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Is the World Ready for Electric Trucks?

As more automakers toss their hats into the electric truck ring, some kinks will need to be worked out before these vehicles can go mainstream in the U.S.

Anyone who watched the great unveiling of Tesla’s Cybertruck last month likely fixated on the fact that the company’s design chief shattered two different “unbreakable” windows by throwing steel balls at the vehicle during the L.A. Auto Show.

According to CNET, the Cybertruck is 231.7 in. long, 79.8 in. wide, and 75 in. tall, with seating for six (versus the Ford F-150, which measures between 209 and 250 in. long, 80 and 86 in. wide, and between 75 and 78.5 in. tall). “That puts it in pretty much the same company as every other pickup out there,” CNET points out.

Elon Musk claims the Cybertruck will reach 60 mph in 2.9 sec. before continuing through the quarter-mile marker in under 11 sec. The most affordable version will cost $39,900 and have a range of 25-plus miles. The midrange Cybertruck will cost an additional $10,000, while the top-range, “tri-motor” variant comes in at $69,900. 

“Given its relative performance and price, the Cybertruck could be a massive success for Tesla as it enters into the largest segment in the U.S. market,” CNET points out. “Almost 3 million pickups were sold to consumers in 2018. If Tesla can carve off a tiny sliver of that, it’ll go a long way toward taking Tesla’s annual sales to the next level.”

Electrified Mandates

The Cybertruck’s botched debut aside (pre-orders passed 200,000 within five days of the show), the real story here is that automakers are getting into the electric truck game. Other all-electric trucks that are currently in development include the Rivian (a Ford- and Amazon-backed startup) R1T, the Bollinger B2, the venerable Ford F-150, the Lordstown Endurance, and the GM electric truck.

GM wants to get into the electric pickup truck market by the fall of 2021. According to Reuters, the automaker plans to introduce a new family of premium electric trucks and SUVs that could even include one that wears the “Hummer” label. The so-called BT1 electric truck/SUV program is the centerpiece of a planned $3 billion investment in the Detroit-Hamtramck plant to make electric trucks and vans.

“The investment would move the automaker into a part of the EV market that is largely untested and where GM has a higher likelihood of turning a profit,” Reuters pointed out, adding that GM’s BT1 program includes an electric pickup for the GMC brand and an electric SUV for Cadillac, both due out in 2023.

At a UBS conference, GM’s president said that its new EV architecture will be highly flexible, enabling the Detroit automaker to build a variety of body types in different sizes, with the capability of providing front-, rear-, or all-wheel drive models. When the plant reaches full production in 2024, it is expected to build about 80,000 electric vehicles a year, Reuters adds.

Good Karma

Karma Automotive is also working on an electrified pickup that would be powered as its Revero line is, by a fully electric drive fed by a reasonable-sized battery and an internal combustion range-extender engine, Motor Trend reports.

“For now, we believe Karma is working to integrate the Revero drivetrain into an existing pickup as a proof of concept and also as a demonstrator vehicle for a new line of engineering and development services being launched under the brand Karma Technology,” Motor Trend concluded. “The company hopes to sell design services (Karma Design) and to offer third-party manufacturing services. So it may be a while before we see a Karma EREV pickup…”

More to Come

Expect more activity in the electric truck sector as we close out 2019 and move into 2020. “Light trucks, which include pickups and SUVs, are in demand. The demand is evident in the sales numbers,” Mike Sonnenberg writes in “Ugly or Not, Tesla Cybertruck Got Almost 200,000 Orders”.

“While Tesla Cybertruck has received 200,000 preorders so far, the road might get tougher. First, individuals who have already preordered the truck might be the most enthusiastic Tesla fans. Converting skeptical individuals and Tesla-haters will be a difficult task,” Sonnenberg continues. “Second, a lot of analysts have pointed out that Tesla Cybertruck’s design makes it a niche product. As a result, the mass adoption of Tesla Cybertruck might be difficult. Third, competition is increasing in the electric vehicle segment.”

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