By on October 15, 2019

No one really expected electric pickup trucks to take off as a concept, save for the people developing them. While EVs still need to improve their maximum range to truly surpass combustion-reliant vehicles, modern examples perform much better than their predecessors. But battery size and vehicle weight remain important issues for the segment, making the idea of an electric work vehicle seem about as useful as an edible diaper.

Then the concepts started arriving, sucking far less than most of us expected. There were loads of new ideas, like interesting storage solutions and auxiliary power ports for tools — all stemming from electrification. What’s more is that the vehicle itself seems like it could benefit from the instant torque and lower center of gravity furnished by electric powertrains. Battery packs can also be made larger (improving range), as pickups have more areas to stash cells without intruding into the passenger compartment. Maybe this wasn’t a dumb idea after all.

Ford and General Motors have both confirmed the development of electric pickups, with the former currently running prototypes. Meanwhile, Rivian and Bollinger have already shown off their designs. EV darling Tesla had a truck it wanted to debut over the summer, but the model saw its release pushed back. Now, CEO Elon Musk has confirmed that the vehicle will emerge next month. 

As usual, the announcement happened via Twitter — rather than through a corporately sanctioned statement. But it doubles down on Musk’s promise of a November debut for the product he’s been calling “Cybertruck.”

With new heat on the model, Elon was pressed for details. While those calls went largely ignored, there were a few tidbits he was willing to share. “Cybertruck doesn’t look like anything I’ve seen bouncing around the Internet,” Musk said of the myriad of mockups hoping to guess what form the vehicle will take. “It’s closer to an armored personnel carrier from the future.”

APCs vary quite a bit in their overall shape but are usually gigantic (in relation to passenger vehicles) with a lot of hard angles. While Cybertruck probably doesn’t need to deflect any enemy rounds, negating the purpose of angled armor, it’s assumed it’ll have a relatively aggressive shape. Musk has repeatedly noted that the truck will appear extremely modern, drawing some of its inspiration from films like Blade Runner. He’s also said the design “won’t be for everyone.”

The company’s singular teaser image (top of the page) is wildly unhelpful, as it gives nothing away. We’re not even sure what part of the vehicle Tesla’s showing, but it’s presumably a heavily photoshopped glimpse into the bed. Regardless, the company isn’t married to the styling. If the reception of the truck design isn’t terribly warm, the plan is to keep the platform and build a more traditional body around it.

Musk claims the truck will start below $50,000 and be superior to the Ford F-150 — America’s most popular pickup. “We don’t want it to be really expensive,” he previously explained. “I think it got to start at less than $50,000 — it’s got to be like $49,000 starting price max. Ideally less. It just can’t be unaffordable.”

While that doesn’t guarantee something similarly sized, it would be difficult to imagine Tesla outdoing Ford with a smaller truck. The main issue remains the vehicle’s battery capacity — something that becomes increasingly difficult to manage as a vehicle grows heavier. Fortunately, Tesla is already setting the benchmark for EV range; we don’t anticipate Cybertruck having a difficult time staying competitive in this regard.

It just needs to be built first.

[Images: Tesla]

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33 Comments on “Tesla Pickup Arrives in November, Still Sounds Insane...”

  • avatar

    I don’t need a huge range for my work truck, and I would be very interested in the accessory power opportunities of all that voltage and amperage.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah the reality is that a huge percentage of pickups are fleet trucks that never venture that far from where they park at night. City, county and township owned trucks for example often stay within their limits.

      I have a friend who works in the office for a landscape design, install and maintenance company. They have a fleet of Leafs for the sales people and designers drive to meet clients. I expect a lot of F-150 EVs in their future for the maintenance fleet and some of the install fleet too.

      • 0 avatar

        I fact here is a great business idea. I’ve seen a guy that did a green lawn service, with all battery powered lawn equipment. He was trying to sell it, his problem was that while he was in a very environmentally conscious area, it didn’t have a ton of money and a lot of DIY’er type people.

        So move to the Seattle area, buy and F-150 EV and a full set of battery powered equipment with a lot of extra batteries and chargers. Then get a city of Samamish business license, look for the Teslas and go mow lawns for $125/hr or hire someone to do it for $20/hr for you.

  • avatar

    “I think it got to start at less than $50,000 — it’s got to be like $49,000 starting price max. Ideally less. It just can’t be unaffordable.”
    So the first trim available will be $80k, with a promise of the $49k model by Summer 2020. Eventually, such a model will be available for a two week window in 2022.
    Seriously though, I think as soon as the bed is full and the trailer is hooked up, the range is going to be a hot topic.

    • 0 avatar

      After reading Musk’s quote, I felt like I needed a shower.

