By Fred MeierAugust 6, 2021Share
Pickup trucks are family haulers, work trucks, fleet vehicles and rolling offices. They sell in huge numbers and make a lot of money for automakers. Several startup companies are developing electric pickups in hopes of grabbing a slice of those profits as the U.S. moves toward an electric future, just as Tesla has done in the premium car market. But current automakers are working just as hard to keep their pickup dominance in an electric vehicle world. The result will be a wave of electric alternatives on the market in the next few years.
Electrifying pickups could be more significant than electrifying cars. Pickups not only are ubiquitous, they also are among the thirstiest vehicles on the road; a shift to electric power could have an outsized impact on fossil fuel use — a lot more than, say, trading a Toyota Prius for a Chevrolet Bolt EV. And a recent report by advocacy group Coltura found that about 10% of drivers it dubs “superusers” account for almost one-third of annual U.S. gasoline use, more than the bottom 60% of drivers. They drive three times more miles than the average driver, tend to live in more rural areas and disproportionately drive pickups as well as big SUVs. Converting consumers, along with work fleets, to electric pickups could put a big dent in emissions.
But attracting buyers won’t be easy. People and fleets buy pickups for their greater capabilities — cargo, off-road use and towing — and they are not likely to be EV believers willing to compromise on capability or convenience to avoid gasoline. Range is a question, as it is for other EVs, but for a more utilitarian truck, the question is intertwined with payload and towing capacity: How far will it go with a full load or pulling a trailer?
Below are some of the electric pickups promised for the U.S. market in the next few years. For some that are due soon, a lot has been announced; for others, details are scarce — and some might not make it to market at all.
Rivian R1T | Automotiveng
Rivian says deliveries of its R1T Launch Edition pickup will begin in September, delayed from July. That version is sold out, and the online configurator estimates delivery of new orders will begin in January for a $73,000 Adventure Package and a $67,500 Explore Package with fewer features but the same range. Both prices are listed as “estimated” rather than final and are plus destination fee; a $1,000 deposit is required to order. An SUV version (the R1S) is also coming, and a delivery van for Amazon among other models is planned. This EV startup has solid financial backing, including from Amazon and Ford, and already has announced that it plans to open a second plant in addition to its current facility in Normal, Ill.
The R1T is not quite a full size, but bigger than mid-size, with a crew cab and a 4.5-foot bed. The truck uses a four-motor all-wheel-drive system, and the initial version will offer 300-plus miles of range, with a 400-plus range battery pack option for $10,000. The R1T is positioned more as a high-riding lifestyle truck with off-road capability than a work truck, and other options include a built-in camp cooking system ($5,000) and custom three-person tent ($2,650). In addition to a front trunk, the truck also includes a lockable storage tunnel behind the cab, accessible from the side of the bed. Rivian says the truck will have up to 14 inches of ground clearance, a 3-foot fording depth and a 0-60 mph time as low as 3 seconds. It lists towing capacity at 11,000 pounds with a 50% reduction in range. The company also plans to assemble a Rivian network of chargers, including fast charging for adventure destinations, by the end of 2023.
2022 GMC Hummer EV Edition 1 | Manufacturer image
GM’s first electric pickup revives the bad-boy SUV badge for a boldly styled EV halo truck with prodigious off-road capability and luxury features, trim and pricing. The fully loaded, $112,595 (including destination) Hummer EV Edition 1 with three-motor all-wheel drive, 1,000 horsepower and a 350-plus-mile range will go into production in the fall, but it’s already sold out. GM is taking reservations for a $99,995 three-motor version (800 hp) that will be available in the fall of 2022, followed by an $89,995 two-motor model (625 hp) in the spring of 2023 and a base $79,995 two-motor truck (625 hp) a year later.
Among notable features and options for the Edition 1 are suspension modes that can lower the truck 2 inches for better aerodynamics (and a claimed 0-60 time of 3 seconds) or raise it to nearly 16 inches of clearance to get over obstacles. It has nimble four-wheel steering, a CrabWalk feature that allows all four wheels to turn in one direction and move the Hummer EV diagonally at low speeds, 18 camera views that include forward- and rear-facing underbody visibility, and 3D off-road graphics for the dashboard display, which was developed with video game maker Epic Games. Also available are transparent and removable roof panels and GM’s latest Super Cruise semi-autonomous driving technology.
The truck will use GM’s Ultium battery system with the battery pack sandwiched between steel plates that also function as the vehicle’s frame. Fast-charging capability is up to 350 kilowatts.
2022 Ford F-150 Lightning | Automotiveng
It’s hard to overestimate the potential significance of an electric F-150. It’s perennially the bestselling vehicle nameplate in America and, if it rolls out as promised, the Lightning is aimed to be a “real” pickup with work as well as bling versions, and pricing that reaches down to real-people and fleet levels — Ford estimates pricing for various trim levels from $40,000 to $90,000. For now, Ford vehicles (unlike GM and Tesla) also still qualify for the federal EV tax credit.
The prototype unveiled in May revealed styling in the mold of other crew-cab F-150s, albeit one with a giant front trunk under the hood (featuring D-rings, cargo hooks and electrical power), more futuristic lighting and more aerodynamic running boards. The 5.5-foot bed also looks as work-worthy as other F-150s, complete with power outlets powered by a 9.6-kW onboard generator system. A slick additional option is that the truck can, when hooked up to the Ford home charger, provide emergency power for the home in an outage.
Ford is aiming for a 300-mile top range but also plans a 230-mile version, and it will be capable of 150-kW fast charging. Power is aimed for up to 563 hp and a mid-4-second 0-60 time for the top model with its two-motor all-wheel-drive system. Ford says it will have up to a 2,000-pound payload capacity and a towing capability of 10,000 pounds.
