So, you’re waiting for an electric pickup truck? Revised September 2021
Electric vehicles (presumably including PHEVs) were an astonishing 20% of new passenger car purchases in July 2021 (E & E News article of 24 Sept 2021, Summer saw record EV sales, paywalled), but only 5% of all light vehicle sales. What’s the difference between cars and light vehicles? EV Pickup trucks! For which there were no sales in July. But they’re coming, and Rivian is still promising pickup truck deliveries in the next few days. Meanwhile, there have been record advanced orders for the Tesla Cybertruck (> 1 million), and Ford F-150 Lightning (~ 150,000). Delivery dates continue to recede, but deliveries from all five poised manufacturers should be strong in 2022.
2021 is the year when electric pickup trucks will finally hit the road. The trickle may soon become a flood, as no less than 15 manufacturers have publically committed to producing an EV pickup truck in the next few years. Those claims are likely aspirational, as many of them promised to deliver a pickup by 2020, and none did. However, Rivian is now promising deliveries in September 2021, and GM is teasing a fall 2021 release of their fully loaded Hummer. Those are the first tier of arrivals.
The second tier is likely to include Tesla’s much-discussed Cybertruck, and Bollinger’s boxy B2. Those are possible in 2022. Ford is starting sales of their F-150 Lightning EV pickup to utility companies in 2022, but hasn’t committed to a date for sales to individuals. At current production schedules (15-18 K vehicles per year), Ford will take ten years to satisfy the orders it already has.
Some of the third-tier newcomers to watch include Canoo, which is discarding the frunk (front-trunk, the empty space where the engine used to be) and putting that same vehicle length to better use by making a longer bed. This is an obvious modification for EV utility vehicles, but none of the first or second tier models have adopted it. My guess is that pickup truck owners run to the conservative side, and manufacturers likely want to reassure buyers with a shape that is familiar, however outdated. Ford is teasing a gasoline-scented EV, to appeal to those motorheads that just can’t be without it. Early automobiles were indeed horseless “carriages” and only later took full advantage of designing an automobile for what it was.
I will first provide a thumbnail sketch of each of the offerings, in approximate order of availability. My choice of what to emphasize is personal, of course, and I strongly encourage partisans with different points of view to submit a comment to showcase their point of view.
Following the thumbnails I will provide some tables with the key specifications, such as they are known in late September 2021. Please note that I have found conflicting reports on many of the specifications, presumably because some were reported in the magazines even when they were just guesses, and in some cases the manufacturers have had to backpedal when the found out how hard it was going to be to satisfy their own hype. I am skeptical of any specifications that predate deliveries or EPA tests.
Following each table I will compare each of the five first and second tier offerings specification by specification, to point out leaders and laggards. This should help prospective buyers select between models. First, the thumbnails:
The first pickup to hit the road will undoubtedly be the baseline against which the others are measured. For example, all of the e-trucks will come with about six 110 V outlets, useful for powering tools or transferring modest amounts of power to another EV with a low battery. Several are likely to be capable of delivering power to your house in a blackout, but the legal framework for this is sketchy and may be blocked by your electric utility.
Rivian is a new company, marketing primarily to younger, adventure-oriented recreationists. Although the company is untested in the marketplace, the top leadership are all veterans from other major manufacturers (esp. Tesla, BMW), and the company has secured a staggering pile of cash as well as a pre-order of 100,000 delivery trucks for Amazon. Rivian is unlikely to run out of cash soon.
Rivian is building its own proprietary network of fast chargers, and an open network of slow chargers at key recreation sites, such as all Colorado State parks. This ambition reflects the company’s deep pockets. The truck itself is mid-sized and fairly conventional, in the sense of having good to excellent range (250, 300, and 400 mile variants), superb off-road capability (high, adjustable clearance; wading to 36 inch depth), great power (0-60 mph in 3.0 seconds), conventional styling, advanced but not leading-edge autonomous driving capabilities, and spectacular towing capability (up to 11,000 pounds). The Rivian will also support peer-to-peer (P2P) charging (fast charge an EV comrade with a dead battery), and vehicle to grid (V2G) charging (supply the grid – or your home – with power during a blackout).