      It will be interesting to see how this Tesla truck compares to the Rivian. The Rivian sure seems like the real deal and their staff and management speak my language as a potential buyer.

      • 0 avatar

        At ~$50K starting price a buyer would have to be a real EV pickup truck fan to buy one because $50K buys one hell of a nice ICE pickup truck from any of the OEMs.

        But Tesla or Rivian, I’ll believe it when I see it.

        I was all fired up about the Jeep Gladiator, but after having been a passenger in one in a combined driving loop, that is one rough-riding SOB, and NOT WORTH the price they are selling for, IMO.

        When the pickup trucks from Tesla and Rivian make their debut, I’ll check them out in good faith.

  • avatar

    …Musk claims the truck will start below $50,000…


    $49,999.99 18 months after the announcement, available for 6 hours on a hidden URL using Internet Explorer 8.0 on a Mac, with an IP address from Somalia and only with the proper password. If you want glass or seats, you’ll have to upgrade to the $64,000 “Base Plus Ultimate Amazing” package.

    As for the picture, looks like a buttress behind the c-pillar al a Chevy Avalanche.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “Cybertruck” – gimme a break.

    Range – It will be interesting to see how people react when they learn that the range is cut in half when towing, and another third or more by cold weather. This is the state of the art today (see Model X stories), and I doubt Rivian will be any different.

    Speaking of Rivian, they’ve done a nice job socializing their products with cool prototype videos, glimpses of the team, and level-headed interviews. Plus, they’ve scored some decent coin from big partners. Tesla has the EV building experience, but Rivian could turn out to be less dramatic to deal with.

    • 0 avatar

      “range is cut in half when towing”

      It could easily be much worse than that. At least if towing anything heavy.

      But, vanity displays in Jackson and Boulder aside, the market for this is likely intra-urban anyway. In which case range isn’t a big selling point, but the packaging freedom electric propulsion provides, could easily be. Ditto the reduced need for dragging a generator everywhere.

      Lots and lots of pickups are used to haul tools, and the workers wielding them, to a job site in the morning, and back in the evening. Which doesn’t require much range.

      And, worst case, a pickup bed provides a nice space for a generator and a diesel tank, if longer range towing is on the menu. In general, there is a lot of potential for diesel-electric (series hybrid) trucks. It’s not as ultimately efficient as “Synergi” like drive, but outside of long haul, ultimate propulsive efficiency isn’t the be-all-end-all of many truck usages in the first place. Just look at using PTO off of a 6.7 liter 400hp monster, in order to drive hydraulics or pneumatics requiring one twentieth of that power, for hours on end.

  • avatar

    His Muskiness probably shouldn’t have made any promises on pricing, given how badly most folks that believed the “$35k Model 3” got burned.

    In any case, I’m not sure how useful using your truck’s battery as a power source is. I mean, it sounds handy, but I’m not sure *how* useful over just using a jobsite generator, which would certainly cost a lot less to purchase, and still provides power to the other members of your crew even if you have to go make a supply run in the truck. If you just need power to top off tool batteries, it’s a lot cheaper to just buy extra batteries and charge them at the end of the day.

    • 0 avatar

      If it works:
      – Completely silent. Example use case: Mother of all phone recharging stations at a high school band competition (where noise matters).
      – No emissions. Example use case: Use indoors during convention center exhibit set-up/tear-down.
      – Use on-the-go. Example use case: Recharge power tools en route to the next job (as Stuki suggested).
      – Power critical appliances at home during short-term power outage.
      – Use while camping.
      – Etc.

      (Analogy: My rechargeable electric chainsaw does not replace my gasoline chainsaws. But it opens up some other specialized possibilities – much safer to use in a tree – can use indoors for demolition work.)

  • avatar

    I’m still not sure that the battery technology exists for a consumer-viable truck from anyone right now.

    • 0 avatar

      @ajla: I’m still not sure that the battery technology exists for a consumer-viable truck from anyone right now.

      The technology might exist, the problem is getting something into mass production at a low cost. Moving from something that’s great in the lab to low-cost mass production is sort-of like Everest above 26k feet – it’s the death-zone.

      Some technologies that cut costs are beginning to make it out though. Here’s a sample of one going into mass production by Kyocera:

    • 0 avatar

      there’s plenty of room under ladder-frame pickups to put battery, especially once you get rid of driveshafts, fuel tanks, exhausts, etc.

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    Affordable would mean the battery would have to be less than 100KWh, which means the range would be horrible when hauling or towing. Even normal range would be challenged should it have a drag coefficient comparable to today’s popular pickup trucks.

    • 0 avatar

      “Affordable would mean the battery would have to be less than 100KWh,”

      The thing is, we don’t know what sort of battery technology they’ll be using. Probably Maxwell’s solvent-free electrode manufacturing process and their new single-crystal NMC532/graphite technology. Whatever cell technology they use, you can bet it’s not going to be current technology.

