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Tesla's Future in Pickup Trucks

Tesla's Future in Pickup Trucks

One of the reasons for the Model S's surprising speed is the torque that comes their electric motor. They have hinted that they might open a plant in Texas to make trucks, but what is the probability of that? The motors have the horsepower and the torque, but would your typical truck guy accept an electric to be on par, if not better than a F-150, Silverado, etc.? Tesla is making gains in extending the super charger network, and the truck idea is still far enough in the future, but how do you think Tesla will win over the truck market?

Brian H | 29. august 2013

Demo tug-of-wars?

Haeze | 30. august 2013

An electric truck could easily be made to have a LOT more torque than any ICE (even diesel) truck nowadays.

I am not sure if you have seen the specs for the new Chevrolet Spark, but that little econo-box car has 400lb-ft of torque. Compare that to the 2013 Ford F-250 6.2Litre V8, and you will see it only has a peak of 405lb-ft of torque (Which you have to rev the engine up to 4500RPM to get to, so starting from a stop means the transmission is taking the brunt of the punishment to get as much of that to the wheels as possible).

In an electric motor, the full torque value is avaialable from 0 RPM, so you get full torque from a dead stop. Eletric trucks will easily out-torque their ICE competitiors.

I think they will have the same battle all over again that they had in the car market. At first, everyone will be skeptical (rightfully so, since it will seem like they are using some sort of magic trick to get all that power without all the noise, smoke, and bravado an ICE provides) but once the people who get it buy theirs, and they see them in the real world, they will catch on.

DrLou | 13. september 2013

As much as I'd love an electric powered pickup truck, I think there are three things that must be overcome before it'll become mainstream - 1) Price, 2) Price, and 3) Price.

Anonymous | 13. september 2013

Gardners, pool men, local deliveries; these people are using very inefficient gas guzzlers and worse case scenario: stop & go ALL DAY LONG. It seems to me that they would benefit the most. I have a 20 mile commute (one way) and I save $250+ a month (gas vs electricity). They could easily save $500 a month!

That's a lot of coin towards a monthly payment.

grega | 14. september 2013

Tesla wants to usher in a new era on cars, and they're focussing on making higher end cars to start with (where the extra costs are less obvious) and making sure the car is a BETTER experience for 90% of people who want that kind of car. They're doing great, the car "makes sense", and most people don't drive huge miles and for people concerned about sometimes needing more miles they have superchargers. They also need to focus on just a few models so they can get their economies of scale.

But you're right that if there was a way to easily focus on people who regularly drive 150 miles a day, that would be quite a sweet spot. SolarCity does a no-cost-upfront solar electricity system linked to a user's regular energy bill, and if a car driver did 150miles a day an electric car can be better value very easily. One of the companies Tesla used to sell battery technology to used to bill for a monthly battery rental to offset upfront costs.

Interesting to advertise the Model-S or X to "anybody who re-fuels 2-3 times a week." Might get some attention (and anyone who refuels daily is not a target yet), as it'll be more cost effective. And it'll show how the car acts under heavy use.

Still I'm not sure the 150mile assumption works with gardners, pool men etc, to get the effective lower price. I see a lot of local pool men who spend an hour cleaning the pool, then drive a few miles to work another hour - which isn't going to get to 150miles a day. Also part of the "better than ICE cars" has been calculated in conjunction with drag, weight etc - lower the regen and the total miles will decrease significantly. It may still balance effectively but it'd want a recalculation and repositioning, changed battery sweet spots, it's not a simple 'win' and the last thing you want is dissatisfied customers.

David N | 14. september 2013

"but how do you think Tesla will win over the truck market?"

Easily

with the average current full size pick up getting a dismal 12-15 mpg, Tesla will not be able to make them fast enough.

Timo | 15. september 2013

Low mpg doesn't mean anything if initial price is so much higher that you can drive 10+ years from difference. Battery tech needs to get better before pickup makes sense.

SamO | 15. september 2013

@Timo

Tesla trucks with 100mpg and 200 mile range . . . seems like a business's dream come true.

Roamer@AZ USA | 15. september 2013

I would buy a crew cab shortbed mid size truck on the X chassis right now if they offered it.

Not looking for a full on truck replacement just want to be able to carry items in the bed rather than inside the car.

Timo | 15. september 2013

@SamoSam

That 200 mile range costs currently over $30k of batteries. With that $30k you can buy a lot of gas/diesel.

