The company that ridiculed Ford for using aluminum in their F150 design is suddenly going high-tech with pickup trucks. You knew it was coming, and now GM is aiming to be the first major automaker to offer a fully electrified pickup truck.
It’s a good idea for lots of reasons, but the question has never been one of why when it comes to electrifying America’s favorite vehicles. Instead, it’s been one of how. GM believes it has solved that problem, and the automotive world is clamoring for more information. Information that, as of right now, is somewhat difficult to come by.
- The Big Announcement
General Motors has tried a number of different looks in the post-bailout years. Many automotive journalists feel that the company is offering superior products to those coming from the General before the company filed for chapter 11, however it’s not enough just to make better cars. You’ve got to sell them.
Nearly seventy percent of vehicles sold in the United States in 2018 were pickup trucks, which explains why Chevy’s main competitor, Ford, is switching to a vehicle lineup that is 90% truck. Truck buyers appreciate high-tech features, but the switch to electrical power will be a different conversation with this crowd than the minority of emissions-conscious and rather crunchy Prius drivers out there today. So this electric pickup has to be good.
GM’s CEO, Mary Barra explained the move on an investor call that took place the week of April 29th, saying “We intend to create an all-electric future that includes a complete range of EVs, including full-size pickups.” A timely announcement in light of Ford’s recent investment of $500 million into Rivian, a small American company developing aggressive off-roading pickups that use electric power plants. For context, GM also plans to turn Cadillac into a luxury EV brand in the Nth time the Standard of the World has attempted to re-assert itself and avoid going the way of Pontiac and Oldsmobile.
- What to Expect from Your Electric Pickup
V8 power be damned, the best thing about an electric pickup truck is instant torque. The beastly vehicles coming out of Rivian are proof-positive of this. No amount of turbocharging and port polishing can produce instant, on-demand torque like an electric motor can and when you’re towing something, that’s extremely practical. Expect to see some early examples of the Chevy HD line with heavier springs and electric power designed to carry the heaviest loads with ease.
The caveat to electric power is of course that moving all that weight creates heat. This single hurdle has played a major role in stifling production by EV powerhouse Tesla, and it’s going to be a test of the early offerings from both major players whether they can actually dissipate enough heat for these trucks to operate under load for prolonged periods of time. Tesla drivers will attest that when batteries get to hot, their cars shut down. That can’t happen when you’re hauling 2000lbs of stone to a construction site, or pulling the family boat, for that matter.
Building an electrified pickup that runs cool and continues to run cool for its lifetime will earn GM or whoever accomplishes it first a nice reward for being first to the party. EVs are largely untested from a long-term standpoint, and with the abuse trucks take, these vehicles will push the limits of the technology in ways a more pedestrian Tesla Model S doesn’t.
- The Bottom Line
Electrical power is the way of the future, even if the environmental benefits are questionable for the long-term. The extra grunt, quiet ride and reduced emissions these trucks offer are nothing to shy away from. But one thing might be. The price. Rivian’s vehicles cost six figures. Tesla is apparently taking losses building a compact car that retails for the price of a nice German sedan, and the technology costs to support new tooling and the additional stresses of truck life may make these pickups too expensive for the masses to afford.
What happens when no one can pay for an electrical pickup truck? Automakers will build gas pickup trucks. They’re quite good at that now, so when the first EV pickup roles off the line, check what they’re selling it for and the wait a few years. You’ll get a great deal.