      I’ll make a guess. A wild guess, so don’t hold me to it. My guess is that it would be a 200 kWh battery that’s almost the same weight as the current battery and maybe even a lower cost. Probably around 500 Wh/kg for the cells. The vehicle will be on the expensive side though. Just a wild guess though. Total speculation on my part. We’ll see.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        Could be the same mystery battery tech that some speculate will power the Roadster 2.0. I imagine it would be even more useful in the Semi.

      • 0 avatar
        Master Baiter

        “My guess is that it would be a 200 kWh battery that’s almost the same weight as the current battery and maybe even a lower cost.”

        There’s no way there’s a new battery chemistry available in the next couple of years that’s 2X as good as what’s available now. LiIon batteries have been improving at between 2 and 5% / year for the last 25 years; I don’t see that changing.

        • 0 avatar

          I could swear it’s been thoroughly documented 95% of pickups, 1/2 ton and under especially, are Office Worker Editions, replaced the fullsize sedan (thanks to CAFE/exemption/loopholes), haul nothing but air, and lifted/jacked up, shiny mall crawlers, of course never off pavement (or on shoulder), that would smear the tire dressing dipping.

          So yeah you don’t buy an electric pick if you intend to put it to hard labor (that’s what 3/4 tons and up are for), most of the time. Or when you see it happening, it’s usually the 2nd or 3rd owners, or rotated into work detail after X years.

          Your electricity provider has to buyer them since charging is free, not to mention great PR for all utilities, any contractor, service provider, etc, etc. US made too.

  • avatar

    I have more faith in a flying car from Audi going on sale than a usable $49k electric truck from Tesla.

  • avatar
    R Henry

    “making the idea of an electric work vehicle seem about as useful as an edible diaper”

    Eeeewwwwww! Lemme guess, Posky just ate at Taco Bell or something…?

  • avatar

    I have no use for pickup truck per se. But. If it resembles personnel carrier from dystopian future – it could be very useful for our allies in ME to fight away Toyotas with machine gun turrets. I would buy one myself too because the year 2020 as was predicted is coming and nothing can stop Armageddon.

  • avatar

    So, it might not fulfill 70% of the use cases for pickup trucks, so people say it’s a dumb idea. But that means it DOES fit 30% of the use cases, and 30% of the pickup truck market is STILL a lot of trucks!

    I bet your local electric utility buys a ton of them for light-duty use. After all, they get electricity at cost! Delivery drivers who drive around to shops delivering parts? Bet they don’t drive more than 100 miles a day. Et cetera.

    US sales of pickup trucks are approximately 2.5 million per year. 30% market saturation for electric pickups means 750,000 electrics a year. That’s a heck of a market.

    • 0 avatar

      There might be a market for an in-town compact BEV truck, However, I don’t think this starting at $50K “Blade Runner”-inspired CYBERTRUCK is going to be it.

    • 0 avatar
      Master Baiter

      “But that means it DOES fit 30% of the use cases, and 30% of the pickup truck market is STILL a lot of trucks!”

      I’m not sure your creative mathematics of equating % of use cases to % market share is sound, but whatever.

  • avatar

    Elon is a Buzz Machine who is as much a marketer as he is a manufacturer. I don’t doubt his ability to build a viable pickup truck but I have to wonder about where he gets the money to set up another assembly line.

    I suspect this is another case of announce first, use the announcement to raise cash, and -then- figure out how to build the truck. I wonder if the SEC approved this ‘forward looking’ promise ?

  • avatar

    lol November year 20never. no contractor in his right mind would buy one of these if ever made. poor service non existent parts high insurance rates and lousy cold weather range and performance.

    • 0 avatar

      At many jobsites, there are trucks who really don’t do anything other than pull a generator there in the morning, then back at night. And those generators often aren’t ran harder than that a truck with a big battery, could conceivably serve the required power for a workday, assuming sufficient (electric) PTO panels.

      It’s similar for, say, residential lawncare. Where electric mowers and trimmers (and even blowers) could be recharged “automatically” between each client.

      Or tree, and general park, maintenance.

      Away from already noisy and smelly construction and industrial sites, such as in residential and parks, there is added value to the lower noise and emissions of electric, rather than ICE, powered tools.

      For a truck intended to serve a very broad and general use, which many contractor trucks are, I agree with you. But I can definitely see use cases where it makes more sense.

  • avatar

    If there is “day use” for charging tools, wouldn’t that ruin the range? Or would the draw be so low as to not matter on “range-to-home”.

  • avatar

    Tesla – we make the insane possible.

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