It’s Almost Time for America’s Most Popular Vehicles To Go Electric
In the last decade, we’ve seen Tesla go from being an obscure company with an ambitious product to a household name and the face of the electric vehicle. But electric vehicles still comprise less than two percent of cars on the road.
Efforts to be environmentally conscious are driving that number up. More manufacturers are introducing new electric models across their lineup, and perhaps no segment is more impacted than America’s favorite, the pickup truck. Electric power makes a lot of sense for pickups, so what can we expect when these new trucks hit the road?
Practical, Powerful and Pricey
Since the inception of feature-rich SUVs in the early 1990s, trucks have become widely accepted as family commuter vehicles. They go anywhere, can haul all your gear and have seating for everyone. Don’t expect that to change with the switch to electric power. Concepts from Tesla, Rivian and General Motors all plan to offer handsome and cushy interiors geared towards family use. This isn’t your ‘57 Chevy with bolts in its neck—think more a lifted Model S, although Elon Musk has hinted that the Tesla pickup might have some steampunk in its style.
The first electric pickups we see might be thought of as competition for GM’s Sierra Denali and Ford’s King Ranch edition F-150; foreman’s trucks with all the bells and whistles. But that doesn’t mean these trucks aren’t ready to haul. Expect to see plentiful power thanks to the instant torque available from electric propulsion. These trucks will have no trouble eclipsing the tow ratings available from their current-day gasoline counterparts and could dip into the realm of diesel workhorses with the proper engineering.
Tesla is in for a Fight
While Tesla is currently positioned as the market leader in EV sales, don’t expect America’s Big Three to concede the pickup truck market to Musk’s upstart company without a fight. The F-150 has been America’s best-selling vehicle for 42 years in a row; it prints money for the blue oval company every day, and you’ll find the situation is quite similar at GM and Ram. Building trucks is something these companies know a thing or two about. A thing or two that Tesla may not. And Ford and GM have already said they will have electric models out soon.
Ford’s recent conversion to all-aluminum F-150 bodies will help inform the development of a lighter electric truck. Light weight is important because the larger batteries needed to propel a pickup laden with cargo produce less heat when they’re not weighed down. That means longer run times, better range and fewer potential breakdowns.
Still, there will be challengers from Tesla and other new-age marques. Rivian, a trendy EV maker specializing in pickups recently received $500 million in backing from none other than Ford, a huge order of 100,000 electric vans from Amazon. Another upstart company, Workhorse, is already putting trucks on the road. They might not be as opulent as the current crop of market-leading internal combustion trucks, but the opportunity to partner looms large when you’ve got check writers for GM and Chrysler/Fiat looking over your shoulder.
Can Tesla Bring the Fight to the Big Three?
Don’t expect to see the world’s premier EV brand go quietly into the night. Tesla will launch a pickup, but without the war chest and truck experience of Ford, GM and Ram, they might face some serious challenges earning market share. The Big Three are not going to allow a challenger to steal their prize-winning goose. If you’re in the market for a new truck and waiting to see how this pans out, give it a few years. You won’t have to wait long.