Hybrid pickups look like they'll be a reality at some point in our future. Ford has the best-selling pickup truck in its stable, while Toyota has the best-selling hybrid vehicle. That's why it made a lot of sense when they announced a partnership more than four years ago to collaborate on a hybrid pickup truck. Then two years ago they split up, each deciding to tackle the hybrid pickup project on their own.
According to Automotive News, Koei Saga, head of powertrain technology at Toyota, says that Ford did little to bring any new ideas or technology to the table with Toyota providing the bulk of the ideas. According to a Ford spokesman, after an in-house feasibility study determined Ford's rear-drive technology was probably better suited to the needs of the typical F-150 customer, Ford bowed out of the partnership.
Different manufacturers have offered hybrid pickups in the past. Remember the Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid? In each case customers were not willing to accept the significant trade-offs required when purchasing a hybrid pickup. Although fuel prices are at record lows, times have clearly changed and consumers may now be more accepting of such technology. In fact, companies like VIA Motors are having good success using GM platforms (the Silverado 1500, the full-size van and the Suburban) for installing proprietary hybrid powertrains; VIA even predicts that the hybrid pickup market is likely to be more than 50,000 units by 2018.
Toyota declined to be specific about the timing of a possible Tundra or Tacoma hybrid pickup truck, but some reports have Ford on schedule to produce one before the end of the decade. The biggest issue, of course, is the pricing of the new powertrain. Buyers seem comfortable spending more for an upgraded powertrain, like the new Cummins in the 2016 Nissan Titan XD or the baby Duramax in the 2016 Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon, but will they spend more to get a "greener" pickup?
Current technology offerings will probably not change the minds of today's pickup buyers, but if anyone has an advantage on how to produce and market hybrid vehicles, Toyota seems to be the best situated for the challenge. Of course, a new type of pickup like Hyundai's Santa Cruz concept could also be well positioned to offer a new type of powertrain. Expect more information about green powertrain advancements in the coming years.