Roamer@AZ USA | 15. september 2013

Timo,

I can make my own electricity. I can't make my own gas or diesel. Went solar and battery cars 4 years ago because I got tired of being a sucker and paying for over priced crude oil knowing the money was going to Islamo nut jobs that want to kill me .

Make 100 percent of the electricity to run my house and charge three battery cars from the panels on my roof. Even with that I sell a little excess back to the utility.

Pretty amazing that it is possible to be totally energy independent using just the sun that lands on your roof. The Tesla finally made battery cars that actually will work for a wide range of transportation needs.

Timo | 15. september 2013

It makes a lot of sense once you already have it, problem is that initial price. That needs to go down before pickup makes sense. Pickup is not aerodynamic which reduces range, and as utility vehicle it can't be very lightweight or have low rolling resistance tires either. That reduces range and as result raises cost of practical range car.

It takes just time. Right now is not the right time, but few years from now situation might be completely different.

bonaire | 15. september 2013

Give it time. 1/2 ton pickups with battery only option are going to happen. Many people will still want the rumble of the engine, like my neighbors' who drive modified diesels. They are you and use 10 mpg trucks to commute to school or low paying jobs. A utility EV truck is perfect for mid western farmers who may also have a solar array up on their farm. Via Motors has some models nearing production and they are EREV style, like the Volt.

bonaire | 15. september 2013

"They are you" means They are used to driving 10mpg trucks to...

Timo | 15. september 2013

That's what I'm saying: Give it time. Not now doesn't necessarily mean not ever.

cloroxbb | 16. september 2013

I think range would be a huge issue for an EV truck. In order to be able to haul heavy things, and tow capacity and whatnot, you need a more re-inforced body structure which usually results in a much heavier vehicle. Add onto that, the extra weight of the batteries and even an 85kwh battery pack isnt going to give a lot of range.

I think its going to require some battery breakthroughs before an EV truck to take the place of a "workhorse" ICE truck is going to be feasible. I have no doubt that it will eventually "work," but I dont see it happening soon.

Roamer@AZ USA | 16. september 2013

The majority of the four wheel drive trucks in Arizona never see a dirt road, tow anything or haul any cargo.

The initial market for a battery truck would be people that prefer the truck body style and look. Probably a real work truck would have to be a hybrid to ever replace actual truck functionality. But a hybrid truck with enough batteries to run decent battery only would be pretty functional.

bonaire | 16. september 2013

I have heard that in Delaware, there is a shop that will convert existing Ford F-150s to Electric (in small number). Nothing like a production model from anyone ever would do - but at least someone out there is making electric trucks "happen" now while the bigger firms figure out how to do it.

cloroxbb | 16. september 2013

@4rhansen

No doubt, that would have to be the original intention. Just as a body style and not an actual WORK vehicle. Good enough for a very LIGHT amount of hauling if need be. It could still be useful IMO :)

grega | 16. september 2013

Nissan thinks they can do a van.
http://green.autoblog.com/2013/09/11/nissan-e-nv200-electric-van-in-fina...

They'll also soon make a light truck. It'll be interesting to see the range and trade-offs etc.

filsmyth | 16. september 2013

Back in the beginning of July I was looking at the Model X and liking it, but it doesn't suit my needs. My 3 kids are grown and I hardly ever have more than 1 passenger... So I grabbed an image from the site and manipulated it. Here is a later version:

Suddenly the automotive designer in me was woken up, and for the past couple of months I've been working on various concepts for Tesla Motors, uploading images to a new "Concepts" album on my Google Plus account. One guy saw them and asked if I had a four-door version of what I call the 'XT' -- so I came up with the 'XTX':

Where the XT is a straightforward pickup conversion of the Model X, the XTX is a rather complex utility coupe (with falcon-wing doors) that can be temporarily transformed into a pickup. The only thing remotely similar (that I know of) is Toyota's 2007 A-BAT concept.

The XTX is weird, and would be expensive. The XT on the other hand would be a great way for Tesla Motors to enter the truck market. But, it's not a 'real' truck...

Will American-style pickups be Gen4? I think so, and their platform(s) could be used for any variety of light commercial vehicles.

Pungoteague_Dave | 16. september 2013

I would love one but it is impossible due to price issues. I just bought a brand new Ford F-150 full size pickup (2wd) with an 8 foot bed for $19,250 on the road, with taxes and tags. It has an ecoboost engine and gets 22 mpg, used by employees in our oyster business. It has a black grille, rubber floors and crank windows, but does have air conditioning and a radio, and is basic as they come today. But LESS than $20k on the road!

