EV pickups?

EV pickups?

Since the highest selling vehicles in the US are pickups and Elon says he wants to give us the benefits of electronic vehicles, why do we hear nothing about plug in electric pickups? Most of their trips are well below the current "range anxiety" thresholds.

Twizzie | January 22, 2016 in Charlotte, NC is going after this market.

Red Sage ca us | January 22, 2016

I figure that Tesla Motors could probably make a full-sized crew cab Model P as an AWD Dually with 350/450 towing capability using a 220 kWh battery pack around 2020 or so. It would likely be of unibody construction, like the Honda Ridgeline and Chevrolet Avalanche. It would have fully independent suspension instead of leaf springs. It would have height adjustable suspension. It would have a gigantic frunk. It would have an unladen range approaching 550 miles, and still manage over 300 miles while towing at 55 MPH. It would be... beautiful.

I think that Phoenix Motorcars is another company that only intends to sell to private company and government/municipal fleets.

There is a nice thread in the General Forum that covers the subject:

Tesla Pick-up Truck?

Much of what is written there is in response to an article that appeared at Teslarati:

The very real challenge of a Tesla Pickup Truck

The author of the article was not happy with my criticisms of his views...

Ankit Mishra | January 22, 2016

They are not sexy. You cant sell them at huge premiums like Tesla is doing now. Also, people spend most for their family comfort. Families use cars. So more profit scope. More publicity too. Elon has used great cars and attached environment benefits as Trojan horse so that people find it easy to save environment and fund Tesla while doing so. Eventually, if Tesla continues to do good, rest of transport means might get electrified too.

Roamer@AZ USA | January 22, 2016

It will be awhile before EV tech can deliver a real functional pick up truck.

A car based truck like a Ridgeline is just a different body on a car platform.

Tesla could put a bed on an X and call it a truck but it would really be a car truck not a truck truck.

There is a reason actual trucks get bad gas mileage. They are designed to tow and haul heavy loads every day all day.

But then many trucks are never used as real trucks and a model X with a truck bed rather than passenger area would fit the bill for truck owners that don't really need a real truck but want a truck bed in the back.

Just my two cents on the topic.

Red Sage ca us | January 22, 2016

Roamer: Absolutely correct. That is precisely why Tesla Motors should not build a 'car truck', or as some would advise, a medium sized pickup. Targeting the low end of the truck buying populace will place a stigma on the brand that would take a long time to overcome.

Toyota made a big mistake when they first introduced the Tundra. It was basically a Tacoma with a bigger body. But they called it a 'full sized' pickup truck. It was lacking in both payload and towing capacity, so it couldn't live up to the way it was marketed at all.

Even though many of the issues have been fixed since, Tacoma sales have remained rather flat. It is outsold by the Prius in the Toyota line. It sells only a fraction as many units as Chevrolet Silverado and Ford F-Series.
2015 US Pickup Sales
780,354 Ford F-Series
600,544 Chevrolet Silverado
118,880 Toyota Tacoma
Tesla Motors must avoid being so embarrassed by the pickup buying populace when the time comes. They'll likely need at least a second Gigafactory for the sole purpose of supplying pickups for domestic sales. So, they should build something that is compelling at the outset. Enough to yield 200,000 units per year from the start, and quickly grow to in excess of 500,000.

Rather than going after the Ford F-150 or F-250, the very first pickup from Tesla Motors must have Class III or Class IV towing capability. That would set it up against the Ford F-350 and F-450 instead. By 2020-to-2022, the price for battery packs should be at a point where a fully loaded electric pickup truck could be priced similarly to those vehicles, and manage to outdo them in 99.99% of daily activities.

And though I am rather partial to Model P for 'pickup'... It may well end up being Model Y for 'YANKEE'. What could possibly be more AMERICAN?

Keep in mind, that doesn't mean I don't want a Tesla Motors version of the Chevrolet El Camino SS for myself, of course...

