


The most blatant attempt at seducing TikTok users, however, comes from Triller, which launched a portal for people to move their videos from TikTok to its platform. It’s simple, but likely the most effective tactic—and one that other short-form video platforms should try to replicate. With TikTok users worried about losing their backlog of content, this not only lets users archive but also bolsters Triller’s content offerings. The problem, of course, is that Triller isn’t nearly as well known as the other platforms also trying to capture TikTok users. Still, those who are in the know will likely find this option easier than manually re-uploading content to other sites.

It's likely that many of these platforms will see a momentary boost if the TikTok ban goes through. But all of these companies need to ensure that users coming from TikTok actually stay on their platforms. Considering that they have already been upended by one newcomer when TikTok took over, there’s good reason to believe that a new app could come in and swoop up TikTok’s user base. As of right now, it's unclear who will come out on top. But the true loser is the user who has to adhere to the everyday whims of each of these platforms.

We Asked Our Readers How They’re Using AI in a Professional Setting. Here's What They Said

Decerry Donato

Decerry Donato is a reporter at dot.LA. Prior to that, she was an editorial fellow at the company. Decerry received her bachelor's degree in literary journalism from the University of California, Irvine. She continues to write stories to inform the community about issues or events that take place in the L.A. area. On the weekends, she can be found hiking in the Angeles National forest or sifting through racks at your local thrift store.

We Asked Our Readers How They’re Using AI in a Professional Setting. Here's What They Said
Evan Xie

According to Pew Research data, 27% of Americans interact with AI on a daily basis. With the launch of Open AI’s latest language model GPT-4, we asked our readers how they use AI in a professional capacity. Here’s what they told us:

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