Economies of scale make competing in the pickup arena very difficult. I also own an F150 Platinum 4wd that is as evolved a truck as it gets, mostly for towing - costs over $55k. The TM skateboard format is technically conducive - a pickup bed is a perfect place under which to place the battery. However, it would require a battery well over 85kwh because a credible pickup must be able to tow and carry lots of weight. That would price it close to $100k or more, similar to the S. A few of us might bite, but general acceptance would be a nonstarter. On average, pickup truck buyers are monthly payment oriented Wal-Mart shoppers, not EV buyers. With that said, our S is often seen in Wal-Mart parking lots and bubbas seem to like it.

filsmyth | 16. september 2013

IF PRODUCED, the XT would be less expensive than the Model X. However it would also be lighter, therefore quicker, so one imagines a lot of buyers would go for the Performance option...

In Australia it would compete with performance versions of the Holden and Ford Falcon utes. Don't ask me what those cost, but they're not bought by people who use them as trucks very much. Think El Camino SS...

But don't think an XT wouldn't be useful. Just, it's still comparatively expensive, so wouldn't be competing for market share. As with the Model S, the problem would be building enough to meet demand.

AND I think the same will hold true for Gen4, the American-style pickup. Yes they will be expensive, but there will be plenty of buyers. You have to weigh purchase price against operating cost -- and against a 3rd factor, longevity. Imagine buying a truck that will last the rest of your life, possibly to be passed down from generation to generation.

Or if you're a fleet owner, imagine not having to replace your fleet every so often, because you've finally found a brand of truck that will stand up to the years and miles.

We can complain all we want about relative affordability, but "you get what you pay for". The market is there, so it's just a matter of being able to meet demand.

jstack6 | 18. september 2013

FYI, you do know the El Camino ,FORD Ranchero and similar pick ups were make to skirt the USA car pollution laws. Those (trucks) were exempt. Also until 2011 all trucks had a different standard and could make more pollution but that law just changed!

Truck makers may need a Tesla T truck to make CAFE standards and pass emissions!

http://theenergycollective.com/luketonachel/62703/obama-finalizing-first...

First-Ever Pollution Standards For Trucks

The Tuesday announcement marks the finalization of rules that were initiated in May 2010 to cover model years 2014 to 2018. The truck standards are the third of a series of vehicle efficiency and carbon pollution improvements that also includes two sets of standards for cars and light trucks that will reach 35.5 mpg in 2016 and 54.5 mpg in 2025. Collectively, the car and truck standards comprise the National Program for vehicle efficiency and are a giant step toward reaching President Obama’s goal of cutting oil imports by one-third by 2025 and for reducing heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions.

filsmyth | 22. september 2013

PapaSmurf | 22. september 2013

Tesla should build a monster truck to go against Bigfoot. The EV burst of speed off of the line would be a huge advantage in such a short race.

Brian H | 22. september 2013

Indulgences in Monster Stupidity are not on the cards.

filsmyth | 22. september 2013

Bigfoot #20 is electric.

Timo | 22. september 2013

Kind of low power one though.

jennifer | 19. oktober 2013

I am planning a 16-20 kW solar system to power an MS (and long ago ordered MX), selling excess to grid. I have a 94 acre ranch in San Diego and 5,000 sq. ft. agricultural building roof to put panels on. My goal is to be 100% off grid - especially given our particular power company burned my house down 6 years ago (but don't get me started on that). Also have two 10K gallon water tanks and well pump with separate solar system. But, I have horses. It would seem the target market for electric truck would be truck people who need a F-250 plus to tow heavy things, especially given that these trucks get the lowest mpg and they are not cheap! I paid $65K for an F-350 crew cab diesel to tow my horse trailers and I HAVE to keep it. It is the only thing keeping me 100% off grid. It seems targeting the horsey set or construction/businesses that can depreciate should be target market, not people who just want to sit higher in an F-150 or mini truck.