MrBuffer | January 22, 2016

Here's how the Tesla Pickup would play out. The tailgate would not be designed to open and it wouldn't be able to haul stuff. People would bitch about it not being a real pickup truck, others would defend Tesla's decision to use glass for the pickup bed, which may or may not have sacrificed features that pickup drivers were used too. Fights would ensue and AIMc would try to bring everyone back together to play nice. In the end it won't matter because the pickup will get stuck in QC at the Fremont factory indefinitely; the holographic doors aren't appearing when summoned.

Monkey | January 22, 2016

This past October I bought a brand new F-350 crew cab diesel. I've always had trucks, been around trucks my whole life. Always had a "work truck" and whatnot. These days, I don't need a "work truck". This one is to haul toys, haul big stuff that occasionally happens, to take camping, and just to have a truck. The same reasons many of us own trucks.

...I'm hoping that when it comes time to replace this one, there will be an EV alternative. Given the size of the truck and thickness of the frame, I don't see any reason why it couldn't stack THREE of the current 90KWh battery packs. The price would be absolutely insane, not to mention the weight as well.

I think batteries will still need to improve quite a bit to enable this one. Especially since I equip my pickups with a 50gal aux fuel tank / toolbox combo. I can fill up and drive just under 1600 miles before needing to refuel and with diesel under $2/gal with current loyalty cards and grocery store perks... Pulling a 10,000lb load, even through the varied terrain and mountains between Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona I get 850 to 1100 miles range with this setup. This is pretty common for a lot of us who have lager campers, toy haulers, horse trailers, etc.. An EV pickup done right will have a lot of high expectations.

And yeah, if Tesla (or anyone else) is going to do an EV pickup, they need to go big and do it right the first time.

sp_tesla | January 22, 2016

Ian Wright, one of five co-founders of Tesla (TSLA) back in 2003, now runs a Silicon Valley startup called Wrightspeed that builds electric powertrains for vehicles weighing 60,000 pounds or so. Even though investors and auto critics love Tesla, Wright argues that for ordinary drivers, electric vehicles still don’t make economic sense, because the savings on fuel don’t recoup the high upfront costs. “They’re going to be a niche for a very long time,” he tells me in the video above. “The only cars it makes sense for are taxis and police cars.”

Wrightspeed, which has 25 employees and is privately owned, has a contract to retrofit 17 garbage trucks in the San Francisco area with its electric motors. And Wright predicts rapid adoption of the technology after that. Within 10 years, he says, half of all garbage trucks in the U.S. will be powered by battery-electric systems.

While virtually all big automakers offer some form of electric vehicle today, they’re priced far higher than cars with ordinary gasoline-powered engines. The federal government has been trying to spur development of EVs through a $7,500 tax credit for anybody who buys one. Even so, the market share of electrics today is just 0.2%, and most forecasters expect that to rise slowly, if at all. Tesla, for all its popularity, still isn’t profitable.

Wright, who no longer has any involvement with Tesla, says electric powertrains become economically feasible—without any kind of subsidy—for vehicles that burn about 4,000 gallons of fuel per year or more in urban-style driving with a lot of starts and stops. To spare you the math: a typical car averaging 25 miles a gallon and driven 12,000 miles a year burns about 480 gallons of gas. A workhorse pickup truck driven 40,000 miles per year at 15 MPG would still consume only about 2,700 gallons of fuel.

A cargo delivery truck, by contrast, might be large and heavy enough, if driven every day, to be more cost-effective with an electric powertrain than with a gas or diesel one. Wrightspeed has already retrofitted two FedEx trucks with electric powertrains, with 25 more on order. The Wrightspeed powertrain can drive such a vehicle on battery power alone for about 30 miles, before a “range extender” powered by diesel, natural gas or propane kicks in to keep the electric motor humming.

“It costs more for bigger vehicles, but you save vastly more on fuel, so the scaling works in your favor,” Wright says. The technology can pay for itself in as little as four years, which can produce large savings for big fleet operators that hold onto trucks for a decade or more.

