Talking Trucks Tuesday: Fueling Future Pickups


By G.R. Whale

Pickup trucks have reliably run on gasoline, diesel and to a lesser extent ethanol for many years, but that doesn't mean it will continue. Recent low-volume propulsion choices include compressed or liquefied natural gas, propane and batteries.

Despite diesel-truck standards that cut hydrocarbons by 10 times, nitrous oxide by 50 times, an optional 500 in California and particulate matter by 60 times in the last 30 years, cities around the world and states from California to New York want all of it eliminated in three to eight years. California, which lags behind most states in clean-diesel trucks because of vehicles that come from across the country to work the ports, wants them replaced by CNG engines.

But where will future trucks carry the fuel? CNG pickups typically lose bed space or capacity to carry the tanks. If your pickup is powered by electricity — GM was testing electric motors in the Chevrolet S-10 some 20 years ago — the battery may take the place of drive shafts, gearboxes and fuel tanks, but what will it do to payload? And how fast can you recharge it on the long trips pickups often make?

Gasoline remains a viable choice, too. While towing anything heavy with it might yield minimal cruising range, at least refills are faster and more convenient than any battery right now.

What do you think will power your future pickup and why? graphic by Paul Dolan; manufacturer photo


Hopefully its all diesel, Powerstroke power to get the job done

Trucks are getting sissified. Retractable steps, plush interior, and all kinds of widgets and gadgets. The cost of an average truck has (as I recollect) nearly doubled over what they were 20 years ago.

People oooh and ahhh over a truck and it costs 65K or more. What the Hell!

Where is the breaking point?

too bad the story did not include any cost per hour, or cost per mile comparisons. Utilizing America's existing infrastructure for fuel systems and fuel delivery makes much more sense (on a cost per basis) than reinventing the energy wheel every decade or two for the sake of a few regionally powerful political interests.

California is rapidly shedding middle class Americans who'd rather deal with the day to day struggle of life in places like Arizona and Nevada, than the goofy extremes of Santa Barbara and Napa.

At least someone is willing to take a chance on Alt-fuel vehicles. A company in south Carolina, Alkane Truck company ( is preparing to offer a fleet of LP-powered trucks in the US this year. They include a Class 7 Cab-chassis truck, an 8-Class COE semi and the Dominator, a Hummer-style pickup. The 7-and 8-classes are imported from Foton in China, and the Dominator is shipped from Brazil; all are upfitted with US-built engines and fuel systems in Charleston, SC.

There's going to be a lot of questions and controversy surrounding the choice of fuel and the source the vehicles, but I thing the biggest noise will focus on the 8-Class and the Dominator. First, the 8 is a COE. There hasn't been a new large COE on the US market in years. The few COEs I see on the road now are used and are pulling logs and wood chip trailers. I really want to see if there is a market for this configuration.

As for the Dominator, Alkane's website says the company believes there is still a demand for a Hummer-type vehicle. I don't know where, but in my area people are still trying to get rid of their Hummers. Nobody wants a Hummer, and at $89,000 for a clone, nobody's going to buy one either.

I've been following Alkane for over a year. Seriously, you guys really need to check this out.

I think gas/electric and diesel/electric hybrids both have a future. Electric will be good in trucks for providing great off-the-line torque, and if they do it right, they can design it to double as a generator at the work site or campsite. Electric would also be good for providing on-demand assist to wheels that are not powered by the main powertrain.

Hybrid engines can be designed to maximize efficiency in a narrower powerband, thereby increasing fuel economy and decreasing emissions.

For the all-electric vehicles, they just need to make standard batteries that are easily and quickly interchangeable. Store them at existing fuel stations. You pull up on a low battery, swap out for a new battery in a couple minutes, and you're on your way. Shouldn't take any more time than typical gassing up. Problem is that the fuel station s probably won't want to play that game, especially if franchised by oil companies.

I ran some hybrid gas/lp trucks in the 90s. Easy 800 miles on a fill-up. If they can dial in the QA/QC on those vehicles, they'd be a viable option. They did lose some power on lp, though.

For the all-electric vehicles, they just need to make standard batteries that are easily and quickly interchangeable. Store them at existing fuel stations.


What you describe is a pretty large investment in new infrastructure in a country with 300 million people. It's taken over 100 years to achieve the energy distribution infrastructure that America has today.

Imagine how much investment of man hours and financial resources that took!