TSLAholic | 19. oktober 2013

The average truck consumer is not as open minded as anyone on this forum would like to believe. I constantly deal with such individuals on a professional level. Despite TCO statistics, very few of them are sold on owning anything even remotely reliable due to the fact that most such vehicles just happen to be of an import brand name. Tesla is American, we'll give it that, but an EV is considered the enemy by this type of consumer simply because it (unfortunately) happens to side with the "treehugger" movement.
Range limitations are very real, and will remain to be a great challenge to overcome for a good while. A good example would be to take a Model S with an installed tow hitch and pull a set of Jet Skis with a couple of bicycles mounted to the rooftop rack and take along 4 passengers with cargo in addition to the driver. If the car were to be driven with the speed of traffic using HVAC and all accessories with no regard to conserving the battery, it would quickly become apparent why most truck consumers aren't going to be too eager to jump at the idea of owning an EV. If I had to guess, I'd say a range charged S85 would be out of juice in 100-120 miles at most.
So getting a truck-like vehicle to have an acceptable amount of range and make lots of torque is not the biggest problem facing Tesla when it comes to capturing the truck market.
I believe it is getting that vehicle to be able to handle the loads most truck drivers demand from their trucks while delivering the advertised range that would prove to be most challenging.
I also think it's fair to say that an average EV owner (tesla or not) had to adjust their habits in one way or another, be it planning a trip ahead of time to see where the vehicle will be charged next or minding the speed and AC use to maximize range. Persuading this type of consumer to adjust their behavior for a new type of vehicle would be yet another obstacle for Tesla to overcome.

aaquino22 | 28. oktober 2013

This is regarding the comment by TSLAholic. I think the way tesla is going to overcome this challenge by increasing range via newer cheaper lightweight battery technology. See the link below.

http://www.ornl.gov/ornl/news/news-releases/2013/new-all-solid-sulfur-ba...

They claim this technology will quadruple the range of our most advance battery in EVs. This would be the game changer not only for tesla but for all other car manufacturers to build EVs and get rid of oil. Hopefully the guy who invented it won't be assassinated. I'd love to see a pickup version of an EV.

TSLAholic | 28. oktober 2013

There are several "promising" breakthrough battery technology posts hovering about these forums. I don't mean to sound like a naysayer, but there is a world of difference between lab testing a new technology and actually implementing it into mass production. They claim low cost, but wouldn't you want to get paid for your newly invented and highly desirable tech? Regardless of actual production cost, it takes time for any new tech to come down in price.

Brian H | 28. oktober 2013

Energy density is great. But I see they scrupulously avoid any mention of power density (how fast can it charge and discharge?)

b_m_electronics | 30. oktober 2013

I believe when Tesla comes out with a pickup version it will be priced at 50k range with about 400 mile range battery. They already have a new battery developed double the size of the current range of a model s at half the cost but we are still doing testing to make sure how long battery life will last and etc

Timo | 30. oktober 2013

We?

Webcrawler | 30. oktober 2013

I can tell you for sure that the VW Bug is converted to electric drive more than any other vehicle.

The small Pickup (S-10, Ranger) is probably a close second. They make really good EV's since you can put the batteries under the bed with out much difficulty.

jstack6 | 30. oktober 2013

b_m_electronics you say your company is testing the new Tesla hybrid battery ????? If so what can you tell us?

tezzla.SoCal | 30. oktober 2013

re: b_m_elec, Freudian slip or typo?

aaquino22 | 30. oktober 2013

If it's a hybrids electric battery then I'm guessing a swappable aluminum air battery to extend range along with the current lithium ion battery. I hear the aluminum air battery can give a car a 1000 mile range but it requires water mixed with O2 every 200 miles as a cathode. something like that. The aluminum degrades and therefore can't be recharge conventionally. It would have to be swapped and recycled. I believe the technology is being done by a company called Phinergy. I'm not sure how viable this would be. The cost if applied will cost the consumer equivalent to an ICE as far as cost per mile. But it doesn't hurt the air. And with tesla future swapping stations, it's doable. I believe it's lightweight. On another note, this would be a great range extender for a tesla SUV or pickup truck hauling a RV trailer or boat with a power pack of EASILY SWAPPABLE aluminum air batteries mounted on the trailer.

aaquino22 | 30. oktober 2013

I hear you though TSLAholic. Battery testing vs production are a far apart from being implemented.

carlgo | 31. oktober 2013

Actual work trucks might actually be able to use smaller and cheaper batteries. Contractors and landscapers are in their trucks all the time, but rarely go more than 100 miles a day. And unlike the truck commercials they rarely carry a huge heavy load.

