GM is offering to build an all-electric full-size pickup at its Poletown plant as part of a settlement with the UAW. But it won’t be alone, as Tesla, Ford, Rivian and others are also developing EV pickups. Here’s what we know about what’s coming.
With the new, and as yet-unnamed pickup, GM will join an expanding club. While the automaker may be mum when it comes to specific plans, a number of details have begun leaking out, starting with the anticipated launch date. Sam Fiorani, the head of Global Vehicle Forecasting, AutoForecast Solutions, anticipates the automaker’s electric pickup “most likely” debuts next year as a 2021 model.
Unlike the ladder-frame chassis used for the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, the new truck will ride on a skateboard-like “architecture,” much like those used in pretty much all of the new generation of long-range battery-electric vehicles. That includes the current Chevrolet Bolt EV, as well as the all-electric SUV that Cadillac has confirmed is coming. But the pickup platform will be longer, wider and a lot more rugged in order to meet the requirements of serious truck users, stressed Fiorani.
As for horsepower, torque and other specifications, GM can’t disappoint Silverado buyers, said Fiorani. “You have to expect its towing capacity would be more like the Silverado, in excess of 11,000 pounds,” he added, while predicting Chevy’s EV pickup would offer similar range to Rivian’s R1T.
Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe introduced the R1T at the 2018 LA Auto Show. (Photo: Paul A. Eisenstein, TheDetroitBureau)
The Plymouth, Michigan-based start-up unveiled its own offering at the Los Angeles Auto Show last November, the R1T something of a “tweener,” sized between the full-size Silverado and the midsize Chevy Colorado. But there is nothing lightweight about its specs, Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe estimating R1T will make “close to 800 horsepower,” tow up to 11,000 pounds and, with a whopping 180 kilowatt-hour battery pack, manage 400 or more miles per charge.
“Our goal is to allow you to go anywhere,” Scaringe said during the debut of the R1T and sibling R1S sport-utility vehicle sharing the same platform.
Expect to see the production version of the R1T debut in the coming months and go into production next year.
Rivian has lined up an array of investments, including $500 million from Ford. Surprisingly, Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s president of automotive operations, told Ride the R1T’s platform will not anchor the full-size electric pickup the Detroit automaker is developing. Like GM, Ford opted for a full-size model along the lines of its classic F-Series.
Ford showed off a prototype of its electric pickup by having it pull a 1 million-pound load. (Photo: Ford)
With towing one of the most important attributes for pickup buyers, Ford staged a stunt in August to promote the truck’s capabilities, a prototype hauling 10 double-decker rail cars and 42 conventional F-150 pickups – a load of more than 1 million pounds. In production, expect Ford to use the hefty torque of the truck’s motors to deliver at least as much towing capacity as the GM rig.
As for timing, Ford aims to reach showrooms about the same time as Chevy counterpart. You can also expect to see both hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions of the conventional F-150 over the next few years.
It’s been some time since Tesla first announced plans to launch its own electric pickup. CEO Elon Musk now says the California automaker’s own entrant will make its production debut in August. Precisely what Tesla has in store is uncertain, however. The original Tesla renderings suggested its pickup would be big enough to haul a Ford F-150 in its cargo bed. The analyst suspects the actual truck will be smaller, especially considering the CEO also suggested it would start at less than $50,000, said Fiorani.
Tesla has only teased its planned pickup ahead of a November debut. (Photo: Tesla)
In a podcast, Musk said in June that the Tesla truck has “got to have incredible functionality from a load-carrying standpoint,” something “better than F-150.” He also has promised that the all-wheel-drive version will get range of up to 500 miles with an optional battery-pack.
Yet another start-up, Bollinger Motors, is following Rivian’s lead, getting ready to unveil both an electric pickup and a battery SUV on September 26. The company said in a statement that the trucks feature “dual motors, all-wheel drive, hydropneumatic suspension, in-wheel portal gear hubs, 120-kWh battery pack, large front trunk space, and patented pass-through doors for transporting long items.”
Originally hoping to get its trucks to market early this year, Bollinger is not expected to start production until sometime in 2020, at the earliest.
Don’t be surprised to see even more players get into the electric pickup game, including Ram, which went for a mild hybrid package for the latest-generation truck. While he wouldn’t confirm specifics, “There’s a lot of (battery-based) product coming,” said Micky Bly, the global powertrain chief hired by Fiat Chrysler earlier this year – and the former chief engineer on the original Chevrolet Bolt plug-in.
All told, pickup buyers are looking to have a lot of all-electric – as well as hybrid – pickup truck options available by early in the new decade. “Everybody’s going to have an electric pickup, at some point,” said Michelle Krebs, a senior analyst with Cox Automotive. “But it’s an untested market. We don’t know if there will be enough sales to go around.”
The challenge will be to convince buyers that these battery-trucks can deliver the same capabilities as conventional pickups, while also being as rugged and reliable. The lower cost of energy, however, could prove to be a major selling point.
WHY THIS MATTERS
Automakers are investing billions of dollars to bring new battery-electric vehicles to market, including an assortment of new pickups. With the massive torque offered by electric motors, as well as lower energy costs, they could prove to be a great alternative to models like the F-150 and Chevy Silverado – at least if they also match the capabilities and durability of conventional trucks.