Are Composite Pickups In Our Future?

Motive Bison action

Motive Industries, a global design company in Canada, has a new idea for a completely composite-body midsize pickup truck.

Internally code-named Bison, the design truck is meant to be a showcase for potential clients that might be interested in a design that lends itself to hybrid powertrains, battery storage capability or other future-tech modes of transport. This concept is a shell designed to show Motive's ability to develop a unique pickup design to work with the next and best industry powertrains, renewable fuels or emerging materials and technologies. Starting with a ground-up design, the engineering involved to package the batteries and powertrain isn't compromised by any pre-existing chassis.

The Bison boasts a bed size that's 75 inches long, 52 inches wide and 21.5 inches tall, closer in cargo dimensions to the much-larger full-size short bed. Motive says the ground clearance of the design is 9.5 inches, but that would likely vary depending on what powertrain or suspension package a manufacturer prefers.

As to construction, Motive believes there are many benefits to a composite-bodied pickup. The first being it's lightweight. Using carbon fiber over steel can reduce weight by as much as 50 percent, whereas fiber glass would offer only a 30 percent weight reduction.

Second, composite-bodied vehicles can have a profitable low to medium production run between 500 and 25,000 vehicles. One of the largest differences in producing a vehicle like the Bison is in the tooling investment required for stamped steel versus composite. In many cases, the costs for composite tooling can be a fraction of similar stamped-steel tooling.

A 100,000-unit production run — or the idea that to make a profit, many manufacturing execs don't want to consider any new models that can't potentially sell 100,000 units per year — is, in many ways, becoming difficult to manage as manufacturers struggle to keep up with developing technology and erratic market trends. Motive hopes to enlighten manufacturers about the benefits of a vehicle that can have a much lower production run and still make a profit.

Motive Bison side

Here's what Motive says about the Bison:

"The overall design character is sporty and assertive, communicated by its wide front-end graphic elements and aggressive wheel arches. The geometrical and angular form language, along with wedge profiles throughout, evolves the typical square pickup form into something much more modern and provocative.

"The Bison is targeting the 25- to 35-year-old consumer or the progressive company requiring utility fleet vehicles who wants to make a statement. The stance is important to convey stability and power.

"The Bison's two-tone 19-inch wheels shod in aggressive tread are pushed out to the corners of the truck, providing a long wheelbase. Inserts in the wheels can be body color or a tech-looking opaque Lexan for an EV edition.

"Charcoal-colored polymer bumpers are durable and designed to deal with the tough fleet/commercial use in the field. Side step panels are incorporated into the rockers. The panel break up along the bumpers and rocker panels help to visually lighten the truck along with the rising cutout feature in the rocker. This rise in the rocker is a common design feature coming from Motive's design ethos, influenced by the waistlines of athletic animals like a horse or greyhound. It helps to visually lighten the body, but accentuate the 'chest' or engine bay area of the vehicle."

The design does have a futuristic quality to it and a unique look, and it offers a small echo toward the new Ford Ranger, which recently debuted in the Far East. There was no word on what type of suspension the vehicle might have, what cab features could exist or what kinds of special bed options or cab pass-throughs may be available as part of the design.

It's our guess the global design is not likely to capture the eye of any of the U.S. small-truck makers, but this could be something very interesting to a potential Chinese car company looking to make some inroads to the Australian market and possibly into Thailand. For more on the company and the design, click here.

Motive Bison front

Motive Bison rear

Motive Bison II


This is the kind of development I love to see.

Lighter, faster trucks that are stronger and more resistant to damage and can be run with more smaller engines or electric motors.... sign me up.

I like the idea but it'll be expensive. Probably destined for hybrids so the cost can be more easily absorbed.

You guys can keep these Rubbermaid Trucks, a real truck is made from Steal.

This is the kind of forward thinking that will drive the future of the auto industry, and trucks as well.

Awesome! Very good design ideas. Just add the FORD 4cy ecoboost powertrain...and YOU have a total winner!

