How Far Away Are Electric Pickups?

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Tesla CEO Elon Musk recently grabbed headlines again by making bold pronouncements. This time he said he'll reveal a new electric semi-truck with self-driving technology by September and an electric pickup truck within two years.

We have our own thoughts on a Tesla pickup: Our hope is that it doesn't look like other Tesla creations and that it offers some legitimate problem-solving technology that will make towing, carrying heavy loads and powering equipment an easier and safer proposition.

Of course, what Musk could do for pickup buyers may be a moot point by the time his vehicle comes to market because another electric pickup manufacturer could have those issues squared away before then.

The Workhorse Group's extended-range W-15 looks like it will beat Tesla to the punch, offering a production electric pickup to large energy companies such as North Carolina's Duke Energy in the near future. Duke is one of five electric companies that have submitted letters of intent to buy the pickup for their fleets when it is available. Together, their intended orders total 2,150 pickups.

We caught up with Workhorse founder and CEO Steve Burns at a recent trade show, where his company displayed a scale prototype of the what the new electric mid-size pickup will likely look like when it debuts in May at the Advanced Clean Transportation Show in Long Beach, Calif. The prototype maintains the shape of a traditional pickup, which we like, and which Workhorse hopes will appeal to fleet buyers, as well as everyday consumers.

Workhorse — an Ohio-based battery-electric powertrain and drone developer — says the vehicle will compete in the mid-size pickup class and will be designed to meet the requirements of fleet, commercial and small-business companies that need efficient transportation. The W-15 will be all-wheel drive and offer a fuel economy equivalent of 75 mpg. 

Think of a delivery company such as a UPS, where fleet managers know exactly how far and where each of their vehicles travel each day. Pair Workhorse's fuel-saving technology with GPS navigation/tracking for finding the safest and least congested routes to take in real time, and the bottom-line benefits of an electric pickup are obvious. Electric trucks also could serve as mobile power stations at job sites or disaster areas. A pickup like this also could power a house during electrical outages as well as carry supplies, people and equipment to remote areas.

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The Workhorse W-15 chassis is modeled after the medium-duty big-box delivery truck — think UPS truck — Workhorse sells that's already in use across the country. This big truck uses two massive Panasonic battery packs charged by a 200-kilowatt motor generator with a 650-cubic-centimeter, two-cylinder range-extending BMW motor. The engine never powers the vehicle and only kicks on when needed to provide power to the electric motor that charges the batteries. The Workhorse pickup will operate similarly. This power strategy is similar to the one used in the Chevrolet Volt electric compact car and VIA Motors' VTRUX plug-in pickup.

Although we don't have exact details about payload or towing capacity, we do know Workhorse plans to sell the truck for $52,500. Workhorse hopes to have a production version ready to build by the end of 2018, but there are several issues that could cause a delay. Workhorse is currently in the running for a massive U.S. Postal Service contract, so if it wins the contract the release of a mass-market consumer pickup could be delayed by a few years.

Workhorse's production plant is in an old Navistar International production facility in Indiana that's capable of producing upward of 60,000 units per year. But if the pickup gains traction, Workhorse might need to expand its operations and that takes time.

While we find the possibilities poised by fully electric pickups intriguing, we're taking a wait-and-see attitude. Will these vehicles deliver a safe and comfortable driving experience while providing the ability to carry loads and do the work pickup trucks do? Only time will tell.

We've taken some photos of the Workhorse pickup prototype as well as its existing delivery trucks and offer them below. More to come as this new pickup class grows.

Cars.com photos by Mark Williams

 

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Comments

I wonder if the truck will have a transfer case? That seems to differentiate a "real" truck from an "SUV" truck, in many peoples' minds.

Can't tell from the pics, but I'm guessing it has conventional differentials. Hard to believe that that is the most efficient power delivery system for an electric truck. The linked article shows something a little different, but the whole truck layout looks different there, also.

Not digging the stormtrooper look, but maybe that's a subtle nod to fleet managers.

I dunno. Still has a traditional driveline and axle with some efficiency losses there. The gas range extender will have it's own maintenance schedule.

Good news about the battery packs, if one goes bad you can rob replacement cells from just about any laptop anywhere...

This will be my last truck.

Unless battery storage technology and recharging speeds can each improve by a factor of TEN (10), pure EV's will never be a universal replacement for ICE's, for general purpose long-distance vehicles,--- and certainly not for the most popular ones: pickup trucks and SUV's. HOWEVER, if batteries can serve as an intermediary for advanced H2-fuel cells, or CNG-powered ICE's, then the best both worlds may be possible --- 50 years from now. (We must remember that a combustion engine will always have a huge advantage: the oxidizer is free via O2 from the atmosphere, and you don't have to carry both oxidizer and reducer along with you.)

And don't forget lighter weight of ICE's. For a pure EV pickup truck, what does the heavy battery pack do to load capacity?
What happens to towing capability under a prolonged hauling mode, since battery overheating is a problem under those conditions? Since torque for EV's declines with RPM, what about pulling force at highway speeds, compared to diesel, especially going up hills? What about price, compared to an ICE pickup truck?

