ou need a truck; something that can haul heavy, tow large, and get wild off road. Well, forget diesel-stained jeans and big bills at the pump—electric trucks, finally, are having a lightbulb moment
When General Motors’ all-electric EV1 debuted in 1996, the “soap bar,” as MotorWeek described it, had a range of 60 miles. That’s only 40 miles more than the better-named “Electrobat” in 1896—depriving GenX early adopters the joy of proclaiming “Look how far we’ve come in the last century!” How far? Forty miles.
Since the 1830s, when the first electric vehicles were built, “EV” development primarily focused on making cars go further, faster and more stylishly. But progress was slow: 20mph in the Electrobat’s case, 80mph in the EV1’s. Consider that the 1896 vehicle beat its internal combustion contemporaries in road races, and one could even argue that things were (quietly) rolling backwards for EVs. But then Tesla happened in 2008, and global warming got real, batteries improved and suddenly EV development shifted into high gear. Fast-forward to today and very non-soap-bar-like stunners such as the new Lotus Evija are burning up test tracks at more than 200mph, with a range of just under 200 miles—so things have improved dramatically. And yet, amidst nearly two centuries’ worth of performance and style upgrades, one vehicle type appeared to have been left behind: trucks.
Well hitch up your jeans, because that’s about to change. As of right now, a wide range of electric pickups is starting to hit the road and they may convince fans of their internal combustion counterparts to pack up the pump—once they get used to the idea of plugging in.
Until recently, for every pickup truck ad featuring construction workers or cowboys charging down a dusty trail, there’s been an EV ad featuring sustainably grown vegetables (Ford C-Max); cute polar bears (Nissan Leaf); happy acoustic guitar songs about humming (Toyota Prius); or models zooming around clean urban fantasies (nearly all). These ads sell a lifestyle, while pickup truck owners often are focused on making a living, on function over form. But then you come to the subject of torque—the twisting force an engine generates, which helps with climbing mountains and pulling heavy loads—and suddenly truck fans are listening. In EVs the engine doesn’t need to rev up to develop max torque. Rather, torque is available instantly, like a light switch, and this is a big advantage. Ford’s new electric F-150 Lightning develops 775 lb-ft of torque—more torque than any F-150 in history—and it can power your home in the event of a blackout. And there’s more, as the absence of a gas engine can mean design tweaks for improved fording depth (for driving through water) and increased storage, along with zero emissions, lower cost of operation and the other niceties offered by all EVs. Lastly, electric trucks in the wilderness might make the most of an attribute largely lost on their city-dwelling brethren: silence, and we’re happy to call that an advantage. Whether or not you hear them coming, the following could appear soon on a trail near you—ready to plug in, turn on, and get out of town. We’re looking forward to all of it—and to someone resurrecting the “Electrobat” name. We’ll take ours in black, please.
Redolent of the snub-nosed haulers of the 1960s, Canoo’s pickup features a drop-down nose gate and plenty of storage where one might expect to find an engine—just one of many innovations, which also include bed lighting; a power strip; steps; roof rack; and flip-down tables (all integrated); an extendable bed; and more. The pickup is one of three planned EVs from Canoo, a startup that’s aiming to “bring EVs to everyone.” Pricing of the company’s “Lifestyle Vehicle” Vanagon-style transport bears that out, starting at $34,750, and if the pickup, launching “as early as 2023,” is close to that, it’ll be one of the more accessible—and, to our eyes, stylish. Preorders open now.
Currently setting the bar, the first Rivian R1Ts should be in driveways by the time you read this—and what a truck the customers are getting. MotorTrend’s 2022 Truck of the Year, the Rivian R1T is a complete re-think of what a pickup can be. Innovations include “why hasn’t someone thought of this before now” kinds of design tweaks (e.g. a transverse “gear tunnel” behind the cab/under the bed) and properly remarkable tech, such as individual motors for each wheel, with micro control over traction and handling. It’s technically a more capable off-roader than a Jeep Rubicon, it has a range of 300+ miles, a towing capacity of 11,000 lbs and a list of surprises and capabilities that is too long to include here. Moreover, it looks like a pickup truck, not like a sci-fi toy, and we suspect that will be appealing. Starting just under $70,000—and worth every penny.
Whatever else this is, it could be one of the greatest re-brands in history, with Hummer transforming from being known as a forest-chomping, gas-guzzling Terminatormobile to a full EV. And then there are the numbers: Zero-60 in approx. 3 seconds; up to 1,000 hp; up to 11,500 lb-ft of torque(!); and a range of 350+ miles—plus the available ability to “crabwalk” (drive diagonally) and more. It sounds like a capable lot of fun, for both the pickup and an SUV version. Reservations being accepted now, and we’re optimistic.
Elon Musk’s design drove a wedge right through truck town, but will it end up being the greatest pickup ever? If the planned specs live up to the design sheets, then maybe. Everything written about the Cybertruck feels like another reason to drop your jaw, from its “nearly impenetrable exoskeleton” to its planned 3,500 lb payload capacity; over 14,000 lbs of towing capacity; air suspension with built-in air compressor; 0-60 time of 2.9 seconds; 500 miles of range; “Armor Glass” (which had an unfortunate moment at an early demonstration); and, perhaps most incredibly, a stated base price of $39,900. With production apparently delayed until Q1 2023, we’ll remain cautiously curious, but you won’t catch us betting against Elon Musk. What do you wear to drive this thing, anyway?
Ford F-Series isn’t just the best-selling pickup in America, it’s been the best-selling vehicle in the country for more than 40 straight years. If the electric version hits, it’s possible that it could change the EV market in some serious ways—and one could argue that it already has. In line with its “All Work” marketing, the new Lightning will have more torque than any F-150 in history; lots of storage up front; the ability to function as a generator; and more. Max towing is targeted at 10,000lbs, range at 300 miles, and payload at 2,000 lbs. Looking every bit an F-150, will it continue the F-Series dominannce? Stay tuned.
For those who prefer not to buy off the rack, Defender-reinvention company Himalaya might build you an all-electric classic Land Rover Defender 110 EV, complete with custom chassis; hand-fit top-end leather interior; state-of-the-art tech and more, converted to run as a full EV. The company’s builds are renown as superlative (and fully custom, made-to-order) revisitations of Land Rover’s iconic Defenders, and the full EV conversion they built last year garnered headlines around the world. There won’t be many on the road, and the style is already proven, so if you’re looking for something a bit special then this might be worth investigating.