GM, Ford to join Rivian, maybe Tesla, in electric pickups
Rivian was first company to show off an all-electric pickup truck; they have promised a great deal, shown a prototype, and are taking preorders. Their system uses four motors, one per wheel, and in top spec promises 0-60 in 3 seconds with a 5,000 kg towing capacity, 800 kg payload, and 400 mile range—not to mention the ability to turn very tightly, since some wheels can go backwards while others go forward. The base price, with a 250-mile range and other shortfalls, is $69,000, and production is to start next year—starting, Tesla-style, with the pricier models. Tesla has yet to produce their original “base price” Model 3, but Rivian promises the “cheap” pickup within a year of launch.
Tesla has promised seating for up to six, a 500-mile range, towing up to 300,000 pounds, all-wheel drive, and a dynamic suspension; but they haven’t shown anything, and the Tesla pickup, if it arrives at all, may be the last out of the box, and is likely to fall short on most of its claims.
Ford has shown an electric pickup mule, with a publicity stunt in which it pulled a heavy train—just as the Toyota Tundra did when it was being shown off (well, the Tundra pulled a 292,000-pound space shuttle), because, really, it’s not that hard for a full-size pickup to do. The first mildly electrified Ford F-150 is due in 2020, and an all-electric is not yet in the public schedule; nor has Ford told anyone any of the specs. Until now Ford has leaned heavily on supplier Magna for its electrics, and that might be the case for the pickup, too. Or maybe not.
GM said that an electric pickup is in its future, to start in 2023 or later; it may rely on fuel cells, like a prototype the company created for the military. Perhaps GM is waiting for batteries to get cheaper, or to see how Rivian does?
Pickups are a natural target for electrification, given their general strength, body-on-frame design, large platform for batteries, and, mostly, the fact that they tend to be the second least economical vehicles to drive (after off-road specialist SUVs). Because they use so much fuel, if companies can have high-efficiency versions of pickup trucks, they can score a much easier CAFE gain than, for example, by selling many times more of a compact passenger car. Since nobody seems to be doing well with compact cars, and even Toyota and Honda are “buying” sales with incentives and free content, that’s a good strategy.
Clark Westfield grew up fixing up and driving past-their-prime American cars, including various GM and Mopar V8s. He has ghostwritten auto news for the last few years, and lives in Farmingdale, New York.