If fuel economy is, according to Ram’s CEO, the main driver of pickup sales, then Ford would appear to have a trump card up its sleeve with the hybrid F-150 the automaker is developing. However, that doesn’t take into account the impact of low gas prices, which at press time had dipped to $2.72 nationwide. This wild card on the international energy scene is providing Ford with a huge challenge unless the hybrid model fills some other need on the pickup market.
Cheap gasoline’s impact
Right now, one of the biggest obstacles in selling electric vehicles and hybrids is cheap gasoline. Since you can get 40 miles per gallon in a slick new Mazda for about $20,000, you’re unlikely to downgrade the vehicle choice and pay a much higher sticker price by picking up an e-Golf. SUVs and crossovers also become much cheaper to own and drive. It would be something of a luxury to buy a green car, considering gas prices remain low and hybrids — not to mention EVs– carry a much higher sticker price. Drivers with long daily commutes also have range concerns to address with electric vehicles.
On the truck scene, Ram’s EcoDiesel recently won the Green Truck of the Year Award for its superior economy, beating even the aluminum F-150 of the 2015 model year. With gas prices remaining so low, there is less appeal in the higher-priced Ram that gets 28 miles per gallon running on diesel. According to Ford development head Raj Nair, the economy of a Ecoboost F-150 ($25,420) with aluminum components makes it the better long-term buy than a Ram ($31,140) because of the difference in sticker price, the Detroit Free Press reports. Nair went on to say that Ford is “working hard” on the hybrid. No one is guaranteeing cheap gas forever.
Hybrid pickups for the long term
U.S. auto consumers react instantaneously to gas prices. When they are low, the run on SUVs cannot be contained; when gas prices are high, the switch to smaller, more efficient cars is almost automatic. In both cases, short-term price concerns are the drivers in the purchasing decision. Stricter fuel economy standards may impact the selection available from automakers like Ford and Ram, but a decade down the road, this segment will include several hybrids. The amount of carbon in the atmosphere is going in one direction: the same direction gas prices usually head (up).
Ford’s Nair told the Detroit Free Press that the F-150 hybrid would even be a better deal than the Ram EcoDiesel over the life of both trucks with gas prices remaining as they are. There is no question that several years down the road, the climate situation will be even more dire than projections currently have it. By then, the conversation about low gas prices around the middle of this decade will be forgotten.
As with diesel models, hybrid powertrains offer automakers more options when trying to increase the torque quotient in vehicles. Sports cars have proven how effective hybrid systems can be in delivering maximum performance — look at the McLaren P1 or Ferrari LaFerrari. Ford’s EcoBoost offers a similar appeal to pickup buyers who depend on the vehicles for work. If Ford can pull off greater economy and a torque upgrade in the same stroke, there is no question the truck could be a winner in the U.S. market.