Forward thinking...YES.

Rubbermaid trucks are awesome. They could stamp out millions of these on the cheap so they would be a real steel.

Not too bad; I like it in general. Forget the hybrid crap though..... I'll take mine with either a small diesel or small turbo motor.

Wow! Nice, clean design. New exciting p/u ideas.

My concern would be durablity. Say I got a pallet of stone and some of it was dropped in the bed or the bed rails..causing some damage.

does that now mean the truck is totalled?

Bet that thing would crumble.

I have been waiting for someone to build this for years, not even so much for weight savings, but to help with rust. As far as durability, some composites, in addition to being rigid and strong (asin tensile) can also be very tough. I would really like to see something that can stand up to the typical truck abuse and still be able to do it in the cold without shattering. Def a step in the right direction. Way to go Bison.

Composites are the future. The GMT800's had optional composite beds. I see a few around town and they still look like new. I think they should have been standard the way those things rot out. The GMT900's would have benefited greatly from composites. The tin foil sheet metal they have is garbage. Composites would have been far sturdier.

I agree with fear, small Diesel 4X4, 4 door composite truck that gets 30+ MPG, and can pull #5,000+ is what I'll buy. Composite would work well in harsh salty climates where sea air ,road salt or chemicals rust out steel bodies. The full size trucks can do the big and heavy work. I want a daily driver that can play on the weekends. Hey Ford, Ram and GM, Are you listening?

Bison...the next competitor of the next-gen RAM Dakota.

No,I want a big,390 hp HEMI V-8 truck that gets 18.7 average mpg..oh wait I already have it !!

These composite trucks will be crap,cheap,uncomfortable and unsafe !!

People dont want small vehicles,we want big vehicles,the real problem is government regulations that cause fuel prices to be high,drill for oil,get the Canadaian oil and get out of Opec then we wont have to suffer with small useless trucks !!!

Time to get real people and demand cheaper oil,and no Opec !! Why settle for small cheap looking plastic trucks,I am not a child anymore and my days playing with plastic trucks are over !!

Really sweet dimensions on this truck. Maybe a bigger cab/smaller bed with an open midgate to be ideal for me.

Great idea.. not everybody needs to tow a house but would benefit from being able to haul some plywood, 20 bags of manuer or a dirtbike.

This is not forward thinking !

Electric vehicles are old technology, in the late 1800's we had electric vehicles !

Why are people wanting plastic vehicles,wasnt it just a few years ago every person/journelist complained about manufacturers who used plastics on their vehicles,now people want whole vehicles made from plastic ! Weird people,just weird !! Next will be people wanting to get off the use of electricity for homes and go back to the 1800's and burn logs for heat and have candles for light ! People are just going backwards instead of forward !

I think a 5300 lb ,390 h.p V-8 truck that gets the same mpg as a 2200lb,95 h.p 4 cyl car 15 years ago is the new technology (and it is) not plastic electric throw away trucks !!!

Continue to improve the internal combustion engine,its reliable,clean,safe and forget about this electric stuff...we are crying for more power just to power our homes ,we cant afford electric vehicles,we will be in eternal blackouts !

@ RAM,
Regarding electric vehicles and the power grid, the very same green agendists who push for the fuel savings and c02 levels dont want you driving anywhere - period. they want people to stay in their little congested area of whatever city, so they could care less abut the grid, the lack of available electrical power only furthers their cause in their mind. I watched a show about this Japaneese mega apartment, I think its still being built, and basically, the idea was you literally don't HAVE to leave it. it even has grocery stores, it's like its own city. Thats how they want everybody to live. The thought sickens me. Maybe I can escape with nothing to the forsaken wilderness and be a hunter gatherer....