Rivian’s price point is in the middle of the pack ($67-78K). The company has nurtured a reputation for thoroughly testing their vehicles before selling them; we’ll see if this cautious approach protects them from the defects that have plagued one famous manufacturer. Rivian will compensate – to a degree – for lack of local dealerships by monitoring vehicle performance in real time and supplying over-the-air software changes as needed.
Rivian is also producing an SUV (R1S) that has the same innards; imagine a truck with an enclosed bed.
GM Hummer EV SUT
Like many legacy manufacturers, GM is starting at the highest price point and working down. Although the new electric Hummer is heralded as starting at $80K, that price applies to a 2-motor model that is vaguely promised for model year 2024; the 3-motor variant to be produced in late 2021 runs $113K and includes almost every upgrade that GM knows how to produce (heavily borrowing autonomous driving tricks from Cadillac). GM produces no ICE truck at this price point, so they won’t be cannibalizing any ICE sales to produce the Hummer EV SUT. Recall that GM EV purchases no longer qualify for the federal tax break.
The Hummer is a bulky truck, with the emphasis on cosmetic bulges that give it a muscular appearance. It will appeal to the status-conscious. Three unique features are steerable rear wheels (so the car can move diagonally), removable roof panels (for a convertible feeling, illustrated), and underbody cameras with washers, so that in real time you can gauge the sharpness of the boulders you are crawling over. Efficiency is notably low (about 1.75 miles per kwh, the second lowest of the four models documented here), as expected for a heavy truck. Having a local dealership is reassuring; GM has not said whether this model will be supported with real-time performance monitoring or over-the-air software upgrades. They have not taken these steps with their previous EV offerings.
Tesla has six times the number of preorders for its revolutionary Cybertruck than any other manufacturer. The biggest mystery with the long-hyped Cybertruck is when it was actually arrive, and how long it will take Tesla to manufacture such a huge number of trucks. 2WD and 4WD variants are planned, as are models with 1, 2, or 3 motors. Unlike the other trucks, the Cybertruck promises to seat six. Promised ranges are 250, 300, and 500 miles. The 500 mile range will be the longest range of any truck, though recent tests by Edmunds (the blue book company) have cast some doubt on Tesla’s range claims, as they found that several of Tesla’s models did not live up to the manufacturer’s claims when tested on a closed-loop level test track, whereas most other brands did. Prices are among the lowest in e-trucks ($40-$70K), though Tesla vehicles no longer qualify for the federal EV tax break (up to $7500 for brands other than Tesla and GM).
This truck is said to be designed to haul 3500 pounds in the bed (no ¼ ton pickup this), and tow 7.5K, 10K or 14K pound trailers, depending on the number of motors. The proposed specifications on this truck are league leading, as Tesla usually is.
Three unique features of this truck are the integral bed ramp (for putting motorcycles, etc., in the bed), a stainless steel body impervious to dings (and at least some sledgehammer blows), and the truck’s extraterrestrial styling. It remains to be seen whether the novel rectangular steering yolk will catch on in place of a steering wheel. I think the angular styling may cause visibility problems for shorter drivers; the front-side fold in the windshield (A-pillar) looks like it might obstruct vision of cars, pedestrians, or bicycles entering on the left from side streets.
This truck will undoubtedly be instantly recognizable. Tesla’s superb battery engineering, vast supercharger network, and the low price of this very capable truck will no doubt vault this truck to the top tier of sales.