Garbage trucks: ideal for electrification

The next target for Wrightspeed is garbage trucks, which typically can make 1,000 hard stops per day, consume upwards of 14,000 gallons of fuel per year and weigh 10 to 15 times as much as a Tesla Model S sedan. Since electric powertrains have maximum advantage over traditional ones at low speeds that require a lot of torque, garbage trucks that crawl from stop to stop are an ideal platform for electrification.

There’s one nice side benefit for the people whose garbage is being picked up: Electric motors are much quieter than the big diesel engines that power most garbage trucks now, which should dull the roar when the garbage collectors come by. (That won’t help, however, with the clamor of cans and bottles being hurled into the metal compactor compartment.)

Wright’s a fan of Tesla’s Model S and Roadster, but he learned one surprising thing from his involvement with the groundbreaking automaker. “Tesla builds complete vehicles,” he says. “We don’t.” Tesla, he says, had to spend 90% of its money building the basics of an automobile—chassis, suspension, control software and so on—leaving only 10% for the company’s true innovation, the electric powertrain. Wrightspeed, by contrast, only builds powertrains, either retrofitting them into vehicles already in the fleet or installing them in new trucks ordered with everything except the engine.

deeageux | January 23, 2016


Ian Wright is/was flat out wrong and has admitted the current level of Tesla sales has surprised him. Legacy OEMs sell EVs at a ~$15k premium but Tesla sells at the same price as its direct gasoline/diesel competitors. What is the current market share for BEVs in the commercial heavy duty truck market?

@Ankit Mishra

In America between New York, Los Angeles and Miami trucks can be very sexy.

Full size trucks sell at massive premiums and provide Detroit with ~75% of their profits. Fiat Chrysler gets 90% of their profits from full sized trucks. Dodge,Ford,and Chevrolet all sell $70k trucks that are over $40k of profit.

In America families prefer Utility vehicles to cars and they prefer body on frame SUVs over car based CUVs.

The reason CUVs sell in greater numbers is because Detroit can't sell as many as the American people would like because of CAFE fuel economy standards. So they raise prices on SUVs so demand matches the level of supply they can provide.

My sister is buying a full sized utility vehicle in the next 3 months. She does not want to spend $49.7k(base MSRP) on a Chevrolet Suburban SUV. She will likely get a GMC Acadia full size CUV with a base price of $31k.

BTW There is zero chance my sister would pay $80k on a Model X. She hates its "eggy" shape and strongly prefers the "blocky" shape of the 2016 GMC Acadia.

Ankit Mishra | January 23, 2016

You maybe right. I don't know about the details of American culture as you do. I still believe people are fundamentally similar regardless of race or culture. A person would like a comfortable car (sedan/hatchback/SUV) for his/her spouse and kids. A person who want to show off and crave for human acknowledgement would buy a beautiful car (sedan/SUV/hatchback). It's hard for me to imagine a pick up truck for that purpose, but hey, I don't know everything.
Tesla would be able increase profit margins unparalleled to the companies you stated above when batteries price go down because it specialises in beautiful luxury products.
I think that when 3 and its crossover sibling would be launched it's going to seriously damage the structure of the market at the price point that you stated. But I maybe wrong.

deeageux | January 23, 2016

People are fundamentally similar but not exactly the same across nations.

Gas/petrol/diesel is 3x to 5x as expensive in Europe as it is in the US which leads to fundamentally different car choices. Whenever the American Federal government discusses raising the gasoline tax Senators from rural states block it saying it would put undue financial burden on poor rural people that must drive long distances for work or use lots of fuel on working family farms.

In Europe people don't blink an eye at spending 30k euro on a top spec subcompact hatchback. In the US, most people would think that is crazy. In the US people are switching from mid size sedans to compact CUVs which give you roughly the same interior space and also cost roughly the same. Americans, generally speaking, narrow their vehicle choices down to the biggest vehicle they can afford.

Red Sage ca us | January 23, 2016

Monkey concluded, "And yeah, if Tesla (or anyone else) is going to do an EV pickup, they need to go big and do it right the first time."

Thank you.

