We take a look at the new generation of electric pickups heading for the streets
At the moment, electric pickup trucks aren’t really a thing. In the UK you can’t buy one ‘off the shelf’ from any manufacturer, and most of the big brands are – quite understandably – ploughing their efforts into passenger cars. But, led by a host of start-ups and disruptors predominantly out of the pickup heartland of the US, the electric pickup truck is on its way.
They’re designed for load-lugging and towing, off-roading and general utilitarian duties, and over the years have relied on big, torquey turbo diesels for power. On the face of it, the pickup trucks are an obvious fit for electrification but so far, for the European market, it simply hasn’t happened.
As we well know, electric drivetrains can dish up torque figures that pull down the pants of even the beefiest turbo diesel engines. Pickup weight and clever packaging is less of a concern, with room for people coming somewhere behind ‘space for lots of drills and hammers’ in the design requirements list. This means large battery packs can be used without compromise.
Whilst many mainstream manufacturers are (for now) eschewing EV pickup development, this hasn’t stopped start-ups from coming up with some novel entries into the market. Additionally, and as you might expect, in the natural habitat of the pickup, the USA, there are developments afoot to ensure that Hank and Billy-Bob III can ‘haul ass’ (whatever that means) in a clean and environmentally-sound way.
What’s more, these US efforts could well fill in the EV pickup gap back here in Blighty. So let’s take a look at what’s what as it currently stands.
Let’s get Elon Musk’s be-wheeled set square out the way first and address the elephant in the room: No, he isn’t trolling. The Cybertruck is a real thing and is destined for production, albeit with modifications to make it, you know, road-legal – like taking pedestrian safety into account, adding some wing mirrors for the US market, and quite possibly rolling back those dubious claims of being bullet proof.
Our full write-up provides all the major details, but in short the top-spec version will have a range of c. 500 miles, do 0-62mph in 2.9 seconds and be able to carry 1.6 tonnes of stuff in its 1.9 metre long flatbed. It’s destined for sale in 2021 over here.
Whilst the name ‘Badger’ conjures up whimsical thoughts of The Animals of Farthing Wood, Nikola’s entry into the pickup world should be viewed as more of a honey badger – all fangs and fearlessness. The start-up is better known in the US for its semi trucks, but with the Badger it’s taking aim at Tesla, and throwing in some crazy tech. For, rather than being ‘just’ a BEV, the Badger has an optional on-board fuel cell, so it’s a blended electric drive which will offer up to 600 miles of range.
It’s also powerful (900+bhp peak power), torquey (980lb ft) and can tow up to 3.6 tonnes, plus it’ll drive up a one-in-two slope without stalling. With the fuel cell option ticked, it can work as an on-site generator, which is just really cool. Nikola is working with a ‘European OEM’ on parts supply and use of manufacturing facilities, but is tight-lipped as to who that is. It’s destined for production next year.
Unlike many of its rivals which have gone down the well-trodden path of trying to blend luxury with utility, Bollinger has thought ‘sod that’ and gone the complete opposite way. Its B2 pickup is sparser than a feature wall at a minimalist convention, with an interior that is literally hose-down. In the way it looks and feels, it’s like the Land Rover Defender that tweed-wearing, shotgun-toting Land Rover Defender fans wanted the new Land Rover Defender to be.
With up to 614bhp and a range of around 200 miles, as well as a huge flatbed offering a payload of up to 2.5 tonnes, the Bollinger B2 is all about capability in the face of the most hostile terrain you can throw at it. In fact, it’s designed with search and rescue and exploratory applications in mind. It’s due in 2021.
Rivian has attracted investment from Amazon and Ford – among others – and you can probably attribute Tesla’s Cybertruck to it, as the start-up has been making the kind of waves that Musk tends to want to reserve for his projects. The R1T will be available with three different battery sizes, offering 230, 300 and 400-mile ranges (the largest battery is 180kWh!) and, like other vehicles in the sector, will deploy power – in the shape of 754bhp – for supercar-like acceleration. It’ll tow around five tonnes, and thanks to level three autonomy, will offer hands-off driving.
Rivian’s R1T will be built at a former Mitsubishi factory in Illinois with production starting towards the end of this year. Right hand drive variants won’t arrive until 2021, however.
Ford F150 Electric
It’s as American as God, Guns, Freedom, and orange presidents, but not content with just downsizing the F150’s engine from a V8 to a boosted V6 (to much disquiet among some fans), Ford is working on an electric version. They’ll probably call it the ‘Commie Edition’ and only make it available in red. All joking aside, the F150 is one of the biggest selling vehicles not only in the States, but in the world, so Ford’s working overtime to get it right with the next-generation truck.
We don’t know a whole lot about it as it’s not due for launch for another few years, but in a publicity stunt, the test mule towed a train which weighed the best part of 450 tonnes. Ford’s entry into the EV world with the Mustang Mach-E is evidently only the start of an intense programme of development.
Yet another start-up entering the market, Arizona-based Atlis is hoping for a slice of the pie (apple or pecan – this is ‘Murica) with its XT. It will be powered by in-wheel motors and offer ranges of between 300 and 500 miles, which will translate to big batteries. It reckons its powertrain is good for 60mph in five seconds flat, and it can tow around 7.5 tonnes.
The company is planning on starting production this year, but despite taking reservations is still looking for investors and hasn’t said where it’s going to build the XT. You’d also likely have to import one to the UK, and we’re not entirely sure why you’d bother, as except for the £35k price tag, there would seem to be better options on the horizon.
Plenty, in fact, though useful detail about them is scant at the moment. General Motors announced at the end of last year that it will launch an electric pickup in autumn 2021, which could mean the return of Hummer. Newcomer, Lordstown, is hoping to start production of its Endurance this year and is already taking reservations. You can bet your bottom dollar that there will be more entrants to the lucrative pickup market in the coming years.
European and Japanese manufacturers will naturally lag behind – at least for now. The pickup segment in these markets is far, far smaller and therefore less of a money maker than it is in the USA. Evolving usable and affordable passenger cars is therefore the priority. Despite this, with so many brands going down the EV SUV route they will at least have platforms upon which to build electric pickups when market conditions make it worthwhile to do so.