The little-known Bollinger company is soon set to produce a 4-seat electric pickup truck that is at the opposite stylistic pole from Tesla. Robert Bollinger was eager to produce a vehicle for use on his farm. This boxy truck looks like a 1960s Land Rover, with no accommodation for air flow. Panels, rivets, handles, hinges, and mirrors stick out on all sides. This retro looks appears to be part of the plan, as the dash sports apparently analog gauges in round glass housings like those on a post-war jeep. The vehicle has a 193 mile range, 2 motors, 4WD, and is expected to sell for $125K. Underbody clearance is adjustable from 10 to 20 inches. No modern features like autonomous driving aids, navigation systems, infotainment options, or air bags are supplied. It lacks the air compressor option found in most of the other trucks, but it does sport six 110 V outlets for power tools. Seat heaters are one concession to comfort.
The vehicle is rated to haul 5000 pounds, which brings the truck’s loaded weight up to 10,001 pounds, just one pound over the limit for ordinary vehicles, exempting it from crash testing or air bags. The web site indicates that it will get 2.7 miles per kwh, which would be the most efficient pickup truck here evaluated, but third party web sites predict realized efficiency of 1.7 miles per kwh, which seems more believable for such a heavy and unstreamlined vehicle. Simple division of the manufacturer’s claimed 193 mile range by the claimed 142 kwh battery capacity suggest an efficiency of only 1.36 miles per kwh, low by any standard. The EPA has not yet rated it.
Three unique features are: removable body, window, and door panels, for that open-air safari feeling; a two-speed rear axle, which halves the speed associated with a given throttle pedal position to facilitate low speed crawling when off-road; and a central cargo channel that allows objects up to 16’ long to slide between the seats and extend into the frunk with the tail gate up (longer pieces can be carried with the tail gate down). Forty 2x4s can be carried this way. Seventy-two sheets of ½” 4 x 8’ sheet goods can also be carried inside the bed if the rear seats are removed (they are designed to be easily popped out).
No doubt the retro look, thick metal design, and work vehicle features will appeal to, among others, trades persons and farmers. The stratospheric price, not so much. We will soon find out how many farmers and trades persons there are just itching to be first adopters of a very expensive electric truck. Not a mass market business model.
The Lordstown Endurance, highlighted in an earlier edition of this article, is unlikely to ever be manufactured, as the company was caught lying to investors about the number of preorders, and their stock price collapsed. Furthermore, Ford recognized that Lordstown’s marketing strategy of selling first to electric utilities was shrewd, and copied it, leaving Lordstown broke and competing head-to-head with Ford.
Ford F-150 Lightning
A full appraisal of this electric truck is not possible at the present time, as Ford has not released enough information, or committed to a launch date. The public knows this truck primarily through the famous Superbowl ad in which the electric truck is purported to be pulling a freight train loaded full of new trucks. Experts questioned the reality of this stunt, and when pressed, Ford has refused to say what was propelling the F-150 in the ad. This lack of transparency undermines any other claims that Ford may make about the yet-to-be-fully-designed two-motor AWD truck. The range is targeted at 300 miles, with a 230 mile variant to follow. Payload is reasonable (2000 pounds), but no towing capacity has been announced. Ford has teased a remarkable number of variants (price points $40 – 90K) and will no doubt be a strong market presence when they finally get around to producing it. The truck will have adaptive cruise control and other semi-autonomous features. Ford has come late to the EV market, and the persistent failure to stick with a launch date suggests only a weak commitment to it.
Most likely Ford is concerned that a successful EV launch could cannibalize sales from the unsurpassed sales of the F-150 ICE version, a problem shared with all of the legacy manufacturers. No doubt this cannibal factor is an element of the startling number of new EV truck manufacturers: they can disrupt the market without suffering any within-company competition between ICE and EV models. In addition to the manufacturers highlighted in this article, electric trucks are also on deck for Atlis, Hercules, Fisker, Canoo, and Alpha; Nikola and Lordstown have dropped out.
