• Ford F-150 EV Prototype

News: Pickup Trucks Make Big Power/MPG Moves

Electric Ford F-150 Tows 1+ Million Pounds

Diesel Chevrolet Silverado Hits 33 MPG

Two news items this week speak reams about what pickup truck buyers want, while pointing two different directions for future powertrains. Or maybe they’re just indicating two paths future trucks may take.

Ford F-150 EV Prototype
2020 Chevrolet Silverado Duramax
A prototype all-electric F-150 tows 10 double-decker rail cars and 42 2019-model year F-150s, weighing more than 1 million pounds.

Ford’s news was a bit of a tease—and an Instagram-type rebuttal to Tesla CEO Elon Musk. A prototype electric Ford F-150 hooked up to a lineup of boxcars weighing in at more than one million pounds and showed it could tow them along the track. Few other details emerged, but the intent was to throw down a gauntlet to the Tesla pickup due sometime this year. Musk recently said his pickup would top the F-150 (the country’s best-selling pickup for the past four decades) in “truck-like functionality.” Of course, towing is one of those key bragging rights of functionality.

Tesla’s pickup remains unseen (one teaser photo showed a headlight—or some kind of light), and the company has a history of bringing products to market late and with less features than promised.

Ford F-150 EV Prototype
2020 Chevrolet Silverado Duramax
Ford’s all-electric F-150 will come after an all-new Ford F-150 Hybrid, which goes on sale in 2020

Ford showed a working prototype of its electric truck in this demo. The company has said it would have a full electric model for sale in “coming years,” which is about as vague as Tesla. For this demo, the prototype pulled a 1.25-million ton train for a short distance. The feat is easier than it sounds, according to a math analysis by Road & Track magazine’s writers. While it’s still impressive, the force needed to get the train moving is less than you’d expect because of the low rolling resistance design of a train. According to the magazine, a 4WD truck would only need 1,875 pounds of force to get the train moving on level ground. Since the electric F-150 probably clocks in at more than 5,000 pounds, a Ranger probably could have done the job.

The One You Will Be Able To Buy Soon

While Ford and Tesla sparred over electric pickup specs, Chevrolet trotted out some EPA-certified paperwork for its 2020 model that will be on sale in a few months. The 2020 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Duramax, powered by a 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder turbodiesel engine, will deliver 33 mpg on the highway. Based on our experience with diesels and EPA’s testing protocols, it’s a pretty safe bet that number may be conservative. At that, it still stands as the highest fuel economy for a half-ton pickup, besting the Ram and F-150 diesels and gas models.

Ford F-150 EV Prototype
2020 Chevrolet Silverado Duramax
Diesel’s designed to tow in the real world

The 3.0-liter diesel specs include 277 horsepower and 460 pounds-feet of torque. While it would probably be able to move a line of box cars, its 4WD model is rated to tow 9,300 pounds and has a max payload of 1,870 pounds, which GM says will meet the needs of 90 percent of light-duty truck consumers.

Cost the diesel option will be the same as an optional gas V8. Paired with a 10-speed Hydra-Matic automatic transmission, the Duramax model will start at $42,285. It marks the first time since 1997 that Chevrolet has offered a light-duty diesel engine option. It joins the 2.8-liter Duramax in the Colorado pickup and the 6.2-liter Duramax V8 found in the Silverado HD and Medium-Duty trucks. The Silverado also will have gas four-cylinder, V6 and V8 engines.

Ford F-150 EV Prototype
2020 Chevrolet Silverado Duramax
The 2020 Duramax diesel will be on sale this fall

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About Author: Michael Coates

is editor and publisher at Clean Fleet Report and an internationally recognized expert in the field of automotive environmental issues. He has been an automotive editor and writer for more than three decades. His media experience includes Petersen Publishing (now part of The Enthusiast Network), Green Car Journal, trade magazines, newspaper and television news reporting. He currently serves on the Board of the Western Automotive Journalists.

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