The electric pickup truck is about to alter the rugged, go-anywhere, haul-everything pickup truck beloved by Americans. Pickup trucks are the badge of small business owners. They’re the work horse for farmers. And they’re the joy-ride of extreme athletes. In fact, the Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado and Dodge Ram were the three best sold vehicles in 2016.
And yet, they’re bumpy, enormous and extremely inefficient gas-guzzlers. They stand in stark defiance to where the industry is headed – towards alternative fuel sources and tight, efficient interiors.
But things may change. Ford says it plans to release all electric and hybrid versions of its best-selling F150 in the next five years. There’s still a way to go. Ford wants to make sure its electric pickup truck has a range of 300 miles, and they’re worried about the current weight of electric batteries hurting the car’s performance.
For the immediate future, the focus is on hybrid vehicles. Beyond making a hybrid F-150, a hybrid Mustang, two new hybrid police vehicles, a hybrid self driving car, a hybrid transit car and six other vehicles will be introduced before 2020 – that’s 40 percent of the vehicles Ford offers.
Raj Nair, Ford’s Chief Technology Officer told Business Insider: “We want electrification to be a bonus. One thing that is really advantageous on the hybrid is it also becomes its own power generating source.”
Ford says it’s reacting to market trends. Younger buyers want electric. It reflects a care about the environment, new technology and affordability. About 50 percent of Millennials say they will purchase an electric or hybrid as their next vehicle. The Brookings institute states that Millennial workers will make up 75 percent of the workforce by 2025. Which will mean huge demand for greener vehicles of all types.
Of course, Ford risks losing their core audience. The F-150 has been the biggest selling US vehicle for the last 35 years. An electric pickup truck with more weight, potentially lower performance and higher initial cost is not likely to convert the faithful. But, the cost and weight of batteries is falling, and the price of gasoline is rising. At some point, electric pickups will be cheaper to buy and cheaper to run – but that’s not likely to happen before 2020 – and may explain Ford’s hesitation.
Will Ford Be First?
Other companies aren’t hesitating. Tesla has been working on an electric pickup truck that the company says is in the ‘early stages of development’. Nonetheless, they expect to unveil their concept soon. And it’s expected to be in production within the next three to four years (2019-2020).
Workhorse, an electric truck and drone company, has unveiled their W-15 Electric Pickup Truck, although like the Chevy Volt, it’s not a true electric car – it has a twin motor. The claim is that lower fuel costs make it cheaper than a standard pickup over the life of the vehicle. General Motors is trying again with hybrid designs, and will be a fierce competitor for Ford.
To date, other companies haven’t had much success with electric trucks. General Motors sold hybrid versions of its Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups a few years ago. They weren’t very good and had only negligible fuel economy gains.
Electric Trucks: An Inevitable Reality
Everyone seems to be in agreement that electric vehicles are the future. As the U.S. vehicle of choice, a viable electric pickup would seem to be inevitable. But with ambivalence from it’s core audience, instead it’s still a waiting game. Electric vehicles are cheaper to run, but much more expensive to buy. And the F-150 Limited already tags in at over $60,000.
Despite all that, the tipping point is starting. Even at $20,000 more than the F-150, the Workhorse is still cheaper over the lifespan of the vehicle. Soon, manufacturing costs will fall, electric performance will improve and people will make the switch. It’s just a matter of when – and who will be the first to fully take advantage of the future of the automotive industry.
This article was written by Eric White. He is part of the team at 51st State Autos, the UK’s largest importer of American Pickup Trucks in the UK.