A Deeper Dive
The specifications data used in this article come from a careful reading of each manufacturer’s web site combined with a sampling of trade magazine articles on each model. Note that the trade magazine articles and pre-release hype often include speculative statements not subsequently borne out by the manufacturer’s products.
|Model||R1T||Hummer EV SUT||Cybertruck||B2||F-150 Lightning|
|Delivery Date||Sep 2021||late 2021 ($113K)||2022 (maybe)||2021?||2022 for fleet operators|
|Motors||4||3||1, 2, 3||2||2|
|0-60 mph (sec)||3||3||6.5, 4.5, 2.9||4.5||mid 3|
|Range 1 (mi)||300||350||300||193||300|
|Range 1 (k$)||67+||113 (2 motors: 2024)||60||125||52.5|
|Range 2 (mi)||400||500|
|Range 2 (k$)||TBD||70|
|Range 3 (mi)||250||250|
|Range 3 (k$)||TBD||40|
Delivery dates are likely optimistic. Even Rivian’s hard September 2021 date is for deliveries to start, and those wishing a different color or configuration may not receive theirs until 2022.
All of the pickup trucks will have 4WD, except for the single motor (rear-wheel drive) variant of the Cybertruck, if Tesla eventually gets around to producing it (in at least one case Tesla has reneged on a commitment to produce to later, less-expensive variant).
Does the number of motors matter? More power can be generated by more motors, but bigger motors can deliver as much power, albeit with some weight penalty. But more motors also weigh more. Driving two wheels with one motor requires a mechanical differential, one additional component that can fail, although most do not. It is a toss-up; I would not select a truck on the basis of the number of motors.
The time a truck takes to reach 60 mph is a familiar measure of how zippy the truck will be. They are all nimble, and so much faster than ICE pickup trucks that most drivers will not find the acceleration rates to be anything less than thrilling.
The number of seats will be of interest to many buyers; Tesla high, Bollinger low.
The first range listed (Range 1 mi) is the model variant to be produced first. Most legacy manufacturers start at the top (to milk revenues out of the first-adopter market), and then work down to lower prices. Rivian and Tesla are starting in the middle (300 miles) and working both up (400/500 mi) and down (250 mi). GM has not stated what ranges will apply to later variants, but they’ve made it clear that only after several models years will they get around to producing the less-expensive variants. Bollinger has not stated any interest in producing variants with different-sized batteries.
When reading these ranges, keep in mind that most users will be uncomfortable using the full range, just as gasoline powered drivers rarely (intentionally) run the gas tank all the way to empty. Furthermore, doing so to a battery reduces its longevity. For these reasons, all EV batteries are software protected by an upper buffer (beyond which charging is not permitted) and a lower buffer (below which discharging is not permitted, except sometimes under special circumstances (e.g., the driver switches off the lower buffer protection). It is often unclear whether the stated ranges include or exclude one or both buffers. In the recent range tests conducted by Edmunds, Tesla claimed that their failing grade occurred because Edmunds failed to discharge the batteries’ lower buffer (so Edmunds then did so, and the Teslas still failed).
Be aware also that towing decreases range by about 50% according to the truck manufacturers. Thus a 300 mile range might in practice get you only 130 miles when towing. This is not as bad as it seems if there is a well-placed fast charger available, as charging before complete discharge is not only faster absolutely (in total time) and better for the battery, but it breaks up a long journey with shorter charging interludes. Indeed, some manufacturers report their charging times only from 20% to 80% charge state (Ford reports 15-80%), and do not give the time needed for a complete recharge (charging slows down near 0% and 100%: ev4corners.org/charging-challenges/).
A recent poll of prospective EV buyers in the city of Durango found that only 3% expressed interest in buying a vehicle costing more than $60K. With the exception of the basic Ford, and 2WD Cybertruck, these trucks are all priced above that threshold. The eye-watering prices for the GM and Bollinger indicate that these manufacturers are not yet interested in producing pickups for the mass market. The same could be said for the other majors (Toyota, Volkswagen, RAM) that are holding back from entering the electric truck business.