For an inner-city, short-haul machine (like a UPS van), this might work, but a general use personal pickup in today's America market: NO WAY!

==================

This is my truck.

You want to see what others think of Musk's EV semi-truck?
Head on over the American Trucker:
http://trucker.com/blog/tesla-semi-one-small-problem

=====================

@ NMGOM

Some of your comments are dead-on. However, an analysis of the ways that trucks are often used in the public and commercial spheres provides some alternative perspective too.

Think of all the trucks that spend most of the day idling at job sites, or the trucks that have to spend time in enclosed areas on the job. Think about golf carts and why we power them with batteries instead of ICE.

to me, the biggest obstacle to the ICE alternatives is cheap gasoline and cheap natural gas. Pump gas may go back up from time to time, but every sign says that natural gas will increase in availability, and decrease in price.

Just a few ideas.

Looks like a Transformer.

Chevy made the Hybrid Silverado for a year or so. I only saw one at an auto rental, but it belonged to an employee so I couldn't try it out. That innovation went the way of four wheel steering.

Not a Beta tester so its just a curiosity for me. I think they will come out with some new battery tech soon. Lithium-Ion isn't the final chapter here. They are working on something in San Marcos and we haven't heard from them in awhile.
Like Mark says: "Only time will tell".

You can build all the electric pickups you want, I won't ever buy them. I won't even buy a hybrid truck. Gas or diesel or you won't see me on your lot anytime soon.

Pure EV in a pickup doesn't really make sense to the majority of drivers. It would never be practical for towing. If I want to go boating 100 miles away, there would have to be a charging station at the launch, and good luck with that.

Extended range EV is the way to go. More torque than a diesel, and gas free driving for your commute. Then on the weekends, when you take the boat, or camper out, you just have to stop at the gas station every 400 miles to refuel.

Although some days Pap has a crystal ball and other days not, electric pickups would be cool. I have a kia Optima hybrid car and its been great and gets around 36-38MPG. TRQ is crazy on the thing, would love to see them in trucks, especially when gas goes back up

I work very near the Tesla plant in Fremont, and am out and about in Si Valley seeing these Tesla's all the time. Very nice looking vehicles, but I'm a slow adopter, so to pay >$75k for a vehicle that gets logistically challenging after 250mi is really not where the masses will put their money though the acceleration I'm sure is a hoot. But then forget about hiper mileage if your hootin about. Even the Tesla 3 at >$35k and 200mi is not a mass market car, but with definitely generate a lot of volume. The day I see a Tesla truck I'll probably stop and take a picture, but my understanding is that the engineering is really in their Palo Alto facility some 30miles up the road toward San Francisco. The W-15 is too traditional looking. Needs to be more cab forward (not to be confused with cab over) to accommodate a true full size crew cab and 6.4' bed to fit in a 235" garage. Again Si Valley is unique, and lots of us deal with more than our fair share of traffic and parking. So to get a full size, the size of a mid size, we have to move away from the traditional, and be more forward thinking, cab forward thinking. Start with the front end of a Ridgeline, front wheel drive really reduces the space of the front end. Putting a 6.4' bed on the Ridgeline would make it even more interesting. In the meantime, I'll keep peddling my 6mi commute as often as possible, because their is no GREENER way!

That is one ugly prototype. It would need to look a lot more "truck-like" and manly for me to be interested.

I would buy the Bollinger Motors EV Truck with Portal Axles.

I like it, build it!

NO THANKS.

Sure some will sell but no where near as many as gas and diesel trucks.

NO THANKS...Not for me or at least in my life time....

The only truck thats more flamable than Ford.

1998 Ford Ranger Electric
Back to the Future

They need to make significant improvements in battery technology. until then an electric truck won't ever be available for the average joe. The new glass battery that is being developed is very promising. It's supposed to have 3 times the energy density of todays lithium ion, charge in a fraction of the time, be more reliable, safer, and longer lasting. My guess is they are just trying to figure out how to produce it at a reasonable cost. IF they can replace the lithium in it with sodium it could be a huge breakthrough.

I would love an electric Super Duty with 1000hp/2000 lb-ft+, as long as it could be recharged quickly almost anywhere with a 400+ mile range.

Build it im ready to get one :)

52k a about the same as a ford f150 with decent same features.. And high dealers mark up prices.. 80 miles is enoigh for my every day. And gas needed for my monthly vacas:) too bad is only for fleets. Bit if they sell to publoc someday ill b the first in line

That Workhorse hybrid electric drive sounds awesome,,if they can make a small truck priced lower then gasoline or diesel powered one they will sell well imo..can they do it,,I doubt it very much..

A lot more specs have already been revealed in the past week:

http://workhorse.com/newsroom/2017/04/workhorse-electric-truck-range-extender-has-stunning-specs

Some highlights include:
- 460 hp
- 0-60 mph in 5.5 sec
- 2,200 lb payload
- all wheel drive with 2 electric motors (standard)
- 12" ground clearance
- stainless steel frame
- composite body with carbon fiber that don't dent nor rust

Given those specs at $52K is more than competitive with other similar half-ton pickups. Then there's $7,500 federal tax credit making it $45K. The only downside spec-wise is max towing at 5,500 lbs.

