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Study: Electric pickups could be the game-changer the EV market needed


Last year, General Motors sold one Bolt EV electric hatchback for every 41 or so pickup trucks it delivered. Nissan had more luck with its Leaf electric car — maybe. The automaker delivered a Leaf for every six or so Titan and Frontier trucks it sold in 2020.

In short: American car buyers want pickups, not electric cars. But what about a pickup that happens to also be electric, or an electric vehicle that happens to be a pickup? 

A new study conducted by Cox Automotive suggests that the electric vehicle market is about to get the kick the pants it might need now that four automakers — Ford, General Motors, Tesla, and Rivian — all plan to have electric pickups in their showrooms and on the road within the next few years. Cox found that three in five respondents to a survey indicated that the main reason they would be in the market for an electric vehicle would be if it was a pickup truck, a body style that has never been offered with full electrification from a mainstream automaker. 

Automakers have built and sold electric hatchbacks, sedans, and even crossovers, but the  electric pickup trials that have been conducted have been limited in scope.

It is an understatement almost as big as the latest Ford F-150’s maximum towing capacity to say that the pickup market has evolved a lot over the last few decades, and with it consumers have made pickups into a default family vehicle. 

Sure, GM dabbled briefly in hybrids, Ram offers a 48-volt electrical system that does save some fuel (while adding power), and Ford’s first hybrid pickup just hit the market, but there is no fully electric truck for sale currently.

That’s something of a surprise given the large size of a pickup means plenty of room to store an electric motor and battery — and, of course, the fact that pickups are hugely popular with consumers.

Who’s looking to buy what

Rivian R1T

Cox found that the electric pickup respondents are most likely to consider shopping is the upcoming Ford F-150 Electric. Though it doesn’t have the show power of the bold Tesla Cybertruck, the suave style of the Rivian R1T, or even the brash looks of the GMC Hummer, the F-150 Electric will certainly be the most approachable electric pickup when it goes on sale sometime around late 2022. 

Ford just redesigned the F-150, and while the company hasn’t revealed much yet about the F-150 Electric, it’s unlikely to be styled much differently than the regular F-150. This ability to blend in may appeal to consumers, and it’s also likely that the F-150 Electric will be less expensive than the other trucks.

But the F-150 can’t hold a battery-operated candle to the Tesla when it comes to younger, tech-savvy, and highly-educated consumers who may find themselves in the market for an electric pickup, Cox found.

Around 58 percent of those considering the Tesla have a household income above $75,000, compared to just 48% of those looking at the F-150 Electric. They’re also more image-conscious, with 43% of potential Tesla Cybertruck consumers indicating they are concerned about the impression they make on others versus just 22% of F-150 Electric shoppers. 

Andrew Ganz
Andrew Ganz
Andrew Ganz is an author specializing in helping in-market consumers get the most bang for their buck -- and the best car, while they're at it. When not virtually shopping for new and used cars, Andrew can probably be found under the hood of a vintage classic that's rapidly losing fluids.

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