@Mark Williams a Chinese company that wants to make inroads into the Australian and everyone elses markets, needs to make a vehicle that does not disintergrate after a minor crash and is reliable.
Problem currently using a lot of composites is these issues bought out in a recent forum.
"The world will see mass produced cars with a complete carbon body structure. This poses enormous challenges on cost reduction, cycle times and quality control"

It should be called a "Saturn"

Not so sure about this "bed size that's 75 inches long, 52 inches wide and 21.5 inches tall, closer in cargo dimensions to the much-larger full-size bed" my Tacoma bed is 72 inches by 51, not sure how this can be closer to a full size truck bed???

I would like this Idea Incorporated to Truck beds.
Why haul a steel bed, just to have it lined with Rubber. When you can have a ABS hard plastic bed with reinforced corners and a plastic tailgate just shy of the back width. (Again just to reinforce the rear bed corners)

I'd buy a plastic body truck. I always wanted a truck with no paint, that I can hammer any panel just for it to dent initially and then pop back. Sure put in reinforcement here and there, It'll never rust, would be extremely light. And being a TRUCK it will have a sub frame so there is no question about towing / hauling.

I would also like the idea of a TRUCK that doesn't change.
i.e the frame / Engine Tranny Dimensions remain the same. And everything else can be bolted out and new parts bolted in. We go through a lot of well made frames, axles etc. Its just a wasteful way of living. IF they can make "upgradeable" PCs, an industry with astronomical growth, then I pretty sure we can make a modular, upgradeable, refurbishable truck system.

I think the design looks a little dated, but thats subjective. GM has a long history with composite vehicles. The Corvette, Fiero, Saturn S, U-van, and 800 bed, just off the top of my head. Composites also seem to work just fine for medium and havy duty trucks. They Bremach trucks also use composite skins.
@Ken- hybrids can't absorb any costs- often they're already lower margin.
@Don- see FW's post
@FW- I see what you did there.
@Scott- I would worry about durability issues as well, when you load a pallet of stone in a midsize truck... /palmface
@RAM- your assumption that something like this would be uncomfortable or unsafe lends a lot of color to the rest of your post. And what the hell compact car from '97 got 19 miles per gallon???

Not sure how anyone in China could get the costs off the ground.

Carbon fiber is suppose to be several times stronger than steel and yet several times lighter. I wouldn't think ABS plastic could absorb enough force.

@MrKowitall and @Ken Kenworth in Australia has a composite body made by the Bolwell Company locally. The problem is composites for more load bearing structures and the cost of producing these parts.

I think this is still years away considering they are talking about carbon fiber.

While I have no doubts about the strength and lightness of this material it is virtually impossible to mend if broken and no common wrench turner is going to be able to work on it. I'd really be curious to the warranty issues this might cause.

Still it is nice to know that the auto industry is moving forward with technology in the mainstream autos but I see this like the fuel cell vehicle, it will continually be "5 years out" until the costs come down and other logistical problems are worked out.

@ RAM- I have a solution for that. The middle east sells us oil for $100+ a barrel, while we sell them grain for a few measly dollars a bushel. Sell them grain for $120 a bushel. "But we cant afford that!" Too bad, eat your oil.

Some people called the Saturn brand vehicles "Plastic Fantastic". The interesting thing is that they can take scrapes and dings that leave very visible dents and damage on steel-bodied vehicles and come away almost unscathed.

An example would be my own 2002 Saturn Vue, which I once backed against a steel guard post on the right quarter. It shattered my tail lamps and scraped about four inches down the body, but the only repair needed was a new tail lamp assembly (about $50) and some buffing to smooth out the scrapes. Even now, almost eight years later living full-time in the weather, you can't even tell where the damage was until you get really close and look for it. The Vue itself is still going strong, though finally due for new clutch plates at 130,000 miles.

My 2002 F150 SuperCrew is factory built with a 100% composite bed (external shell) that will never rust.

The idea is great but to make it as robust as steel is another thing. They will need to prove it's sturdiness to convince people's mindset. Kinda like building a twin turbo V6 engine to replace a V8 ;)

@FW - nice work with the homonym!

What a bunch of backwoods hayseeds "Benchimus" and "RAM" are. Yeah, you guys' ancestors probably preferred a sqaure wheel to a round one too.

