Itchell Yow's pickup truck has decals advertising that the vehicle is all-electric, but sometimes people are n't convinced. Is electric? bystanders ask him often in grocery parking lots in Surprise, Arizona, where Yow and his company Torque Trends, which makes transmissions for converting gasoline cars to electric, swapped out the hulking Ford F 150 V 8 engine for an electric motor. The result does n't look like any zero emission vehicle that most people have seen before. Even though they see it, and they read it, they do n't believe it, says Yow. They 've never heard of an electric truck.
That's likely about to change- as automakers' investments in electric vehicles ramp up, pickup trucks are fast becoming a new front in the electrification wars. Manufacturers from Tesla to Ford are unleashing electric pickups-just last week, General Motors said it would deliver a 400 mile-range electric Chevrolet Silverado-though they have yet to hit the market. For automakers, the potential rewards are huge, as pickups sold for one in five new cars in the U.S. in 2020. Environmental gains could be big too when it comes to dismal highway or city driving, pickups are disproportionately wasteful; even the newest models have typical fuel economy ratings. Getting pickup drivers to switch to more efficient options is crucial if the U.S. is to decarbonize its economy, and electric pickups could also help automakers meet fleetwide fuel efficiency targets. However, for now, the possibility of electric pickups to mass appears at best fragile. Most EV buyers so far have been wealthy coastal dwellers, while pickup buyers tend to live in different areas of the country, often with different values and needs.
We 've been thinking about it for a long time, says Autotrader analyst Michelle Krebs. We 're always saying, 'Do you think everybody wants an EV pickup truck? For one thing, there may not be a huge overlap between people currently interested in EVs and those who buy pickups. Historically, EV adoption has been the highest in liberal states of the coastal state, especially California and Washington.
States where pickups rule the roads, like North Dakota, tend towards conservative skies and large values. On an individual basis, survey data show EV and hybrid buyers tend to lean Republican, while pickup drivers lean Republican. One Oct. 2020 strategic vision survey showed that more than 50% of heavy-duty pickup buyers identify as Democrats, while less than 10% say they are not Democrats. Meanwhile, Republicans bought 36% of midsize hybrids and EVs, compared to less than 20% bought by Democrats. The potential of electric pickups is further limited by the fact that many states with high numbers of pickup drivers tend to have the worst EV charging infrastructure. There is also a deeper issue with some of the upcoming vehicles themselves. Auto industry analysts say that many of the new electric pickup trucks set to hit the market, like the GM Hummer EV, the Rivian R1 T and Tesla Cybertruck, seem to be more aimed at wealthy lifestyle buyers than traditional pickup truck buyers.
That might mean that electric pickups could in the near future shrink the sales of internal EVs like the Tesla Model S, rather than reduce demand for luxury pickups. There is a bit of cannibalization within the EV segment; people will shift to whatever the cool thing at the time, sadly, says Jessica Caldwell, executive director of insights at Edmunds. You may not necessarily be getting a lot of new buyers.
But at least some pickup owners are looking to switch. Matt Gehrisch, a 43-year-old information security consultant from northern Ohio- and a proud owner of a Chevy pickup from 2004 -- is excited about the upcoming EV options.
They 're going to have the kind of torque and performance that a diesel has, but without the diesel maintenance costs, says he. It's really cool. With no major EV pickups on the market, it remains to be seen how many drivers are similarly excited to switch. For now, it's rare to find someone carrying around building materials on electric power-though some are so impatient for zero-emissions pickups that they 're taking matters into their own hands. Simone Giertz, a YouTuber and inventor, went to the trouble of cutting up a Tesla Model 3 in order to make her own electric pickup. I used her everyday, but she's not waterproof, the trim is a little bit off and the tailgate does n't work, Giertz says. She's a little bit annoying to drive because it's like waving a giant flag of Look at me. Automakers like Ford-maker of the F- 150, the best-selling pickup in the U.S.- believe other pickup fans are ready to go electric, too; it's making a big bet on an electric F- 150 expected out in 2022. Pickup drivers have to rely on these products for their businesses and the tasks they 're doing, and so they 're very cautious about adopting a new technology unless they know it is reliable, says Ford Electric Vehicles General Manager Darren Palmer.
They are naturally more open, because they need to rely on their trucks so much but they are more cautious than we might have imagined. Pickup drivers have adapted to changes before; some were skeptical, for example, when Ford released an F-150 with a smaller, mainly aluminum body and a lighter engine in 2014, but the change did n't make a difference in sales. The new hybrid F 150 powerboost, meanwhile, has been a hit from Ford.
In the long run, converting pickup drivers to electric-and getting cheap-economy older models off the roads-may be less a matter of lifestyle branding or flashy styling than of offering reliable, cost-effective vehicles capable of meeting pickup drivers' needs. At the end of the day, I do n't need all the luxury, says Gehrisch. I need a good, reliable, solid truck.