Are Electric Pickup Trucks Ready to Report for Duty?

Source: VIA Motors

At last check, we have seen electric autos working around the world as cop cars and as fleet vehicles for businesses seeking to lower operating costs. What about pickup trucks, the most dominant auto segment in the U.S.? While there are arguments that EVs work best as passenger cars with limited range, several electrified light-duty pickups are appearing on the scene as workhorses. Here is the state of electric trucks in America as of 2015.

Plug-in hybrid pickups

Within the EV segment, plug-in hybrid EVs (PHEVs) have proven to be a popular niche, especially when they provide utility like the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, the world’s second-best-selling plug-in vehicle. Automobiles in this segment cover small trips (10 to 40 miles) with electric power, while gas engines provide a range of 350 miles or more. Former GM exec Bob Lutz’s VIA Motors, which makes extended-range plug-in work vehicles, currently has such a pickup in production with a PHEV powertrain.

The VTRUX combines an electric range of 40 miles with 306 pound-feet of torque, a payload of 1,000 pounds, and a total range of 400 miles once the engine drains the gasoline tank. These trucks have a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of 7,500 pounds and qualify for the $7,500 federal tax credit. The automaker claims VTRUX pickups cost just 5 cents per mile to operate, and VIA Motors did not reply to our request for a price quote by press time.

There is enough demand for short-range transportation that even EVs with a range of 80 miles sell in the tens of thousands annually in the U.S. North Carolina-based EV Fleet tops the range standard set by every electric vehicle other than Tesla with its Condor Electric Truck, the first pickup-size truck running with a zero-emissions tailpipe.

EV Fleet truck, in progress
Source: EV Fleet

All-electric pickups

The Condor Electric Truck measures 191 inches long by 61 inches wide with a bed measuring 99-by-52 inches. Its dry weight is 2,270 pounds and has a gross vehicle weight of 4,070 pounds with two occupants. Total towing capability is 1,000 pounds at 45 miles per hour. Maximum payload is 1,000 pounds.

As far as range is concerned, the Condor is impressive. EV Fleet says it can get 100 miles on a full charge operating at 65 miles per hour and as much as 140 miles on pure electric power running at medium speeds (45 miles per hour). Solar panels add another 20 miles of range without the plug during outdoor operation. Fast DC charging can get the Condor back to full power in just one hour.

EV Fleet is currently offering the Condor at a base price of $49,995 before federal and state credits. According to Stewart Mallard, EV Fleet’s vice president of sales, the company is taking consumer reservations as Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards approval is pending. Fleet sales are currently in full swing with no minimum in order quantity.

EV Fleet Truck_011

Future of electric pickups

For now, that is the extent of the U.S. market.The Kangoo ZE pickup (1,433 pounds payload and 106 miles of range) by Renault is merely a showpiece for American consumers, while rumors of a Tesla pickup truck are hardly a glimmer in Elon Musk’s eye as of 2015. (Musk, who said Tesla could make such a truck in 2018, still has both the Model X and Model 3 to get on the road.)

As with every other vehicle segment, electric vehicles could find their way into the dominant pickup category. Instant torque available from electric powertrains would do wonders in towing once automakers can figure out a way to sort out overall power and range. Models today make more sense reporting for light workloads in professional settings.

Once electric pickups catch up to towing specs of the F-150 or Ram full-size trucks, they will be ready to report for duty in America. Until then, the market remains wide open and it may take a force along the lines of Tesla to jumpstart it.