|Model||R1T||Hummer EV SUT||Cybertruck||B2||F-150 Lightning|
|Width (inches, w/o mirrors)||82||86.7||77.4||77.2||80|
|Clearance (inches)||8-14.4||10.1-15.9||up to 16||10 to 20||8.9|
|Storage covered (cf)||68||100+||8.6 (or 14) frunk||100|
|Bed length (inches)||54||~60||75||72||65|
|Towing capacity (K lbs)||11||7.5, 10, 14||7.5||7.5|
Length is not likely to be a vital limitation, and as yet only a few figures are firm (even Rivian’s length is contradicted). The Ford is likely to be the longest; Tesla recently announced a small downsize. The Hummer is expected to be wider than the others. The Bollinger will have the highest clearance; the Ford the least.
Storage measurements should be taken with a grain of salt, though there are real differences that matter to users. Bed length also matters to many users. Only the Tesla and the Bollinger will be able to carry sheet goods (plywood, etc.) without modifying the bed or leaving open the tail gate.
Towing capacity can be a critical value for those who tow. In that regard, the Tesla is once again the leader, but all of the models considered here have very substantial towing capabilities.
|Model||R1T||Hummer EV SUT||Cybertruck||B2||F-150 Lightning|
|Battery (kwh)||105, 135, 180||up to 200||142 (120 usable?)|
|Level II max charge rate (kw)||11.5||10 hours||17.6|
|Lev.III max charge rate (kw)||300+||350 kw||75 min||150|
|Miles per kwh||~2.3||~1.75||1.4-2.7|
|charge cords provided||110 V, NEMA 14-50|
Battery size (kwh) is not reported in a standard way. Manufacturers have avoided stating whether the reported capacity includes the upper buffer, the lower buffer, or both. GM’s nebulous statement about battery capacity indicates that they haven’t settled on what will be included in the different model variants. Bollinger’s web site gives both 120 and 142 values; my guess is that one is with, and the other without, buffers. Battery size has to be viewed in conjunction with the fuel economy associated with the vehicle’s weight and air and road resistance (or miles per kwh). EPA tests will eventually provide a level playing field, but the numbers now being reported do not.
Similarly, the times reported by Bollinger and Lordstown are not directly comparable to the maximum charging rates reported for the Rivian or GM trucks. Furthermore, the charging times reported by Bollinger and Lordstown can only be interpreted for a specific charging rate, which they do not specify. The time for charging from 20% to 80% charge state is a good metric, but needs to be accompanied by a statement of whether these percentages apply to the usable charge state range (i.e., between the buffers) and for what strength charger (50 kw, 62.5 kw, 125 kw, 250 kw, 300 kw, etc.).
The charging network maintained by Tesla is deservedly very well regarded. At present the non-Tesla network has slightly exceeded Tesla’s as regards number of charging locations nationally (though not perhaps equivalent in distribution and networking with vehicle navigation systems). Rivian aspires to build as good a network as Tesla, but such a system is in its infancy. The other manufacturers are relying on the government to build their charging networks for them. Tesla has indicated a willingness to share its chargers, for a price (TBD).
As noted above, the efficiency ratings (miles per kwh) have many important caveats. Seasonal differences are vast (my current EV gets 3 mi/kwh in the winter, but 5 in the summer; the Aptera 3-wheeled car – ev4corners.org/twice-the-efficiency-of-a-Tesla-and-recharges-when-parked-in-the-sun-for-only-26k/ – averages about 10 mi/kwh, at least in warm weather). Nonetheless, efficiency differences between models are consequential: one has to wait less time for charging a more efficient vehicle, and fuel (electricity) costs are proportionately lower. All things being equal, efficiency will be higher for a lighter vehicle. Higher capacity batteries are responsible for much of a vehicle’s weight. The very heavy Hummer and B2 trucks will have the lowest efficiencies. The other three models are probably fairly similar in efficiency for equal battery capacities.
