EV Technology Pioneer Joins Xos: Meet Scott Zion, Our Director of Medium Duty Vehicles
In addition to our zero-emission electric trucks, the people who make up Team Xos are the secret ingredient that sets us apart. We are fortunate to have incredible talent with deep experience in the automotive and technology industries. Today, we’re excited to welcome one more Xos leader into the fold — Scott Zion — who will serve as Director of Medium Duty Vehicles.
We recently sat down with Scott to learn more about his background, his vision at Xos, and the origins of his fascination with transportation. (Note: Responses have been edited for brevity.)
Can you give us a brief overview of your career background and how you got started?
I’ve been interested in cars my entire life. In 1990 during my senior year of college at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, I worked on a solar-powered racing car for the GM Sunrayce.
After graduation, I worked on several of Ford’s first EV programs that utilized sodium-sulfur batteries. One was the Ecostar, which was based on Ford’s European Escort van and the electric Ford Ranger pick-up. Unfortunately, EVs didn’t make sense at the time, so Ford shut down that side of the business.
I went on to join the Axle/Driveline team at Ford as a sales engineer, working on designing axles, driveshafts, AWD systems, and other driveline-related products. This division of Ford was then consolidated into Visteon and then spun off as a new company with the intention to support other OEMs. This led to an overseas assignment working with Ford’s Premier Automotive Group, including Aston Martin, Jaguar, Land Rover, and Volvo.
While overseas, I was promoted to Platform Director, and my responsibilities grew to include not only driveline products, but also electronics, interiors, and other chassis systems.
I came back to the U.S. to lead the business development and business planning teams for Visteon’s Chassis division. From there, I worked at a few other companies before moving to Navistar, where I spent nine years leading the Defense Engineering Team as the chief engineer for the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle.
After Navistar Defense, I worked at Hino Motors Manufacturing (HMM) for almost seven years, where I was initially responsible for modifying the Japanese designs for the U.S. market. While at Hino, I was very active in getting the company involved with zero-emission vehicles. I was the engineering lead at HMM for both the EV and fuel-cell development programs.
It was during this time that Hino contracted Xos to convert a Hino truck to an EV, which is how I initially met Gio and Dakota.
What most influenced your interest in going into the automotive industry?
Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always wanted to learn everything I could about cars and trucks. I got my dream job at Ford right out of college, which solidified my path into working in automotive, and I’ve been happy to be working around cars ever since.
How does working at Xos support your goals?
I’m super excited about this opportunity! I’m looking forward to developing my team, managing processes, building products that exceed customers’ expectations, and creating a positive workplace.
By working together, we can create an efficient and effective engineering system to manage products without creating additional red tape that slows down progress.
What is the most significant initial priority for your role here at Xos?
Besides building a team, I’m looking forward to seeing the auto industry as a whole move away from fossil fuels. Likewise, I’m excited to see where electric trucking technology goes in the future.
I came to Xos because I believe in Gio and Dakota’s vision. It’s a huge honor to be part of the team. The energy and excitement that the management at Xos has for this industry and this technology are infectious.
What does a typical day look like for you as the Director of Medium Duty Vehicles?
Right now, I don’t have a “typical day.”
There are so many people that I’m learning from right now. As a manager, I’m still very much in the learning phase. I’m getting to know the team and their processes before making any changes.
At the moment, my goal is to get synergies going between different departments throughout the company.
What is one of the most important career lessons you’ve learned thus far?
As an engineer, it’s a challenge to get critiqued because we put our heart into our designs and projects. It’s like someone saying you have an “ugly baby” when your design receives negative feedback.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned during my career is not to get upset if you’re told you have an “ugly baby.” Those comments and critiques can help you change your perspective and improve your design. It’s important to know that you don’t have to have all of the correct answers all of the time.
My career has also shown me the importance of collaboration and listening to other ideas, even if you disagree. I’ve learned not to get hung up on having to be right all the time.
We all come from different experiences and backgrounds, which makes our collective experience as a team so special. Taking all of those different perspectives into consideration can take you in a different direction than you had initially planned.
I am a strong believer that together, we can make a much better product than we each could have done on our own.
What are your hopes for the EV industry?
I hope to see EV infrastructure expand to make EVs a more practical reality. I used to joke back in the 90s when I worked on some of the first EVs that we should give away EVs and make the money on selling the electricity to power them. It’s like saying, “Here, I’m giving you a flashlight, but you have to buy the batteries.”
Of course, EVs are more innovative and efficient today than they were in the 90s, but the infrastructure still has to catch up.
What would you do for a career if you weren’t doing this?
Well, I love old British sports cars. I have a few old Triumphs and an MG that I have collected over the years. It was my father-in-law who got me hooked on them when I first started dating my wife in college.
If I wasn’t working in the EV industry, I would be restoring old sports cars.
What was the first concert you attended?
R.E.M. (at Purdue University in Indiana).
I was a music junkie throughout college. I grew up in the 80s, so I love 80s music. My kids always make fun of me for it, even today.
Any other fun facts you want to share with us?
I have four kids: one daughter and three sons.
My daughter is working on her Ph.D. at Johns Hopkins doing stem cell research. My oldest son is in Chicago at a law office, working in their HR department, and my other adult son is an engineer at Toyota, working on autonomous vehicles. I also have an 8-year-old son who is an avid gamer and loves YouTube. All of them, along with my wonderful wife, keep me young and up to speed with today’s trends.
And not many people know that I’m an Eagle Scout. I spent most of my teenage summers working at a Boy Scout camp in Northern Indiana, teaching outdoor skills and learning about leadership at an early age.