Has anyone else seen the new Ford commercial talking about all their service technicians they have to repair your broken Ford. This must be in response to the bad rap their power stroke and now eco boost engines has cultivated over the last decade or so. I think their sending the message that even though FORDs break a lot, we can still fix them.

@gms, sorry you have to again point usless information, I have a powerstroke for now 6 years and it is awesome, great fuel economy, great trq/hp and runs awesome......

I am all about the electrification of trucks. Not only would trucks gain the most from the power offered, but they'd also be able to push the rest of the industry into standardizing batteries and recharging methods (since they are the best selling vehicles in the US). Trucks also have the most space to accommodate batteries. I imagine trucks gaining MORE capability by going electric. Even though it may seem a big change, electric motors are less complicated than the diesel/gas/NG counterparts. As mentioned before, swapping out batteries doesnt have to be much slower than a typical 25 gallon refill. Long distance towing/hauling is about the only worry, but recharging stations wont take 100 years to develop into the mainstream.

Has anyone else seen the new Ford commercial talking about all their service technicians they have to repair your broken Ford. This must be in response to the bad rap their power stroke and now eco boost engines has cultivated over the last decade or so. I think their sending the message that even though FORDs break a lot, we can still fix them.

Posted by: GMSRGREAT | Feb 7, 2017 1:59:46 PM

You must be referring to the tire commercials. Come to your Ford dealer for new tires. I can understand your misinterpretation as a GM owner and always going to the dealer for repairs. But Ford owners drive so many trouble free miles they wear out tires before needing service. So they want customers to bring in their vehicles for regular maintenance to the dealer and support the dealer network. Is a Ford thing, GM and fiat owners wouldn't understand. Toyota and Nissan owners do though.

Put me in the hydrogen column. Fuel cells are getting more powerful and cheaper every day. I loved the ZH2 Chevy Colorado built for the army. Trucks are perfect for fuel cells in that they have the space for the large fuel tank and the associated batteries. The emissions are clean and the fuel is relatively cheap. We can also use natural gas to make hydrogen until better techniques can be developed. Converting natural gas to hydrogen doesn't even have to be done at a refinery. There are systems that hook into a gas service line to process that gas to hydrogen. The cost wouldn't be exorbitant and paid for by early converts (if auto makers would push fuel cells more).

You must be referring to the tire commercials.

Posted by: Ram blows chunks | Feb 7, 2017 2:22:53 PM


Haha gmssucksogreat, and oil guy aka Oil change person, a motor craft guy aka Fords maint parts side, treads, aka tire replacement. Man o man you don't have a clue do you. Now that is funny, you epic failed and don't even know it.

I talked to a lead researcher at a large university that studies alternative fuels. He was very pessimistic about finding a future fuel source for vehicles that works for everyone. His opinion was that the future of vehicle fuels over the next 50 years would be a combination of many types of fuel. Including battery-powered electric, hydrogen fuel cell, and continued use of fossil fuels.

Like someone else posted before. You can't reinvent the wheel. The innovations will come from the same gas and diesel engines with more FE. Sleeker cab shapes, materials tech will improve engine FE. For example lighter stronger engine internals with upgraded materials. The new Powestroke trucks are a marvel in modern technology and I suspect the new Duramax will be absolutely groundbreaking. Good times

Mark - - -

"What do you think will power your future pickup and why?"

Depends on what we want to define as "future."

1) 100 years from now: H2/Electric (FC) and/or Grid Electric;
2) 30 years from now: Hybrid Electric with CNG or Propane;
3) 10 years from now: Hybrid Electric with Turbo/Gasoline.

To keep load and towing capabilities somewhat near today's values, the 1/2-ton trucks with have to be a little bigger and stronger physically; and the mid-size truck segment will begin to dominate. Unless a completely new technology for diesel refinement and combustion evolves, diesel will not be a significant player, especially since very high-tech turbo-gasoline ICE's can now almost duplicate diesel characteristics.

Just my best guesstimates ....


When you need to haul or tow heavy loads there's a limit how far you can go by making the truck less powerful and less weight.
My solution is make a modular truck that can be changed or transformed to different needs by the owner where you can "dial" up the engine power when towing or hauling a heavy load and "dial" it down when you're driving to a vacation site.
Also the CVT Transmission has been perfected over the years to be reliable and would be perfect for trucks.
A torsion bar spring dump bed would be nice with the sides of the bed that fold down like the back tailgate and even the bed designed like a drawer that you can increase the length of the bed as needed. To me that would be a game changer!

Long distance towing/hauling is about the only worry, but recharging stations wont take 100 years to develop into the mainstream.


