Electric pickups are getting lots of attention. The reveal of the Tesla Cybertruck with its angular, futuristic design only increased that attention level. It's estimated there will be eight electric pickup trucks on the market by 2021. The question is: Who will buy them all?
Thanks to the Tesla Cybertruck and Rivian, electric pickups are making headlines.
Automakers plan to introduce eight electric pickups by 2021.
Electric pickups are coming, but there's no way to know if consumers want to buy them.
While Tesla is grabbing headlines for its polarizing design, it's one of many with electric truck plans. Newcomer Rivian is already taking orders for its R1T electric pickup.
In addition to the forthcoming GMC Hummer EV truck, General Motors recently announced that the automaker is forming a strategic partnership with electric vehicle start-up Nikola Corp., starting with the all-electric Nikola Badger pickup truck.
Beyond 2021, maybe the most significant player to enter the EV truck pool will be Ford. The automaker has already announced plans to offer an all-electric version of its perennially best-selling F-150 full-size pickup truck for the 2023 model year.
A Big Financial Gamble
While no less than eight electric pickup trucks are due to hit the North American market by 2021, the current number of electric pickups? Zero. There’s no way to know precisely how many people will want an electric pickup when these trucks arrive, making them an expensive gamble for automakers.
It’s not just the auto industry that thinks consumers want electric pickups. Investors are on board. Among the backers for Rivian are Ford, which invested $500 million USD and Cox Automotive with a $350 million USD stake. Beating them both is Amazon, which put $700 million USD in the company last February.
There’s lots of money going into the development of electric pickups, even as consumer sentiment toward electric vehicles is lukewarm. Concerns about lack of range, and the availability of charging stations, continue to challenge even as the charging infrastructure expands.
Still, predictions are that EV sales will one day outpace sales of gas-powered vehicles. Increased vehicle ranges, lower pricing, and time for consumers to get used to the idea of plugging-in rather than fueling-up will inevitably give electric vehicles the edge.
Who Wants an Electric Pickup?
That might be 20 years down the road, but 2021 is much closer. When the planned electric trucks arrive, automakers need them to sell. Whether that happens or not, it all depends on how much of the hugely profitable truck market these EVs can snag.
An electric truck doesn’t need to be a top-selling model to be a success. For the first half of 2020 in Canada, the Ford F-Series sold more than 56,000 units, and that’s with the market locked down in March and April. Nissan Titan, at the bottom of the list, sold 800.
It’s unlikely that any electric truck is going to topple the Ford F-Series from its perch. However, there is plenty of room for an electric truck to find success somewhere within that massive spread of existing truck sales numbers. If only a small percentage of those buyers switch to an electric F-150, that’s still a big number.
There’s also the possibility that the idea of an electric truck could attract buyers who would not otherwise consider a truck. As much as some people see EVs as too new and different, some embrace them for the same reason. That lends plenty of appeal to an electric truck.
Customers can reserve a Tesla Cybertruck for a $100 USD deposit. Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted that reservations topped 250,000 units worldwide in just five days. That’s a small deposit, and there’s no telling how many of those reservations will become deliveries when this truck is available in two years, but it shows there is public interest. Automakers are gambling that interest is high enough to support eight new electric trucks, all arriving simultaneously.
Why This Matters
Electric vehicles are coming, but the public isn’t entirely on-board with the idea. The idea of an electric truck is entirely new. Regardless of whether they’re better or worse than gasoline-powered models, it’s a tough call whether enough people will make the switch for electric trucks to be successful. Trucks are popular, but electric trucks are still a big gamble.