Only the Rivian has stated which charging connectors will come with the vehicle; the Tesla is likely to be similar. NEMA 14-50 plugs are standard 240 V connectors that enable one to charge without a dedicated “charger” from home 240 V outlets and from those outlets found in campgrounds with “full hookups.”
|Model||R1T||Hummer EV SUT||Cybertruck||B2||F-150 Lightning|
|Aerodynamic?||yes||emphasizes bulk||no||no attempt to be aerodynamic||yes|
|Styling||traditional||traditional||extraterrestrial||bulldog: bolts and rivets||traditional|
|Autonomy level||passing on command||adaptive cruise||full self-driving option ($7K)||minimal or none|
|Company reputation||new||mixed||innovation leader, but erratic quality and late launches||new||solid|
|Batt warranty||8 y or 175K mi||5 y or 60K mi||8 y|
An air resistance coefficient would be better than the subjective descriptors I have given to “aerodynamic”, but such coefficients have yet to be published. From the available information it is difficult to assess differences between the models in air resistance, but the B2 will undoubtedly be the worst, and the sharp angles of the Cybertruck create turbulence.
Styling is a matter of personal preference.
Over the air software updates are undoubtedly a plus in working with a distant manufacturer, but there are legitimate privacy concerns associated with these. For example, the headline-making woman who climbed up on a Tesla at a recent Chinese auto show and lambasted Tesla for their faulty brakes, had been negotiating compensation with Tesla for many months, but Tesla used its location tracking of her car to demonstrate to the world that she had been speeding before the contested accident. Another concern, yet to be realized, is that over-the-air updating of software, like any linkage of devices, is a security risk. Some day, hackers will figure out how to disable vehicles remotely through their connectivity. One can imagine that risk becoming a systemic threat in times of international tensions, or a tool used for demanding ransom from wealthy owners.
Autonomous driving features do not have a standard method of measuring them. They appear to be most advanced in the Tesla, albeit at an upgrade price of around $10,000. Those in the higher end Hummers and Rivian are likely next best. The B2 appears to have none.
GM, Ford, and Tesla have well documented reputations as a company. All are decidedly mixed. Tesla has a well-deserved reputation for engineering wizardry, but somewhat erratic performance as a manufacturer. GM is not pushing the EV technology envelope very hard, but has a great network of dealerships, some of whom are eager to service EVs. The other manufacturers are too new to EVs to judge.
Battery warranties are fairly similar between most of the models shown, though manufacturers are mum as regards how badly a battery has to deteriorate to trigger a warranty claim. Tabulations of recent EV performance (ev4corners.org/ev-performance-records-document-real-world-battery-degradation-rates/) suggest that most batteries will outlive the vehicles they came in. Warranties capped only at a certain time period are slightly better than those that also have a mileage termination. GM’s 5 year or 60,000 mile warranty is the worst of this batch.
The best model for you likely depends on your price point.
The least expensive models are the Tesla and the Ford, though neither qualify as economy level. The Tesla has some marvelous innovations in design, and special features (bed size, tailgate ramp, body durability). Teslas have a history of delivery prices that far exceed those quoted for base models, and the prices quoted to date for the Cybertruck are remarkably low for a vehicle of that sophistication.
The Rivian is likely to come in a bit more expensive than the Cybertruck, but it qualifies for the federal tax break. It may arrive a year or so earlier, which is beneficial for those eager to replace a vehicle now (or want a stylistically “normal” truck). The Rivian bed is shorter than the others.
The other two vehicles are in the luxury price range. The Hummer benefits from having a relatively lower price, clear name recognition, a well-established manufacturer, and an extensive dealer network. If you crave a work truck with high clearance, room for 16’ planks, and no frills, the Bollinger might be the vehicle for you.
EV4Corners.org is a volunteer organization with no commercial interests. The website does not benefit financially from any postings or editorial positions. Opinions expressed are those of the author alone. Readers are encouraged to submit their own observations or data corrections, especially if they conflict with those expressed in a posting. Full disclosure; the author of this article has placed a deposit on a Rivian, but he recognizes that only a slight change in circumstances could lead to a different preference, as all of the reviewed models will be best for some buyers.