The beauty of carbon fiber is it can be laid down to be super strong in some areas and then real lean in other areas that don't need all that strength. Could be a good alternative but i wonder how much petroleum & $$ it takes to produce and build something out of carbon fiber. Kinda like all the nasty chemicals that are mined to build electrical vehicle & hybrids that coal burning power plants must work overtime when hollywood plugs in thier precious Prisus and thinks how much better they are making our world. If they only knew the truth!
Im sure they cant handle it ! Diesel is still the the most efficient for the $$$ imo. But our wonderful govt and oil companies dont want us to have fuel efficient long lasting vehicles. we should quit buying this current junk and demand the great diesel vehicles the rest of the world can buy.

All you guys talking about plastic trucks, stop talking. Composite is not plastic. There are many composites out there that are stronger then steel. They have to find ways to improve mpg's yet keep the towing & hauling #'s of today's & tomorrows trucks. This is a good idea, especially since the use of composites are gaining attention. I mean come one, if composites can handle a 250,000lb plane that can carry another 250,000lbs I think it can handle your little tough guy image box checker trucks duty's. Don't be so quick to knock the idea, design ok that is all in the eye of the beholder, but to knock the pricinpal behind it with out knowing anything about it (especially when you are charaterizing it as "plastic") then that is just ignorant.

Be happy they are trying to find ways to make the oil last longer so you have some to use in 50 years, maybe if by small chance your Hemi truck lasts that long...

Also, Polymer doesn't mean plastic either, it can but not always.

Ram, you sir are directed to the above rant. Also, please point us in the direction of a 19 mpg 2200lb four cylinder car from 1995. And unsafe, come on man. Look at crash tests between steel 1950's cars and today's in your word "plastic" cars, end of discussion.

Great thought and idea Bison, it will be nice to see how this idea evolves with the big auto manufacturers.


@ Tyler


Why target a demographic group, such as 25-35 y/o? Why not just solve the problem? People have transportation problems, and need tools, or a transportation system to solve the problems.

I like it. I'm not 25-35, but the rig would solve my tranport issues.

Some great posts and as usual not so great. I concur with Tyler, MHowarth and a few others. Composites can be almost any, well composition. Aramid fibres come to mind (kevlar).
Don't know where guys are getting the idea this will be junk and/or expensive.
They feel that this kind of design architecture would be profitable in a range of 500 - 25,000 units. That would be a huge shift in current R&D and production modelling. The average for R&D and releasing a new model is 3 - 5 years and then the company will want it on the market to reach a break even point. That is at least 4-7 years. The 100,000 unit number comes up time and time again.
Companies could easily adjust to market trends with a profitable smaller unit run.
This technology is great for smaller companies that don't see huge production runs. They can move into markets that they normally could not compete in, or could easily adjust production to suite customer tastes.
Weight savings and subsequent mpg improvements are just icing on the cake as far as I'm concerned.

It seems interesting enough to produce right now. It may not suit any of the majors, but it could work as a low-volume specialty truck for someone on the scale of Tesla, Smith Electric or I.D.E.A vans, or perhaps Navistar or Paccar.

lets see,something with 25mpg,composite body,strong simple v-6-whoops ,Dodge had this concept a few years back-Kevin

First, "steel" is spelled S T E E L, not "steal".

I live outside Buffalo, NY, which is the salty rusty s*^%t hole capital of the world, and a terrible place to own and drive a vehicle you care about, so a composite bodied truck would be great. I'm not crazy about the styling shown here, but I like the idea.

AT,now you understand why the carmakers love steel bodies so much,strong,relatively light ,goes away on its own in a few years. Kevin

u as what car got 19 mpg in the 1990's? When i went through the automotive repair program there is a 90's stationwagon w/ the window papers still taped up. it was boasting 29 mpg hwy. and it has a V-8. fuel efficency was achievable even back then, w/o these advance composites.

looks like a dodge

The comments to this entry are closed.