One of the biggest things in current auto news is the unveiling of the Tesla Cybertruck. The latest offering from the electric vehicle (EV) world of Elon Musk, the Cybertruck, looks more like something out of a Mad Max movie than anyone’s idea of a pickup truck. Nevertheless, an increasing number of automakers have been considering making a truck that runs on an all-electric motor. This could potentially work because electric motors begin immediately producing torque, a key factor in providing the power a truck needs to haul payload and tow trailers. Moreover, electric motors generally need less service than gas and diesel engines, and are also more fuel efficient. This can be especially important for folks who use their trucks for business, as the long-run savings of an EV truck can be translated into lower costs, yielding greater profitability. This then begs the question: is there a market for an EV truck? And, if so, has the time come for an EV pickup truck?
The “Stickiness” of the Truck Buying Public
Historically, truck buyers have shown great brand loyalty. A Chevy driver would rarely consider an offering from Ram or Ford, especially if his or her parents and even grandparents drove Chevy trucks. The same held true for Ford and Ram truck drivers.
This brand loyalty is also referred to as “stickiness”: the customer has so much brand loyalty that he or she would never consider a product from another company or, sometimes, even another brand from the same company. This is like the preference between Coke and Pepsi, where many Coke drinkers may have preferred Pepsi in a blind taste test, but nevertheless continued to buy and drink the Real Thing.
However, times are changing, and this “stickiness” may be becoming a thing of the past. Where trucks were once mainly a rural phenomenon, driven in the outskirts by folks who needed them for work, today trucks have become increasingly popular with drivers throughout the country. This increasing demand has led to a spike in truck prices. This has affected brand loyalty. A few months ago, CarGurus revealed the results of a recent survey, and they were very surprising. Fully 70% of truck drivers surveyed told CarGurus that they would switch brands if their preferred automaker raised prices by $10,000. This was a 6% increase over the prior year. Also, surprising was the fact that the most brand loyal were Toyota owners, with 41% unwilling to consider offerings from other truck manufacturers, while venerable truck brands like Ford and Chevrolet showed the least brand loyalty, just 27% and 28%, respectively. This means that if a majority of truck buyers are given a better value proposition from another company, they will strongly consider making a change. This leaves a huge opening for manufacturers of EV trucks.
The Tesla Cybertruck
Naming his EV pickup the ‘Cybertruck‘ was a stroke of genius for Elon Musk as this really looks like something out of a sci-fi movie. With its weird wedge-shaped lines and an exoskeleton made of Ultra-Hard 30X cold-rolled stainless steel, the Tesla Cybertruck seems to harken back to the DeLorean of the early 80s. However, while this is no time machine (sorry Doc Brown), it does have a Back to the Future vibe with a DeLorean on steroids look with a payload bed in the rear. The Cybertruck was in the news recently because its Tesla armor glass failed to stop blows from a sledgehammer. However, despite that seeming setback, Tesla has produced an EV truck that looks modern and strong. The goal is to provide maximum protection to the driver and passengers of the Cybertruck.
The Cybertruck will come in three versions. A single-motor rear-wheel drive, a dual-motor all-wheel drive, and a tri-motor all-wheel drive. Tesla claims that the single-motor version can go 0-60 mph in 6.5 seconds, has a maximum EPA estimated range of 250 miles on a single charge, and can tow up to 7,500 pounds. The numbers improve with the addition of extra motors. Tesla asserts that the dual-motor can go 0-60 mph in under 4.5 seconds, while the tri-motor can do it in under 2.9 seconds. This is the stuff of high performance sports cars, not pickup trucks. The estimated range goes from 300 miles for the dual-motor to over 500 miles for the tri-motor. The same goes for trailering, with the dual-motor estimated to be able to tow up 10,000 pounds and the tri-motor estimated to handle 14,000 pounds.
All models are designed to have over 100 cubic feet of storage space for cargo. If those figures hold up, then Tesla will have built an EV truck that outperforms anything else on the road today. However, will the stereotypically conservative truck buying public be interested in a vehicle that has such a radical design? That may be the biggest question facing Tesla.
