Electric Trucks and SUV’s
Electric power is clearly the wave of the future. Ford reported an incredible pre-order for the electric version of their iconic pickup truck, the F150 Lightning, of 200,000 units - at which point they quit taking orders. Amazon just announced it will invest 1 billion Euros ($972.1 million) to add thousands more electric vans, long-haul trucks and cargo bikes to its delivery network in Europe.
General Motors has plans to go almost entirely electric by 2035. Nissan is investing $500 million into its Canton, Mississippi factory to prepare for the production of two new electric vehicles. Rivian says it will deliver 25,000 trucks by the end of 2022.
Vehicles with an electric motor made up 41% of sales in the second quarter in Europe, with 9.9% battery-only cars and the rest hybrids that combine electric power with internal combustion, according to the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association. Electric only vehicles in the U.S. so far are only 4.5% of sales, but growing rapidly.
The U.S. federal government currently provides incentives up to $7500 to buy electric vehicles, but better let your attorney read all the conditions first - it’s complicated, to say the least; see details here.
However, in terms of charging stations, affordability and public acceptance, gas or diesel powered trucks are still by far the most popular choice for tow vehicles. As a point of comparison, Ford sold over 725,000 gas F150’s in 2021.
Also be aware that the jury is still out on towing range for electrics. Car and Driver recently hitched a 6,100-pound camper to each of the three electric pickups on the market: the F-150 Lightning, GMC Hummer EV, and Rivian R1T. At 70 mph in 85-degree conditions, maximum range dropped to 100 miles for the Ford, 140 miles for the Hummer, and 110 miles for the Rivian.
If you don’t happen to run out of charge next to one of those rare roadside charging stations, you’re got a problem.
Not only that but “supply chain issues” are causing steady increases in the price of some EV’s - Ford’s F150 base price has jumped thousands of dollars since the truck was first introduced.
Be that as it may, it appears likely barring some earth-shaking discovery that most cars and trucks will be electrically-powered within 20 years. California has already made a rule banning the sale of petrol-powered vehicles after 2035, though it remains to be seen whether the state will have to amend that directive until they figure out a way to produce enough electricity to charge all those e-vehicles.
One avenue that looks promising, thermal modulation is already in development. Researchers at Penn State say internal thermal modulation, an active method of temperature control, appears a likely route to reduce charge time to 10 minutes for redesigned batteries that will be both smaller and lighter.
If the technology proves out, it would cut down battery cost and usage of critical raw materials such as cobalt, graphite and lithium, as well.
Electric pickups are currently pricey enough to give many of us pause. The idea that the mass of Americans can buy them, even if they want them, is clearly misguided at this point, but prices may come down somewhat as manufacturing efficiencies kick in with mass production.
With this in mind, here’s a look at the current slate of EV trucks and SUV’s, both those currently available and those projected by 2024.
Chevrolet’s Silverado EV won’t be available until summer of 2024, but reportedly will have a base price of $39,900, making it competitive with gas pickups if that really turns out to be the price. The company says it will have a range of towing capabilities from 8,000 lbs (3,629 kg) to 20,000 lbs1 (9,072 kg) depending on model selection and battery size.
Additionally, Silverado EV will offer an Advanced Trailering System with up to 14 different camera views, 4-Wheel Steer, which offers great trailering dynamics, and Super Cruise with trailering - hands-free driver-assistance technology, allowing drivers to travel hands-free on more than 200,000 miles of compatible roads across the U.S. and Canada.
The truck will include the company’s Ultium battery platform with a low center of gravity to help overall handling and enable the GM-estimated 400 mile range with a full charge. The motors produce equivalent of over 660 horsepower and over 780 lb.-ft. of torque, per the company; https://www.chevrolet.com.
Dodge is playing catch-up in the EV game, with no production electric truck until the 2024 model year, but says their vehicle will exceed all other pickups in range with a reach of up to 500 miles.
It’s expected to be a two-electric motor design, but may have an optional gasoline “range extender” power plant as well to boost towing capacity and recharge batteries as needed. No information on towing capacity is available so far; https://www.ramtrucks.com/revolution.html.