Please cite specifics. Where do you get your information about not taking 100 yrs to replace the infrastructure?

While you're at it, please show the lost capacity America's taxpayers will be forced to accept so that we can switch to electric drive autos and trucks. You are talking rather casually about an investment on the order of WW2 or the Space Race.

We can agree (or not) about how long it takes to convert, but there's no debate that the cost would be extraordinary.

Innovations in trucks usually come well after cars. I would look for alternative modes of power in trucks to follow along the lines of what we are seeing in cars. Just taking longer and being more HD or of limited use in trucks. We have already seen GM do a well received but not big selling hybrid 1/2 ton full size. Those calling the Honda Ridgeline a truck have unknowingly welcomed CVTs into the truck world (if you call it a truck). Diesel electric drive is already common in very large very HD scales (ships, mining trucks, locomotives) so its really an issue of weight and cost. So I do see in the future more hybrid, and electric trucks. I see the change being slow and gradual and there will be issues but it will happen.

I was just reading an article on Conventional Versus Cabover. It was not really one against the other, but the various growth and decline of each. Primarily Cabovers are growing here, which has happened Globally.

As far as Fuel goes, it would be diesel is the one fuel that is growing all the time.
We have had LPG with Utes, but the Global Pickups are predominantly Diesl, with the exception of entry level or light use engines.

Very long term future, their might vehicles powered by a combination of lasers, hydrogen isotopes, thermal energy exchangers, batteries and electric motors. Boeing among others already have patents in such areas of propulsion. 30 year decay times of radio active materials instead of thousands. Maybe in in the 50 years someone will have figured it out and make it ecomonical to commercialize safely.

Let's stop dreaming. The truth is oil is here to stay. It is not running out like the doomsayers claim. In fact there is enough oil to power the planet for the next couple millenniums. The oil industry is not going to just close shop and disappear overnight. These are the world heavy hitters along with the arms industry and food/drugs. In 100 years trucks will run on the same old gasoline and diesel as always.

The innovations will come from the same gas and diesel engines with more FE.


Most of the excitement in regard to FE and performance in the realm of internal combustion engines has already been done. Electronic control systems, better more user-friendly auto transmissions, cleaner burning fuels. Much improvement has come in regard to lighter stronger materials. Carbon fiber and other space age composites are already here.

Gas and diesel are fairly old technologies, but they are also very widely in use.

Moving off of these well established systems to new and different powerplants will require a ton of investment and a very strong reason for doing it.

I still waiting for Ford's Bobcat, ethanol injected gasoline engines. Way more cost/benefits verses diesel.


Comparing the rollout of gas stations over the last 100+ years to the already extant network of charging stations rolled out over the last 5 years would be interesting when you can find numbers. Oh wait...there are already 15,500+ stations nationwide?!
Look at how quickly Tesla has built its GLOBAL charging network without the need of a war to spur them on. (and their network is growing).

In fact, the real area where there is a slowdown is in people's perceptions (including my own). Tell me how fast people switched from horses to horseless carriages? How fast people dropped their landlines for cellular only? In those instances, look at how fast those technologies changed in respect to people's perceptions.

What have you to prove that we need another 100 years? I think when you see the population density disparity, car ownership disparity, and the infrastructure disparity between the periods, it is VERY easy to see how fast the electric charging network will grow compared to the gas/diesel network. We are not paving roads, eminent domaining land, and digging huge holes in the ground for tanks. Many of these are hooked up to the already extant electricity grid supplemented by solar, wind, and other energy sources.

Ball is in your court...

What have you to prove that we need another 100 years?


We can agree (or not) about how long it takes to convert, but there's no debate that the cost would be extraordinary.

Secondly, why is burning coal for electric generation bad when we're talking about private utility companies, but it's ok when the Green folks talk about using electricity from PG&E's coal fired generators?

Most importantly, I'm on board for change, but

A: who makes the decision to adopt a particular standard?
B: who pays the price?

Replacing the gas/diesel infrastructure in a hurry (less than 100 yrs) may be viable but I've yet to hear a persuasive case for it.

Are you willing to impose this sort of change on the developing nations of the third world, where people are just beginning to experience the comforts of electrification or the convenience of automobile travel and distribution of food and medical necessities that we take for granted?

I think you're conflating replacing stations with what I said, expanding electrical charging stations. Some refueling stations will host multiple fueling options. Those don't have to be, and likely won't for sometime, exclusive options.