Official unveiling is on May 2.

So it has the batteries mounted like a GM square body gas tank or tanks? Where have they been?

@TRX-4 TOM,

No. The pictures in this article are very confusing. That is because the scaled-down body pics are that of their W-15 pickup. And the cut-away pics are that of their step vans. Two very different designs. But this article mixed those pics together as if they were all referring to the W-15 pickup. If you want to see the cut-away pics of the W-15 pickup, check here:

http://workhorse.com/pickup/

And here:

https://cleantechnica.com/2017/04/13/workhorse-electric-truck-range-extender-stunning-specs/

"Pure EV in a pickup doesn't really make sense to the majority of drivers. It would never be practical for towing. If I want to go boating 100 miles away, there would have to be a charging station at the launch, and good luck with that."
-- Posted by: Voltage | Apr 19, 2017 11:26:26 AM

Why do you make so many assumptions when you have no relevant data? Please tell me:

• Never practical for towing -- Why? Electric offers superior torque to get the load moving, even if it's being dragged behind the truck. The Tesla Model X is capable of towing 5,000# on a unibody platform, so a BoF should be notably more capable

• Have to be a charging station at the launch -- Why? Depending on which battery pack it's equipped, you should have more than enough power to get back home, as long as you don't drive like an idiot with that trailer behind you (and yes, I have seen some idiots like that.) But more, the truck above clearly has a range-extender motor that could recharge the truck while you're out fishing--so again, more than enough power to make the round trip.

Yes, the electric pickup era has begun! Especially for the suburban/city folk who can charge overnight. Since this is being marketed for fleets, I can see it quickly proving its worth in landscaping, delivery, and construction. Battery technology AND electrical charging station technology and pervasiveness will continue the positive trend.

I can see a similar trajectory of the truck with that of the sports car. Electric will prove to do everything besides keep weight down and offer superior range...for only the very near future. The majority of trucks and sports cars are not used in the extreme manners that they were built for anywhere near as regular as they are used just for commuting.

I can just see it now. If you want AWD, all they need is a second electric motor hooked up to a front driveshaft, along with the rear one. No transfer case needed! with an added advantage of say another 150 HP? to the front axle itself, for a limited time that would be needed if the frt looses traction! But of course there will be a loss of payload with the extra weight of the batteries and all. Buy I have to wonder, will a BMW 2 cyl scooter engine be able to turn a big enough generator to do the job of supplying enough juice?

"I can just see it now. If you want AWD, all they need is a second electric motor hooked up to a front driveshaft, along with the rear one. No transfer case needed! with an added advantage of say another 150 HP? to the front axle itself, for a limited time that would be needed if the frt looses traction! But of course there will be a loss of payload with the extra weight of the batteries and all. Buy I have to wonder, will a BMW 2 cyl scooter engine be able to turn a big enough generator to do the job of supplying enough juice? -- Posted by: Sandman4x4

Tesla has proven most of the first part of your statement, Sandman and has also proven that the front axle motor actually helps improve economy vs single-axle power.

As to your question about the scooter engine, note that it's driving a 200kW generator while the Tesla car only draws about 350 watts per mile at cruise. The generator should be capable of recharging the batteries with no issues while cruising and probably recharging them within an hour or so when sitting stationary. The limitation will be the amount of gasoline carried to run that engine. I expect it's designed to offer a total of 400-to 500 miles total range if you run the tank dry.

Reading the comments above is pretty entertaining. It appears that all of the commentators are male and most already own a pickup truck. It's also pretty obvious that many are projecting their perceptions of what they want from a truck.

I'll suggest that what you imagine you'd like to do with your truck (4 wheeling in the canyons of Utah, towing that massive boat you dream about owning, pulling into the lumber yard and every guy looks admiringly at your truck) is much different than how the truck is actually used. Me? Mostly my truck gets used to go to work, the grocery store and the Post Office. I should probably drive our Honda Accord for those errands but the wife uses the Honda for her transportation. I justify my diesel 4x4 by citing the times I fill it with firewood, tow the 1000 lb. fishing skiff or help a friend move his couch.

So, perception rarely meets reality. I'll offer up a challenge to each of you saying why you wouldn't buy an electric pickup. For the next two weeks, keep track of how far you drive every day, why and what the payload is. For the past few days my log looks like this:
Friday - 34.5 mi. RT commute to work. No payload.
Saturday - 14 mi. shopping. 2 sheets plywood, 8 2x4 for new workbench, misc. screws, 4 bags groceries. Est. weight 150 lbs.
Sunday - 0 mi. (took Honda for dinner with the inlaws)
Monday - 34.5 mi. RT commute to work. No payload

As you can see from above, I really don't need to be driving a 1 ton diesel 4x4. How about you? Are you driving a pickup because you need to? Or because it fits your image of yourself? Then think about what makes sense for the planet, for our country and for your budget.



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