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Sales executive at GlobalVans

Why are there so few electric pick-ups?

Electric Vans / Electric Van Guides / Electric pick-ups

Electric vans are everywhere now, and hardly a month goes by without a manufacturer bringing out a new or updated model. But, what about electric pickups? We don’t seem to hear much about them. Our Van Expert Tim Cattlin explains why they’re few and far between right now…

The pickup market in the UK is huge – these are not only working vehicles designed to go places that other vehicles can’t but there are also the ‘lifestyle’ models with all the trim and bling which are in demand from those wanting a dual-purpose vehicle, one that looks good on the driveway as well as being capable offroad. So, you would think that there would be plenty of electric ones available to lease or buy but, there are issues from a manufacturing and operating perspective that make electric pickups a little trickier to design, market and use.

A pickup is a pickup – why can’t they just electrify them like they do with vans?

OK – the first problem. Here in the UK, the vast majority of pickups have a payload of almost exactly 1000kgs. Because the vehicles usually have side windows to the rear of the driver and a relatively short load bed, this payload is required to ensure that the truck is treated as a commercial vehicle by HMRC. This means that a VAT-registered customer will normally be able to reclaim this tax in full, and, when used by an employee of the company for private trips, the P11D burden (or company car tax) will be at a much reduced rate. If the truck has a lower payload, such as the Ford Ranger Raptor it is, to all intents and purposes, a car.

Battery packs are heavy – this is why most electric vans have a lower payload than the equivalent diesel. So, for a manufacturer already struggling to maintain a 1000kg payload in a diesel pickup, retaining this on an electric version with all that additional weight is a big task. Either a small battery pack would be needed, but that wouldn’t offer much range, or weight would have to be reduced elsewhere on the vehicle.

OK, that’s understandable – any other issues the designers need to consider?

Many pickup users want to take their trucks offroad. And why not, that’s what they are designed for. Ground clearance is a major factor when moving across seriously challenging, perhaps rocky terrain. Locating a battery pack underneath the floor of a van generally doesn’t cause too many issues but, on a pickup, the battery would be open to damage. Almost all pickups are four-wheel drive too, so the designers will have to work out if it’s feasible to transmit the power from one end of the truck to the other, or if two or more motors will be required. But, this is all going to be exposed to the elements, not to mention the weight factor…

Surely manufacturers are going to have to do something, and quickly – that ZEV mandate means that they will get fined if they don’t register a proportion of electric vehicles from 2024.

That’s right – but, the UK market is a tiny fish in a big pond, and the majority of pickups are built in South East Asia or South Africa for global markets. Australia takes a huge number of pickups, and at present, due to the size of the country and the distances covered on many journeys, electric vehicles are not popular, and there is little or no legislation to encourage uptake. So, developing an electric pickup purely for the UK and some other mostly European countries probably doesn’t make commercial sense.

What about me as a pickup user? Are there reasons why an electric truck might not work for me?

Once manufacturers manage to overcome the hurdles mentioned above, there’s little reason why an electric truck wouldn’t work for most of those currently used to a diesel vehicle. There may be concerns in rural areas where the vehicle is working in remote areas away from a charging facility, but providing a 200+ mile range is on offer, this won’t be too far away from the distance that a thirsty diesel could manage.

A concern that many will raise is over the capability of towing. The majority of diesel pickups can tow a trailer weighing up to 3500kgs and this is often used to its full capacity, particularly by the agricultural community. On an electric vehicle this, even if the design permitted it, towing would drastically reduce the range available on a single charge. I’d suspect that this alone would be the major factor preventing many users from making the move to an electric vehicle – either the lack of a towing facility or, the practicality of it.

Are there any electric pickups available at all?

Discounting some niche products such as the Rivian R1T and possibly Elon Musk’s Cybertruck, there’s just one, the Chinese built Maxus T90EV. It’s got a powerful, 204hp electric motor that shouldn’t leave many users wanting and a hefty 310Nm of torque. Maxus has managed to keep the payload at the all-important 1000kgs and the T90EV is permitted to tow although this is limited to 1500kgs. The catch? It’s rear-wheel drive only although Maxus has promised an all-wheel drive truck in the near future.

You can bet though that other mainstream manufacturers will be working on their own designs and how to overcome some of these obstacles, and I’m sure it won’t be long before you’ve a choice of some very capable electric pickups.