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EV Pickups: Is America Ready?

There are more than half a dozen EV trucks on the horizon in America right now, but how feasible is the prospect of an all-electric truck competing with the current internal combustion engine versions? After all, the truck segment is one of the biggest markets in the U.S. auto industry, and it’s dominated by large gas-powered V-8’s and turbocharged V-6’s, as well as mountain-moving diesels. Hemi or EcoBoost anyone? Or how about the time-tested Power Stroke, Cummins or Duramax? Whether it’s Ford, GM or Tesla building them, it’s going to take some convincing to sell truck owners on the EV idea. And not only that, there will have to be some sort of assurance that making the switch won’t cost them anything in terms of durability, performance and practicality. How long will a charge last? How much is my overall range reduced with a trailer behind me? How will the batteries hold up in winter weather? How long will it take me to recharge my all-electric workhorse? And what if I can’t find a charging station? These aren’t just questions we’re posing, but that prospective EV truck buyers will be asking—along with about a thousand others—when it comes time to trade-in and possibly make the switch.

They’re (Going To Be) Expensive

Rivian R1T Electric Pickup

Make no mistake, EV pickups are coming, but don’t expect them to be cheap. While we’ve been promised a $50,000 version (or less) from Tesla, we’ll believe it when we see it. As for Rivian, it’s been reported that its top-of-the-line models of the R1T—the versions it intends to build first, followed later by the more affordable trucks—will easily crest $100,000. Looking at the car side of the spectrum, we’ve already seen electric models carry a significant premium over their non-electric counterparts. Case in point, MSRP on the Hyundai Kona EV in SEL trim is over $38,000, while the gas-powered Kona in the same trim starts at $22,200.

They’ve Only Been Proven On Paper

All Electric Ford F-150 Prototype

An unproven vehicle doesn’t hold much weight in the pickup world. Die-hard truck owners will need to see real-world results before committing to EV, and right now there aren’t any. From a price perspective, it’s often said that the higher initial cost of an EV will more than pay for itself in fuel cost savings. That may be true, but only if the battery pack lasts a certain number of years—and until we have EV’s in service for a number of years there will be no way to confirm this.

Another Wildcard: Maintenance Costs

Electric Truck Chassis Rivian R1T

It’s generally believed that EV maintenance costs about a third of what it does for a vehicle equipped with a traditional internal combustion engine. After all, there are no spark plugs, fuel injectors, fuel pump, fuel tank, exhaust system or serpentine belt to worry about, and no oil to change or air filter to replace. However, what happens if (or when) the battery pack starts to head south, the power electronics controller dies or the thermal system has an issue and fails to cool the electric traction motor(s)? Perhaps cost of ownership projections should be provided for each EV sold? If their maintenance costs really are 33-percent lower, and can be sustained over a considerable period of time (let’s say 10 years), it would definitely help sweeten the deal of paying more up front to go electric.

How Will They Respond To Work?

Tesla Cybertruck Trailer Tow

While a lot of folks drive trucks as commuters or family haulers these days, most owners still buy them with the intent to work them. It is here, and specifically in terms of range, where EV pickups will have to prove they’re up to the task. Lack of range means lack of capability. The conundrum for EV pickups (at least at the present time) is that increased range will mean larger battery packs will be needed, which leads to a heavier curb weight of the tow vehicle. Again, we won’t know how negatively towing effects range on EV trucks until they debut, but right now all signs point toward them having a shorter range than the current crop of internal combustion engine versions (especially diesels).

When Will The Infrastructure Be There To Fully Support EVs?

Electric Vehicle Recharging Station Tesla

Studies show that most current and potential EV owners prefer to recharge their vehicle(s) at home, but what if that’s not possible? Even though great strides have been made in urban charging (check out Tesla’s charging network and the FordPass charging network for more on that), right now the lack of available public recharging stations throughout America is one of the biggest holdups in the electric car market. Ford owners in particular are particularly worried about the inability to refuel (or “charge”) away from home, as was revealed in a recent survey conducted by Penn Schoen Berland. With the all-electric F-150 on the horizon and looking more and more like a sure-thing, that’s not the greatest news. To be sure, we’ve seen this before. Back in the early 20th century, gas stations were scarce, too. If the infrastructure can be progressively built up and can eventually meet market demand, EV’s will take off and possibly even hit their intended targets (which is 60-percent of all new cars sold being electric by 2040).

Cold-Weather Performance Can’t Be Absent

Nikola Badger EV Pickup

Anyone who’s been around electric motors knows that their instant and constant supply of torque is capable of satisfying the performance needs of truck customers, but prospective buyers need to be assured that things like winter-weather performance and range will be there when they need it most. The current lithium-ion batteries that power EV’s are highly sensitive to extreme temperatures, especially cold, whereas (other than startup) it’s virtually a non-issue with internal combustion engines, which are obviously able to create their own heat.

Can An EV Pickup Deliver On All Of Its Promises?

If reasonable price points, low maintenance costs and more widely available public charging availability comes to fruition, electric trucks will sell in America. If the extreme temperature issues associated with EV’s can be quelled and towing doesn’t come with a drastic range penalty, even the most dyed-in-the-wool truck owners may make the switch. Solid-state battery technology may be the most effective way to solve the mileage range issues, but at the present time the solid-state battery market is still emerging and is even further away from happening than the release of the first EV truck.

So far, the Atlis XT is the only EV truck that’s poised to go head-to-head with the most powerful heavy-duty diesels offered by Ford, GM and Ram. Find out if it has what it takes here.

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