The Ford F150 Lightning shook the pickup truck world with its astounding pre-order, which sold out the factory capacity for the year before the first truck hit the street.
Like other EV’s, the Lightning has the lithium ion battery pack inset into a low-slung frame, with electric motors both front and rear. The standard battery delivers 230 miles on a full charge under ideal conditions, the Extended Range model, a $10,000 option, 320 miles. Both these numbers are without anything in tow, of course.
The base model, well-equipped for towing, lists for about $60,000. This includes the $1,950 Pro Trailer package, with 360-degree camera monitors, backup assist, hitch assist, electric lighted exterior mirrors, on-board scales with Smart Hitch remover, trailer reverse guidance system and more. A $1,000 Max Trailer Towing package adds additional cooling for the battery system.
The base battery system lists a towing capacity of just 2,000 lb (907 kg), but opt for the extended range battery setup and this jumps to 10,000 lb (4536 kg). The company says both systems put out some 775 foot pounds of torque. Towing range remains to be seen; https://shop.ford.com.
The GMC Hummer EV SUV has a lot to like in terms of a rough-and-ready offroad vehicle with rugged looks and some interesting options packages.
The trucks have a unique “Extract Mode” to get you out of tight spots, with the suspension lifting the vehicle up to 6” vertically to get over a boulder or ease through a deep mud hole. There’s also an optional “Crab Walk” capability allowing the rear wheels to turn up to 10 degrees, which lets the truck walk sideways to handle the most difficult rock climbs - as well as park in amazingly tight spots.
The trucks are available with up to 18 cameras to give a 360-degree view around the vehicle, and Surround Vision function uses images from the multiple cameras to display an overhead image when needed for tight navigation off road.
If you like the idea of a muscle truck but are upsizing from a Ferrari, you might also like the fact that the pickup is available with 1,000-hp equivalent 4WD and will deliver a 3 second 0-60 time, per GMC. Range on the pickup is up to 350 miles, and for the SUV 300 miles.
For towing, the Hummer is more limited than other EV pickups, with a max of 7,500 lb (3402 kg)
The basic EV2 pickup or SUV will list for about $86,650, the fully loaded EV3X pickup around $107,000. A fully loaded Edition 1 SUV will go for around $110,600; https://www.gmc.com/electric/hummer-ev.
Nissan so far has only this concept image in the race for electric pickup trucks, but has announced plans to invest half a billion dollars in a Mississippi plant to produce EV’s including electric pickups. It’s likely several years down the road before we see a full-sized all electric Titan XD ready to join the Nissan Leaf on the roads, however; www.nissanusa.com.
Rivian is a start-up company based on the foreseen electric vehicle revolution, so their platform and engineering are completely original to the industry.
The R1-T is their pickup version, designed to seat 5 in four-door version, and towing capacity is listed as 11,000 lb (4990 kg), putting it near the top in EV muscle. The truck is driven by four electric motors, one on each wheel, that combine to produce 835 hp (623 kW) and deliver 908 ft⋅lb (1,231 N⋅m) of torque. Range is 314 miles with the base battery package. Base price is $67,500.
The Rivian R1 S SUV, has dual motors standard producing up to 600 horsepower and 600 foot-pounds of torque, while the quad-version is the same as the pickup. Base price is $72,500; https://rivian.com.
The Tesla Cybertruck has slipped back to mid-2023 for rollout but you can reserve one now with a $100 deposit. The body and exoskeleton will be cold-rolled stainless steel so never rust or need a paint job. The company says it will have an impressive towing capacity of 14,000 lb (6350 kg), 0-60 time under 3 seconds for the tri-motor model and up to 500-mile range—but much less, of course, with a heavy tow.
There will be absolutely no question of what brand you are driving when you hit the road in this one. If the styling holds, it will look like something out of ThunderDome.
The single motor version is projected to start at $40,000, the dual-motor at $50,000 and the tri-motor at $70,000; https://www.tesla.com/cybertruck.