2021 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 | Automotiveng
Chevy confirmed in April that there will be an EV version of its Silverado full-size pickup — and said little more beyond that it will be built at the same Michigan plant as the Hummer EV and that it is aiming for a top range of 400-plus miles. Chevy said the electric Silverado will utilize a version of the GM Ultium platform underpinning the Hummer EV, and it appears the plan is for it to be, like the F-150 Lightning, a real-world pickup, with Chevy saying that “retail and fleet versions will offer customers a variety of options.”
While the coming Hummer EV — big, brash, expensive and off-road capable — will be GMC’s flagship electric pickup, the brand recently confirmed that it will build a second electric truck. It wasn’t a surprise given Chevy’s earlier confirmation of an electric version of its Silverado pickup, but no details were offered — not even confirmation that it would carry the Sierra badge of its current full-size pickup line. But it is expected to be more conventional and less expensive than the Hummer EV. It also is expected to be, like the current Sierra, a more premium cousin of the Silverado differentiated by styling, trims and slightly higher pricing. The truck likely will share the GM Ultium platform and battery system with the Hummer EV and Silverado.
Tesla Cybertruck | Manufacturer image
Tesla has aimed its Cybertruck to be a lifestyle pickup like no other, and that seems assured unless there are major changes to the “Blade Runner”-inspired trapezoidal styling of its DeLorean-style stainless steel body. It’s a crew-cab truck, though it’s not clear how much rear seat space will fit under that roof. Tesla says there will be one-, two- and three-motor versions with more than 250, 300 and 500 miles of range, respectively, plus rear-wheel or all-wheel drive. It claims the top version will be capable of 0-60 in 2.9 seconds, have a payload capacity of 3,500 pounds and a towing capability of up to 14,000 pounds. It has a 6.5-foot bed with a retractable cover. Other features include an air suspension, four-wheel steering, onboard power and compressed air. Pricing currently is set at $39,900, $49,900 and $69,900 for the three versions.
The company has been vague about when deliveries, planned for 2021, actually will begin. It will be assembled at a plant still being built in Texas that also will build the Model Y SUV, and the company has said that ramping up Model Y production has priority. That makes 2022 a better bet for the first Cybertruck deliveries.
2021 Ram 1500 TRX | Cars.com photo by Christian Lantry
Ram announced in July that it will roll out a Ram full-size electric pickup in 2024. No other details of the truck were provided in parent company Stellantis’ electrification media day presentation, however.
In an extensive spring announcement of long-term electrification plans, Toyota said an electric pickup is on the way soon without saying if it would be a Tundra or Tacoma — or something new. “Toyota intends to bring electrification to its pickup truck lineup in the near future, including hybrid and BEV (battery-electric vehicle) powertrains,” it said.
Bollinger B2 | Cars.com photo by Christian Lantry
Bollinger, a Michigan-based startup, has shown a revised “production intent” version of its squared-off, four-seat pickup. The B2 is rugged, off-road capable and expensive — $125,000. It features a no-frills flat aluminum body, crank windows, a 4-by-6-foot bed, a flip-down rear cabin wall, 15 inches of ground clearance, a two-motor powertrain putting out 614 hp, and front and rear locking differentials. It also features removable roof panels, doors and windshield. Bollinger says the payload capacity is 5,001 pounds and towing capability is 7,500 pounds.
The company also has announced an SUV, as well as cab-chassis versions of the truck (including one with dual rear wheels) and a commercial chassis. It says the B2 will arrive in late 2021 and will be built by a production partner, but has not yet announced the partner.
Hercules, a Detroit startup, is aiming its Alpha at the luxury pickup market with design by Italy’s Pininfarina and a range of personalization options and customizable interiors. Details are limited, but a torque-vectoring four-motor drive system with up to 1,000 hp is planned, as are other configurations. It also is to offer a solar-cell tonneau cover capable of generating 1.2 kW. The company says it plans to contract for production.
The XT, from Arizona-based startup Atlis, is a big truck with planned spec options that range up to heavy-duty pickup rivalry and a planned price range of $45,000 to $78,000. The range of options and capabilities planned include 6.5- and 8-foot bed options, a dually option and a gooseneck towing version. It’s expected to have a four-motor all-wheel-drive system with range configurations of 300, 400 or 500 miles. Planned payload capacities from 1,000 to 5,000 pounds will be offered, towing capability will range from 6,000 to 17,000 pounds, and fifth-wheel and gooseneck towing gross combined weight ratings will range from 20,000 to 35,000 pounds. The XT also will have an air suspension and up to 15 inches of ground clearance.
The Canoo pickup — one in a line of planned vehicles that includes a van — is a compact, two-seat truck that’s significantly shorter at 184 inches than today’s mid-size pickups but still includes a 6-foot bed thanks to the cab-forward design. Details are sparse, but it is to offer rear- or all-wheel drive, up to an estimated 600 hp and an 1,800-pound payload capacity. The design includes numerous storage spaces, flip-down bed sides that can make tables and a bed that can be extended as needed to an 8-foot length. The startup company has recently been seeking to reassure investors after the departure of its co-founder and CEO, and changes to its business plan that includes taking production in-house with its own plant to be built in Oklahoma.
This startup occupying the former GM plant in Lordstown, Ohio, has announced a pickup incorporating new construction techniques, a novel all-wheel system with a motor in each wheel hub, a 7,500-pound towing capability and a $55,000 price. It was planned to begin production in September, but the company has had financial problems and is under an Securities and Exchange Commission investigation. It warned in an SEC filing in June that “We require additional capital to implement our business plan, and it may not be available on acceptable terms, if at all, creating substantial doubt as to our ability to continue as a going concern.”
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