I used to write about videogames. Around twenty years ago, Sega made a mistake. They decided that their new videogame system, the Saturn, would be for adults. So they completely abandoned the types of games that had made their previous system, the Genesis, a success. They also diversified, offering products in a wide variety of different platforms, believing that they would fill each and every possible niche and type of gamer. It was... a strategy. What they forgot was that anyone's Little Brother always wants to play with his Big Brother's toys. So, when Sony launched the PlayStation that Fall 1995 as their singular system, and marketed it as the only system in the world worth owning, it worked like gangbusters, and despite all efforts to turn the tide with excellent games the Saturn went down as a failure in sales.

When Tesla Motors launches a truck series, everyone in the world should be aware it is the ONLY pickup they will ever need. It must be desirable, compelling, and impressive in ways that no one, anywhere, believed possible. Just like people who might prefer a small Coupe are duly impressed by the Model S, those who would ordinarily get a Ranger, Dakota, Colorado, Tacoma, or Frontier might be convinced to go up-market to a Full Sized Tesla Pickup, even if they wouldn't have for even a hybrid petrol burner.

Red Sage ca us | January 23, 2016

sp_tesla wrote, "Tesla, for all its popularity, still isn't profitable."

I get SO tired of arguing this point. But, what the heck? Why not one more time?

The only reason that Tesla Motors, today, cannot be considered outright profitable is because they are in the process of expanding operations nationwide and worldwide, so as to someday gain a more significant portion of market share, domestically and abroad. If they were to, for the sake of profitability, stand pat on 2016 production goals for Model S and Model X, they would be profitable in every quarter going forward for the next six years or so.

You cannot have it both ways, complaining about market share on the one hand, while complaining about profitability on the other. Actual Economists tend to agree that you have to spend money to make money. Funds spent on design, development, and improvement of your product line pay dividends in the future. You must spend money to expand Capacity, Production, Distribution, and Sales in order to improve market share. If Ford, GM, Toyota, and Volkswagen had never decided to offer new products, expand their facilities, and thereby expend monetary resources that had been earned or borrowed, they never would have become worldwide leaders in market share. It isn't about profitability. It is about identifying, setting, and reaching new goals while making the most of the opportunity at hand.

Roamer@AZ USA | January 23, 2016

@Red Sage, +1
I get tired of the not profitable argument also. They make extreme profit on car sales but choose to grow faster than sales revenue. I much prefer improvement in equity over taxable distributions. That is how wealth is created.

Auto P85 | January 23, 2016

@Red Sage, you are right, the best example of this I can think of is Amazon. The company went nearly 20 years before making a profit. Check out the following link, it has a nice short video as well.

Amazon is doing pretty well, 30 fold increase (3,000%) in the last 10 years and as I said, most of those years they were not profitable :). I know there are many differences in the companies, but the mindset of Bezos and Elon and how they see the future is the key which I believe is Reg Sage's point.

Red Sage ca us | January 24, 2016

Yes. Especially so when you note other companies that manufacture automobiles tend to operate in a loss leader fashion. They make their profits on the back end. They don't so much profit on cars as they do on spare parts and financing. Tesla Motors gets paid up front and uses those funds to upgrade its behind-the-scenes operations. Brilliant.

johnse | January 26, 2016

The question to ask any of the pundits who claim Tesla is losing money on every car is: "If Tesla sold 10 times as many cars, would they lose more or less money (or make money)?" If, as they claim, Tesla loses money on every car, selling more would deepen the hole. As we are well aware, it would drive them closer to profitability (or into the black).

Red Sage ca us | January 26, 2016

Precisely. That is why Elon Musk pointed out the importance of the Model X. The company should be operationally profitable with just the Model S and Model X on offer. If not before the end of this year, it will certainly happen by the first half of 2017. Tesla Motors will undoubtedly incur further expenses for greater expansion, both domestically and abroad, within the next five years. So, a new manufacturing facility, along with a second Gigafactory, and development of multiple vehicles simultaneously, will again make it seem as if they are 'losing money'.

Red Sage ca us | April 16, 2017

Hey, look! It's an existing pickup truck thread that no one has looked at for a while...