No comments on your position on coal as I don't feel it is relevant to my simple point, as I reiterated above.

How long did it take for us to settle on gasoline grades?! Oh... We didn't! Still have incongruent octane levels across the country. The market will determine which charging standard becomes ubiquitous. But how hard is it to use an adapter or provide multiple cables or even change units? I'm guessing easier than changing the way oil is refined, replace tanks, wait for manufacturers to engineer their engine to accept a new petroleum product as is the case now.

The price for the infrastructure is being paid for now by interested stakeholders. VW just announced a $2 billion intention to invest and judging by the data, their not the only ones. (definitely less than 100 years!)

Not to sound impersonal but you being persuaded isn't going to stop the progress that clearly has begun. Internationally, as places like Paris start to ban more emitting vehicles from cities, EV's will gain popularity. As those places start to dictate what manufacturers make, it will be a market trend. Sure, there will always exist places where history will stagnate like Cuba and their car culture but manufacturers don't cater to markets like those. Let's clarify...I don't impose anything on emerging markets. Just someone on a website reading the comments...


You sound very naive when you mention that replacing infrastructure refers to retail (gas stations). Gas stations are just the last 100 feet of a long supply line including key areas of infrastructure

1. exploration and discovery
2. drilling and extraction
3. shipping and refining
4. distribution of finished goods
5. THEN there's retail

Seriously, the world's energy infrastructure took trillions of dollars and generations of human effort. You, and others, seem to think we can replace it on a large scale with something radically different in a couple of decades. Doesn't sound feasible.

@papajjm, There you go agaiin. It sounds feasible to me. You just like being negative like you are with Honda.

Elizabeth Warren 2020!

@Jeff S

You're up late Jeff.

Feasible? Please cite specifics. Who pays for a complete teardown and replacement of global energy infrastructure during the next 25 years---and for what?

Green solutions?

Try telling that the to people around the world today who barely have enough to eat! Ask them if they care about Ozone Holes or Global Warming.

@papajim, I am not a Republican and I am not a Democrat. I am an Independent.

I am not a Republican and I am not a Democrat. I am an Independent.

@Jeff S

what does your notion of personal identity or party affiliation even remotely have to do with these discussions, or more specifically, fuels?


Certainly familiar with those aspects but no one is proposing to tear down that infrastructure. Again, I am saying that electric charging stations will continue to expand its infrastructure which INCLUDES using existing fueling stations. The data I posted shows that the electric infrastructure is NOT tearing down or replacing gas stations, as it doesnt need to. An electrical charging station doesnt need the exact infrastructure that gas and diesel currently has. Maybe CNG, Hydrogen or other fuels do but not electricity. The gas/diesel infrastructure will either be replaced by something other than electric charging stations...maybe something we cannot imagine right now...or the infrastructure will degrade over lack of use/interest.

So when you call me naive, I think you are pointing one finger at me whilst 3 point back at you.

The amount of money something takes to build doesnt mean it should stay there. I can cite a number of examples but you can look at buildings/houses, bridges and roads, even monuments. They can be removed, repurposed, or even just neglected regardless of the initial investment.

You keep spouting these unspecific numbers about how much the existing infrastructure cost to build over the last 100 years but I dont see real sources. Shouldnt you play fair and by your own rules and cite them?

I personally think, similar to many in the industry by way of the industry trends, that electric is the fastest growing segment and likely the vehicle that powers our vehicles. Electric charging stations are not expensive nor difficult (compared to traditional fuel) to build. That will obviously vary depending on region, but I maintain that it will take a fraction of the time to roll out an electric charging network comparable (or better) thank today's traditional fueling network.

you are pointing one finger at me whilst 3 point back at you.



Are you in grade school? No wonder your arguments sound childish!

Standardization is the goal in any discussion of policy on a large scale basis. There's certainly nothing wrong intrinsically with having a few thousand charging stations scattered about, but trying to replace something on the scale of the current energy infrastructure (for vehicles) with the silly discussions of Wind, Solar, Geothermal, Algae and the rest is laughable.

Ditto for the ridiculous idea of replacing gas/diesel powered autos and trucks with electric powered, simply to achieve some silly benchmarks in the carbon realm. Half of northern California's residential energy supply comes from coal burning power plants. They have all but killed of the nukes.

And when you have some clown like the current governor running things in Sacramento still babbling about Green solutions at a time when so much civil infrastructure (Oroville) is crumbling is beyond the pale.

There needs to be a discussion amongst the grownups about this.

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