No segment of the U.S. light vehicle market has been more critical to the ongoing survival and success of General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler (now Stellantis) over the decades than the full-size pickup truck.
Protected for decades from foreign imports by the controversial and confusingly named “Chicken Tax,” Detroit’s Big Three carved up sales of these popular vehicles among them, earning fat profit margins that helped offset their steady decline in car sales prior to the SUV boom that began in the 1990s.
That’s why Wednesday’s unveiling of the upcoming electric Chevrolet Silverado by General Motors CEO Mary Barra took center stage during her virtual presentation for the Consumer Electronics Show (CES).
Pickup trucks are, however, fundamentally different animals from cars. To handle heavy payloads in the truck bed and tow large objects without snapping the rear axle in two like a twig, they employ a sturdy ladder type “body-on-frame” with reinforced steel. Only the poorly selling Honda Ridgeline comes with the conventional unibody construction found in cars eschewed by serious truck buyers.
These are the electric trucks that will be competing for the wallets of U.S. pickup buyers.
Chevrolet Silverado EV
The Silverado EV is built off a dedicated “Ultium” EV architecture and will offer at least 400 miles on a full charge for both the base workhorse version and higher spec RST truck, according to GM’s unofficial estimates. It boasts up to 664 horsepower, enough to accelerate the vehicle to 60 miles per hour from a standstill in under 4.5 seconds. It can carry 1,300 pounds and tow up to 10,000 pounds, although Chevy is planning a model that will double that trailering capacity.
Hooked up to a 350 kilowatt DC fast charger, the Silverado EV’s battery pack can add 100 miles of range in 10 minutes. It will also be the first Chevy model to come with the Ultifi onboard electronics system capable of over-the-air updates and upgrades, practically a must, following Tesla’s pioneering success.
The truck will launch in the spring of 2023 in a base workhorse version priced at $39,900, with a higher trim RST version equipped with more features and creature comforts—and a higher price—following in the fall.
The first electric truck to hit the road, it also took home the prize for MotorTrend 2022 Truck of the Year, which hailed the upstart brand’s debut model as a “monumental achievement.”
It comes with an EPA-rated range of 314 miles currently, although the company has said it will target hiking that to over 400 miles in the course of this year. It comes with a quad-motor powertrain featuring all-wheel drive and 800 horsepower that can accelerate the vehicle from zero to 60 mph in roughly three seconds as well as tow up to 11,000 pounds.
Recently, Rivian announced plans to build a second factory more than twice the size of its existing plant in Illinois, capable of building 400,000 vehicles annually. This would, however, include assembly of the R1S SUV.
As of mid-December the company said it had built 650 R1T trucks and delivered 384 of them to customers, but would fall a “few hundred vehicles” short of reaching the 1,200 unit production target for last year.
GMC Hummer EV Pickup
Launching now on the market (it notched its one and only sale in the fourth quarter), the EV truck heralds the return of the Hummer badge scrapped in 2010 owing to its exceedingly poor gas mileage.
Built on the Ultium platform like the Silverado EV, it was a MotorTrend finalist but lost out to the R1T. It is best compared to the Tesla Cybertruck and to a lesser degree the R1T, as it is effectively a lifestyle vehicle meant to confer status and make a statement rather than serve chiefly as a workhorse.
It comes with massive 35-inch wheels and highly maneuverable four-wheel steering that enables it to drive diagonally, the so-called crab-walk feature that Musk now aims to bring to the Cybertruck.
Reservations for the launch edition are already full, meaning buyers will have to wait for the trimotor EV3x version to arrive in the fall, with lesser powered versions to follow in 2023. GM estimates the EV3x’s range at up to 350 miles. Its five-foot cargo bed can carry up to 1,300 pounds, and the truck can tow as much as 7,500 pounds.
Ford F-150 Lightning
The granddaddy of the pickup scene, the combustion-engine F-150 full-size pickup retained the title last year as the overall bestselling vehicle in the United States for 40 years and counting with 726,004 sold in 2021.
For the F-150 Lightning, tested personally by President Biden, Ford is targeting an EPA-rated 300 miles for the extended range battery pack. The truck should accelerate to 60 miles per hour from a standstill in around 4.5 seconds as well as offer maximum payload of 2,000 pounds and towing of 10,000 pounds. Manufacture will begin this spring at a starting price of $39,974 for the base PRO version and can quickly climb to just over $90,000 for the Platinum Lightning.
From today, the first group of reservation holders among the 200,000 thus far collected will now be allowed to place their firm orders for the vehicle. Recently Ford said demand for the Lightning was so strong, it would double production capacity to 150,000 trucks annually.
The hotly anticipated pickup is expected to arrive toward the end of this year when assembly in Texas is slated to begin, according to CEO Elon Musk. Spy shots of preproduction models suggest this time he might hit this target, although much will depend on the progress of the 4,680 battery cells expected to power it.
What makes the Cybertruck so unique is its radical design, a function of the stainless steel exterior so stiff that its body panels cannot be pressed into shape—or dented, judging by a sledgehammer used during its debut presentation. With no paint jobs offered owing to the material chosen, the risk is each Cybertruck looks exactly the same as the next, however, and customers eventually tire of the design. Refundable deposits for as many as 1 million have been reportedly received, however, so demand appears robust.
Currently advertised with a zero-to-60 mph speed of as little as 2.9 seconds and capable of up to 500 miles of range, it can store as much as 3,500 pounds on its bed and tow over 14,000 pounds. This could change with a quad-motor version in the works, an attempt by Musk to steal the R1T’s thunder (it, too, would likely feature four-wheel steering).
All bets are off when it comes to pricing, however. Tesla caused a stir when it pulled its Cybertruck configurator, suggesting the base version will no longer start at $39,900 but much higher. It may result in the entry model therefore offered with dual motors standard rather than just one, but that might not be the only change in store for prospective buyers.
Ram 1500 BEV
Confirmed in July during a presentation by parent company Stellantis on its EV road map, the first battery electric vehicle sporting the Ram badge is due to arrive sometime in 2024. Range is expected to reach 500 miles thanks to a battery pack as large as 200 kilowatt-hours in size.
Its electric motors should deliver as much as 330 kilowatts (443 hp) of power, but beyond that relatively little is known about its pricing and specs, and only the silhouette of a design has been revealed.
Never miss a story: Follow your favorite topics and authors to get a personalized email with the journalism that matters most to you.