More Power to Ya: GM Might Make an EV Pickup. Maybe.

Matthew Guy
by Matthew Guy
more power to ya gm might make an ev pickup maybe

Hardly a month goes by without a manufacturer expressing an interest in making an all-electric truck for the masses. Indie manufacturers like Bollinger and Rivian have lit a fire under the traditional automakers playing in this segment, with Ford confirming last week that it is planning an EV F-150.

Perhaps predictably, General Motors quickly jumped on the bandwagon after the Blue Oval news, with top brass uttering phrases about electrification as it relates to their line of pickup trucks.

Today’s truck shoppers shouldn’t put aside their purchase plans, though; it seems The General won’t be acting on these ideas anytime soon.

Speaking to CNBC, Duncan Aldred, veep of GMC, says the brand is looking at electrifying its heaviest trucks. Hardly a resounding endorsement, but it at least puts the topic on their corporate roadmap.

“Certainly, it’s something we’re considering,” Aldred said when asked about an electrified Sierra. The outlet reports he would not confirm if development is already underway. Last year, CEO Mary Barra said in an interview the carmaker is on a “path to an all-electric future.”

Don’t forget: Electrification doesn’t necessarily mean allelectric.

Battery technology is eye-wateringly expensive. Recall the late Sergio Marchionne speaking ill of the diminutive Fiat 500e, a machine about which he said FCA lost $20,000 on every one they made. Plugging EV tech into a truck makes more sense, since they are already laden with profits and could possibly eat some of the extra production costs. Car makers aren’t fond of giving up their cash cows, however.

GM has zapped a few electrons into its pickup trucks in the past. Way back in 2004, the Silverado Hybrid used a 14kW integrated flywheel starter-generator, replacing the alternator and traditional starter to take over shutoff, startup, and charging duties. The system allowed the engine to turn off under certain conditions, potentially saving fuel and limiting emissions. It added $2,500 and approximately 1.0 to 1.5 mpg to the sticker.

Years later, the Tahoe Hybrid was able to run for brief periods, under certain conditions, purely on electric power. Its 6.0-liter V8 teamed up with a pair of 80 hp electric motors to provide a meaningful bump in mileage — an increase of up to to 5 mpg in mixed driving was reported by some outlets at the time.

So a precedent exists. Lately, General Motors is talking loudly about moving development dollars away from research on hybrids and into all-electric tech. Pure EVs are known for making gobs of torque right off the line, a trait which could be twisted into hauling prowess if approached correctly.

Note as well that the report states Aldred mentioned the company is looking at electrifying its ‘heaviest trucks’ which could mean anything from the half-ton or HD line to its enormous Class 6 chassis cabs.

[Image: General Motors]

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  • Robbie Robbie on Jan 27, 2019

    That will never sell. A pickup is a lifestyle vehicle; only a small fraction of truck beds ever see any real use. An EV version goes against the entire branding. In short, this will not sell for the same reason why a Prius "NRA edition" will not be a great idea and why an assault rifle ad on a vegan website will get surprisingly few clicks.

    • DenverMike DenverMike on Jan 28, 2019

      What makes you think EV pickups would be any less "lifestyle"? They'd likely be more so. And nothing beats the "potential" utility of EV pickups for the lifestyle, EV, or greenie crowds that aren't currently being served by anything in the EV market, other than sedans and whatnot. Even with a small percent of pickup buyers opting for electric, that's still a lot of EV pickups. By the way, at least 30% of 1/2 ton pickups are fleet orders, more so for 3/4 tons, less so for midsize.

  • Jatz Jatz on Jan 27, 2019

    "A pickup is a lifestyle vehicle" Lifestyles of the Safe and Comfy.

    • See 1 previous
    • Jatz Jatz on Jan 28, 2019

      @highdesertcat I think that's unarguable. Big, safe, immune to potholes or a foot of snow, ergonomically friendly to arthritic skeletons or 50" waistlines and providing the best visibility of any private motor vehicle, their sales are proof of their superiority.

  • Jim Bonham Thanks.
  • Luke42 I just bought a 3-row Tesla Model Y.If Toyota made a similar vehicle, I would have bought that instead. I'm former Prius owner, and would have bought a Prius-like EV if it were available.Toyota hasn't tried to compete with the Model Y. GM made the Bolt EUV, and Ford made the Mach-E. Tesla beat them all fair and square, but Toyota didn't even try.[Shrug]
  • RHD Toyota is trying to hedge their bets, and have something for everyone. They also may be farther behind in developing electric vehicles than they care to admit. Japanese corporations sometimes come up with cutting-edge products, such as the Sony Walkman. Large corporations (and not just Japanese corporations) tend to be like GM, though - too many voices just don't get heard, to the long-term detriment of the entity.
  • Randy in rocklin The Japanese can be so smart and yet so dumb. I'm America-Japanese and they really can be dumb sometimes like their masking paranoia.
  • Bunkie The Flying Flea has a fascinating story and served, inadvertently, to broaden the understanding of aircraft design. The crash described in the article is only part of the tale.