Pick-up trucks have dominated the sale of American passenger cars for decades. Gas, diesel and diesel powered models from Ford, General Motors and Ram account for about 20 percent of all passenger cars sold per year – a trend that continued during the pandemic.
But that could change next year when a handful of startup auto manufacturers start producing electricity that promises all the usability and performance of a fossil-fueled pickup, but without emissions.
Meet the new players.
Nikola Motor Company Badger
Like Tesla, which took the company’s name from the surname of the famous Serbian-American engineer, Nikola Motor Company looked up the inventor’s first name for a range of electric trucks powered by lithium-ion batteries and hydrogen fuel cells. Based in Phoenix, Arizona, the company is best known for its upcoming semis, but in February it ripped wraps off its Badger pickup, pre-orders started this week.
What Nikola lacks in name recognition as a company, it comes up in hutzpah. The company claims that the Badger will exceed the capabilities of any other pickup truck in its class, regardless of how it is powered: gas, diesel or electric. Powered by batteries that plug in or hydrogen fuel cells that generate electricity without needing a power outlet, Nikola says the Badger can not only power slopes as high as 40 percent, but can also do it with a fully loaded trailer.
Designed for work, the Badger will be equipped with a 15-kilowatt outlet for tools, lighting, and compressors, which Nikola says is enough power to support a construction site for about 12 hours without the use of a generator. And if the crew gets hungry, he also has a hidden refrigerator.
What the experts say: “Nikola is the youngest and least established electric pickup truck manufacturer, both in their partnerships and in what they have achieved so far in terms of confirming what they can do,” said Karl Brauer, executive publisher of Kelley Blue Book. “They have many impressive plans that they have shared, from regular trucks to semi-trucks, but they feel they are the furthest from seeing the reality of a vehicle ready for the end user to buy.”
Introduced: February 2020
Available: not yet announced
0 to 60 mph: 2.9 seconds
Maximum power: 906
Torque: 980 foot-pounds
Towing capacity: 8000+ pounds
Battery: 160 kWh
Fuel cell: 120 kW
Range: 600 miles (300 miles in battery electric mode)
Base price: $ 60,000 to $ 90,000 (Nikola’s estimate, exact price not yet determined)
Price to reserve: $ 250 to $ 5,000 depending on the package
More information: NikolaMotor.com/badger
Based in Michigan, with battery development and electronics offices here in California, Rivian aims to bring a new acronym to the world of pickup trucks: the EAV or Electric Adventure Vehicle. The R1T has been in the making for over a decade and is a battery electric pickup designed to jump the concrete limits of urban life and off-road into the wilderness – with friends. It seats five.
With engines on all four wheels, power can be sent to each individually to maximize traction. Do you want to drive over a stream? Go ahead. It can wade up to three feet deep in water. Do you want to bring a stroller, skis or surfboard? Simply slide them into the lockable ‘gear tunnel’ that runs the width of the truck under the cab. A telescopic rack system can be mounted on the roof or rails in the cargo box to attach a tent, travel container or bicycle rack and can be stored in the front trunk when not in use.
The Rivian looks like REI and Herman Miller. It’s rugged yet futuristic, crisp granola yet contemporary, with a front that uses signature elongated headlamps to shed a lot of light, an interior finished in sustainably sourced wood and more technology than the Times Square Apple Store.
There is a 15.6-inch central touchscreen, a 12.3-inch instrument panel and a 6.8-inch touchscreen on the back. Rivian says it has developed its own maps, music, navigation and other adventure-oriented features for a complete digital experience.
What the experts say: “Rivian has many benefits,” said Karl Brauer, executive publisher of Kelley Blue Book. “It is based in Michigan, where many other trucks have been designed and developed and built, so it is fairly well matched to the rest of the auto industry. And it has a big investment from Ford, so if they needed capacity to build, Ford could help them find it and get them up and running faster. They also have partners like Amazon who already place orders. ”
Introduced: November 2018
0 to 60 mph: 3 seconds
Maximum power: up to 750
Torque: 10,326 foot-pounds
Towing capacity: 11,000 pounds
Battery: 105, 135 or 180 kWh
Range: 400+ miles
Well-equipped prize: $ 69,000
Price to reserve: $ 1,000 (fully refunded)
More information: Rivian.com/R1T
Tesla Cyber Truck
A look at the Tesla Cybertruck, and it’s clear that it took more than a few design cues from Elon Musk’s other pet project – SpaceX. With an exterior made of ultra-hard stainless steel to withstand dents, damage and corrosion, the spiked electric pickup is made for ‘ultimate durability and passenger protection,’ meaning in Los Angeles you just have to endure another rock sock them day in the world’s worst traffic.
The armor glass would, at least in theory, help with that effort by using a polymer-layered composite to withstand the impact. However, real-world reliability is questionable, given what happened when Tesla’s chief designer Franz von Holzhausen unwittingly hit it with a metal ball during Cybertruck’s world debut last fall.
While it clearly doesn’t look like a truck, it is billed because it has better usability than the pickup’s long-standing bestseller – the Ford F-150 – with faster acceleration than Porsche’s iconic 911. It can shoot from 0 to 60 mph in 2.9 seconds, tow over 7,500 pounds, and travel over 500 miles per charge, according to the Tesla website.
Being a Tesla, it has some fun tricks including seating for six, adaptive air suspension that can raise and lower it by four inches, seating for six and 100 cubic feet of storage, under the second row of seats, under the cargo box and in the front trunk.
What the experts say: “Tesla has a built-in customer base that is already lining up to buy the Tesla truck. That’s their advantage, ”said Karl Brauer, executive publisher of Kelley Blue Book. “But they also have to finish the vehicle version and do it in a way that has a certain quality to keep truck buyers happy. They have to set up a factory. They have a history of that, so that seems like a hurdle they can overcome, but it will still take time. ‘
Introduced: November 2019
Available: late 2021
0 to 60 mph: 2.9 seconds
Towing capacity: 7,500+ pounds
Range: 500 miles
Base price: $ 39,900
Reservable Price: $ 100 (fully refundable)
More information: Tesla.com/cybertruck