I would look into the commercial market as in any large city there are thousands of local delivery vehicles, probably hundreds of UPS trucks alone. That would be a great market and if electric trucks got a good reputation for rugged use then they would be an easier sell to the truck crowd, one that is very brand loyal.

In any event there have to be fast chargers or swappers everywhere, not just for few long distance drives.

Brian H | 01. november 2013

Two rather distinct markets: casual and home use, maybe occasional significant loads, vs commercial working trucks, wide variety of average/max loads.

Roamer@AZ USA | 03. november 2013

This is the solution for the truck market. Hope they make it.

http://www.viamotors.com/

I have long thought that the current hybrid designs were overly complex and the result of ICE engineers that are building things the old way. Have never had a great interest in a mechanical drive hybrid.

The better design is a full electric vehicle with a natural gas turbo generator to supplement power and range. The generator would only run when needed and would operate at optimum load at all times. This would provide the best of both worlds. A clean engine running at its most efficient steady state load and speed coupled with batteries to manage and provide energy efficiently.

With this design you could run anything full electric with supplemental electrical generation when needed.

We will get there someday. I think a whole generation of ICE engineers may have to die off and be replaced for it to happen.

Roamer@AZ USA | 03. november 2013

TSLAholic,
Your comment about truck owners not being open minded was a little condescending.

I think most truck owners are people that know how to build things, fix things and generally work hard. You may be right that they don't worry about how to load over priced bikes into a rack or what's the most efficient car to drive to the health club to exercise. In most cases they don't need to drive somewhere to exercise because they work hard making and fixing things.

The desk driving world would grind to a halt without people that actually know how to fix things and make things. I have a lot less respect for the latte drinking desk drivers than the getter done truck drivers. Next time you need your house painted you better hope the guy doing it doesn't show up on a bike or driving a Leaf ( I owned two Leafs ).

I will admit I have spent most of my work life managing people and capital but have always had great respect for the people that actually get dirty and keep our society running. I am happy to live in both worlds, but tend to have more respect for the workers than the paper movers.

Brian H | 04. november 2013

Attempts to achieve the "best of both worlds" almost invariably achieve a half-assed mix of the worst of both. Show me an exception.

filsmyth | 05. november 2013

WHEN building trucks Tesla Motors will not have to worry about "capturing the truck market".

They build excellent vehicles, in relatively low numbers, and demand is always greater than supply (even without advertising).

It will be up to the individual buyer to decide whether he or she wants to be on the waiting list.

TSLAholic | 05. november 2013

@Roamer

I was not trying to come off as arrogant towards those needing a proper vehicle to get a job done in the blue collar industry. I was referring to those who are so biased against anything other than what they perceive to be the best, that they totally fail to see the wall they put up in front of themselves. This wall leads to a lot of unfounded prejudice, which undoubtedly results in unreasonable buying decisions.
Let's use an example of 2 brands of work trucks that I observed being put into service within a relatively short period of time from one another. Both vehicles were purchased new by a professional organization and were properly serviced and used for identical duties. Both vehicles were driven by the same team of several employees as needed. In five years' time, one has racked up $12,500 worth of out of warranty repairs. The other is approaching 178k hard working miles with zero problems with full service records to show that absolutely nothing has ever gone wrong with the vehicle throughout its service life.
The type of person I was referring to in my previous post would still pick the brand of truck with a terrible reliability record. The only explanation for the buying decision sounds like this, and I quote "'cause (brand X) rules!"
While I myself may not be a truck consumer, service records don't lie. If I was faced with a buying decision, it would be based on reasoning other than my personal brand preference.
By the way, the reliable truck didn't happen to be a fluke as they now operate a total of 6 units of the same model without a single issue to this day.
So the point I was trying to get across is that "capturing" the US truck market is not something I think Tesla should try to pursue. I agree with filsmyth that a relatively low volume truck would easily satisfy any niche market out there. Just don't expect it to enter the current mainstream truck wars of several large manufacturers. Now let's see how the next decade plays out and revisit this topic. Who knows, the outlook may be different by then.

grega | 13. november 2013

So he mentioned they want to do a pickup truck after the 3rd gen, thinking about the 150.

http://www.theverge.com/2013/11/13/5100172/elon-musk-tesla-may-build-ele...
(sorry can't find the original video).

Very interesting. I still think the batteries would have a hard time right now handling the extra demands (weight, wind resistance) while providing a better-than-ICE experience with appropriate range - also a pickup is more likely to need extra miles. But in 6 years time who know where that will be.

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