by Jason Epperson
Battery-powered electric pickup trucks are coming, and sooner than you think. The big 3 manufacturers — GM/Chevy, Ford, and Ram — are all working hard to bring an electric truck to the market.
The UAW strike action against GM is now well into its second month, as workers gear up for a ratification vote on a new contract. One major provision of that deal is a promise from GM to invest $3 billion at the Detroit-Hamtramck plant. Previously slated for closure, the plant will be re-tooled to build electric trucks and vans, including all-electric Silverados and Sierras.
Ford announced back in January that it was working on an electric F-150, and recently released a video of a prototype pulling a freight train. In March, Ram said they were working on an electric 1500 along with electric Jeeps.
But none of the big three truck manufacturers will beat electric vehicle innovator Tesla to the market. Elon Musk hasn’t been quiet about a production model truck for a while, and it’s ramped up in recent weeks. It’s likely that the Tesla Truck will be available for pre-sale before the year is out. Ram, GM, and Ford won’t be able to hit the market until 2021 at the earliest — which is still just over a year away.
There’s a lot unknown about the mechanics of electric trucks. After all, a pickup truck is just a body shape. Can electric trucks muster the strength for heavy payload tasks such as pulling an RV? It would be almost worthless for these trucks to be developed if they can’t come close. We’re not going to see heavy-duty production model trucks anytime soon — these will all be half-ton class — but there’s no reason to believe you won’t be able to pull a small to medium trailer or slide a truck camper into one.
Musk has hinted on Twitter that the Tesla truck will tow over 12,000lbs and have a range of 400-500 miles (probably unloaded). Analysts suggest that it will likely have a drive module on each axle, making it all-wheel-drive and that it will boast new tech that charges faster than current Tesla cars.
Musk has also said that the retail price for the Tesla truck will be under $50,000, meaning it will directly compete with conventional models.
And even though car manufacturers have all but moved past hybrid power trains, hybrid tech could be the ideal balance for truck owners. Ram already has what’s called a “mild hybrid.” Ram 1500s with the eTorque hybrid work in tandem with the 5.7 Hemi V8 and are on dealerships now.
The eTorque Rams don’t ever drive on full electric, but the electric engine helps reduce fuel mileage and increases power.
Next year, Ford plans to introduce a full-hybrid F150, which ought to be attractive to a lot of tow junkies. Imagine using the power of a gas engine while towing, but running mostly on electric after you’ve unhooked at the campsite.
What do you think? Would you be interested in an electric truck if it matches the capabilities of a traditional half-ton?