There is a pickup war coming, and it's going to be electric.
Inspired by the success of Tesla's performance brand, an army of American startups — and one very large legacy automaker — will roll out five battery-powered trucks over the next two years.
Although we have seen only prototypes, sketches and teaser photos of the five electric titans — the GMC Hummer EV, Tesla Cybertruck, Rivian R1T, Lordstown Endurance and Bollinger Motors B2 — they look to be big, powerful and defiantly different. And more truck makers may join the battery-power revolution, including an electric F-150 from Ford.
The Tesla Cybertruck that debuted in November is one of five electric pickup trucks scheduled to go on sale in the next two years — and it's the big dog creating excitement here. Already with more than 200,000 preorders, the $39,900 Cybertruck (with Autopilot, naturally) follows in the footsteps of the Model 3 sedan, making it the most affordable of the EV pickup titans — and the most radical with an exterior that's a cross between a sci-fi military vehicle and a doorstop.
Due in the fall, GMC seeks to recast the Hummer nameplate — once synonymous with gas-guzzling excess — as the "woke" truck of the EV future. All that is public is a glimpse of the Hummer name on a grille in a Super Bowl commercial. But GM said it will be built in Hamtramck, Mich., on the same bones as Cadillac's upcoming electric SUV, with a likely price tag of about $70,000. Cigar-chomping Arnold Schwarzenegger was the original Hummer's biggest fan, and basketball star LeBron James is the pitchman for its rebirth.
For all Tesla's brand cred and GMC's infrastructure, many analysts see Rivian as the surest bet, given its massive investment from Fortune 500 clients like Amazon and Ford. With its chiseled iPhone-simple interior and clever tricks like "tank turn" that lets it spin in place, the R1T gives off an upscale, playful vibe. "Rivian has a lot of buzz," said Navigant research analyst Sam Abuelsamid. "It has really diverse and relevant business partners."
Those partners guarantee the brand income for commercial vehicles (Amazon) and contract jobs (Ford/Lincoln) while Rivian builds its own reputation with individual customers.
The midsize R1T pickup claims impressive numbers like 11,000-pound towing capacity but is smaller than the full-size Cybertruck. There's an electric motor for each wheel. Starting at $69,000, it's aimed at outdoors lovers.
Engineers see inherent benefits in battery-powered trucks: Instant torque from batteries makes for strong acceleration and towing ability. And thanks to their "skateboard chassis" architecture that stores batteries in the floor, buckets of storage space are created.
At the same time, truck-size performance requires a lot of juice, which will test owners who use their pickups for more than trips to the golf course. "The challenge is going to be towing," said Abuelsamid. "The Tesla Model X SUV can tow 5,000 pounds, for example, but then range drops off a cliff by 50% or more."
All five pickup EVs are expected to be available with four-door crew cabs, four-wheel drive, 100-kWh-plus batteries and at least 200 miles of range. Although one of the trucks — the Lordstown Endurance — is targeted at fleets and tradespeople, others look to be largely toys for the well-off.
"Pickups aren't necessarily work trucks anymore, they're a lifestyle choice," said veteran auto analyst Rebecca Lindland of RebeccaDrives.com.