EV Trucks with Classic Lines
Ford Motor Company and General Motors have both seen the future of trucks, and it is electric. Ford has already announced an F-150 electric pickup, scheduled to debut sometime in 2021. The current prototype looks like a standard Ford F-150 crew cab, a design that has already proven popular in the truck marketplace. Generals Motors has also announced an electric truck for 2021, but it will be using a new platform called B1T. The auto industry giant has already invested a reported $3 billion into the project.
It is unclear whether GM will launch it under GMC or Chevrolet, and if the product will have classic pickup truck lines like the Ford F-150 electric.
Upstart Atlis Motor Vehicles is also getting ready to roll out its new Atlis XT pickup truck. This EV truck also has classic truck lines, as opposed to the radical design of the Tesla. It has an estimated base MSRP of $45,000, is assembled in the USA, and is standard four-wheel drive. Atlis claims that its model has a top speed of 120 miles per hour, and can go 0-60 mph in 5 seconds.
Further, conventional towing on the Atlis XT has been estimated from 6,000 pounds up to a maximum 17,000 pounds, and payload capacity estimated from 1,000 to 5,000 pounds, depending on the model chosen. Atlis’s slogan is, “An electric pickup truck shouldn’t require compromise,” and with capabilities like those claimed by the company, there will be no need for compromise in this EV truck.
Turn and Face the Strange
Several other companies have introduced EV trucks with modern looks, although none as radical as the Tesla Cybertruck. The boxy Bollinger B2 has a modern retro appearance that, in my opinion, makes it look like the love child between a 50s Daimler-Benz Unimog and a 60s Land Rover Defender. But while it may look like the past, don’t let looks fool you. Its 120.0-kWh battery produces 614 horsepower and 668 lb-ft of torque, allowing the B1 to go 0-60 mph in 4.5 seconds. It is all-wheel drive standard, and has an estimated maximum towing capacity of 7,500 pounds, which is about average for pickup trucks. The only drawbacks are an estimated range of only 200 miles, and a base MSRP of $125,000, making it the most expensive EV truck scheduled to hit the market. Based on the pricing and the looks, Bollinger may be targeting the urban professional market as opposed to the more rural and suburban truck buyers.
Rivian is another startup electric vehicle company that is ready to introduce an EV truck, the Rivian R1T. The founder of Rivian holds a doctorate in mechanical engineering from MIT, which explains why the truck has such smart looks. It has smooth, aerodynamic lines and recessed door handles like a Tesla S class, so it looks like what you would have expected from a Tesla truck more than the radical Cybertruck. The R1T is all-wheel drive standard, and comes with a choice of 105.0-kWh, 135.0-kWh, and 180.0-kWh battery packs. The company claims that the 180.0-kWh battery powered R1T can go 0-60 mph in 3.0 seconds. Estimated maximum ranges go from 230 miles for the smaller battery to 300 miles on the medium-sized battery, up to 400 miles for the largest battery pack. It has an estimated maximum towing capacity of 11,000 pounds, and a base MSRP of $69,000.
The Endurance is the EV truck being manufactured by Lordstown Motors in a former GM plant in Ohio. Its configuration is like a standard full-size crew cab pickup, but it has a molded look with cuts that run the length of the truck, making it appear to be what would happen if Robocop became a Transformer. The base MSRP of the Endurance is only $52,500, and the truck is estimated to have a range of up to 250 miles per charge. The company is also offering competitive financing for new buyers through investment banker Brown Gibbons Lang & Company.
With all of these new EV trucks set to hit the market over the next year or so, it will be interesting to see how things shake out.
Will truck buyers take to the idea of an EV pickup? If so, will they be more attracted to classic designs like the Ford F-150 electric and the Atlis XT? Will they toss convention aside and choose the Rivian R1T and the Tesla Cybertruck? What will GM’s EV truck look like? Will the higher price point of the Bollinger B2 not act as a deterrent to EV truck buyers? Or will first-time buyers opt for something in the middle, like the Lordstown Endurance? Well, unless I can get Doc Brown to lend me his DeLorean time machine, I will just have to wait to find out like everybody else.