Will 2021 be the Year of the Electric Pickup Truck?

Happy 2021! After a longer-than-expected break from blogging during this holiday season, I’m back! It’s too obvious to state that my fellow car hobbyists and I are all hoping for better things this year, but I’ll say it anyway. With fingers crossed (and with planned vaccines in my arm), I’ve begun to make plans to attend various shows and events in the next few months, provided that they’re still on the calendar. These events include:

If even just two out of five of these events manage to happen AND if I feel safe enough to attend, it will be a win. Right now, I’m practicing patience and hoping for the best, as it’s all I can do.

In the meantime, I’m going to use this blog in a way that I haven’t done before, which is to promote some of the ‘professional’ writing that I’ve been doing these past few years. A current auto industry topic which I’ve been closely following and which I personally find fascinating is electric vehicles (EVs). I published a blog post a few months back about my in-person experiences with the Ford Mustang Mach-E. Since then, the Ford Motor Company has revealed that their annual production supply of 50,000 is “spoken for”. That doesn’t mean that there’s a retail name attached to every unit, as many may have been ordered by dealers for stock. Still, this is a tremendous achievement, given how reluctant the American public has been to embrace EVs (except for Tesla).

The year 2021 may be “the year of the electric pickup truck”. Most folks know how popular full-size pickups are in the U.S., with the Ford, Chevrolet, and Ram trucks occupying the #1, #2, and #3 sales slots for years now. With only months to go before the Tesla CyberTruck, Rivian R1T pickup, and GMC Hummer EV pickup are launched, the perfect storm may be brewing as traditional truck buyers check out the EV competition. (And don’t downplay the competition: the Launch Editions of both the Rivian and the Hummer are sold out.)

This article below was penned by me on behalf of my employer, and was published on the excellent website www.automoblog.net. Give it a read-through, and add a comment. I’d be more than happy to entertain your opinion, even if (especially if) you completely disagree.

https://www.automoblog.net/2021/01/22/will-2021-be-the-year-of-the-ev/

New Truck Launches & Big Business Partnerships Indicate a Strong Year Ahead for EV Adoption

According to Allied Market Research, the global vehicle electrification market is projected to reach $140.29 billion by 2027. Consumer interest in electric vehicles (EVs) has grown steadily since the Nissan Leaf, the longest-selling EV nameplate still available today (the Leaf was launched just over 10 years ago). The current EV market is much more diverse, with offerings available from legacy manufacturers, industry disruptors (like Tesla), and start-ups.

Flashy new model launches have sent pre-sale orders through the roof. Transportation and utility companies that own thousands of fleet vehicles have begun shifting to electrified platforms. Governments worldwide have engaged in legislative and regulatory actions that could boost EV manufacturing and clean transportation infrastructure. With all this activity, how does widespread EV adoption look in 2021? Let’s take a closer look.

Table of Contents

Trucks & SUVs: The Exciting & Unexpected

Will Fuel Prices Impact EV Sales?

Commercial & Industrial Adoption

Shifting Political Factors

Looking Ahead

Trucks & SUVs: The Exciting & Unexpected

In the United States currently, 22 out of 38 major auto brands offer at least one EV model. Up to 50 new models are anticipated to enter the market in the next two to three years. In recent months, EV launches have generated big headlines, particularly truck and SUV models based on ground-up designs. These launches have broken the mold of compact EVs based on existing internal combustion engine (ICE) platforms.

Pickups will see a lot of attention this year. While met with mockery upon launch, Tesla’s CyberTruck is set to begin production in late 2021. Rivian, which has received investment from Ford and Amazon, is showcasing its R1T EV pickup, including a sold-out Launch Edition due in June. And GMC made a splash with the Hummer’s return as an EV. The Edition 1 (starting at a whopping $112,595!) has sold out of its first-year production run of 10,000, although lower-priced models will be introduced from now through spring 2024.

In a turn of events that shocked many car enthusiasts, Ford’s Mustang Mach-E, an all-electric SUV that’s giving Tesla a run for its money, was awarded the North American Utility Vehicle of the Year for 2021. What’s more, the New York Times recently reported that Ford has already taken orders for all 50,000 of the Mach-Es it plans to produce in 2021. Another notable mention: the pre-orders for the launch edition of Volkswagen’s ID.4 electric SUV have already sold out.

Will Fuel Prices Impact EV Sales?

Even with popular models generating buzz and selling out quickly, a few things need to change to tip the EV sales scale more significantly in the coming years, starting with fuel prices.

Since 2014, fuel prices have been on a gradual decline, averaging between $2.00 and 2.50 per gallon between 2016 and 2019. They are presently at a 30-year national low, meaning buyers don’t necessarily have to consider fuel economy a top factor when shopping for a new vehicle. Nothing illustrates this point better than how full-size trucks from the domestic Big Three continue to hold the first, second, and third positions in the sales race. Mid- and full-size SUVs, many with large six- and eight-cylinder engines, are also selling well.

Battery technology has improved by leaps and bounds, with many newer EVs boasting 200- and 300-mile driving ranges. But for drivers unfamiliar with EVs, the concept of “range anxiety” weighs heavily on any purchase decision. Yes, your vehicle will be able to support your daily commute with its battery capacity and an overnight recharge at home. But will you have adequate access to charging stations during a multi-state road trip? In many parts of the country, the lack of charging infrastructure poses a significant challenge that might push consumers away from fully electric models.

Commercial & Industrial Adoption

Regardless of how many consumers are willing to take their own EV on a family road trip, many of the world’s largest companies are already integrating EVs into their business models. Unsurprisingly, Amazon is among the first to make moves in this direction. Amazon announced a plan to bring custom electric delivery vehicles, manufactured by Rivian, to the roads by the thousands over the next decade. The first of these are expected to roll out this year.

Everyone shops for everything online these days. This became even more true when COVID-19 cut off access to brick-and-mortar retail for many. So, it should come as no surprise that major automakers, including GM and Ford, are looking to expand their commercial delivery solutions. Potential partners, such as FedEx, have expressed a desire to migrate to electric fleets for moving consumer goods. As of this writing, GM is working on a pilot program with FedEX to introduce lightweight, electric vans complete with the latest safety, diagnostics, and route optimization technology.

Moving away from fleet management and the supply chain, a new commercial market for EVs has emerged that could tip the scales in favor of these technologies. That new and emerging market is utility and construction management. For instance, Lordstown Motors, an EV startup, recently announced it has more than 100,000 orders for its Endurance electric truck. Lordstown is targeting utility companies and other commercial entities, rather than individual consumers, with this rollout.

With more companies and municipalities working toward ambitious emissions goals, we can expect to see more EV vans, trucks, and SUVs pop up for commercial use in the coming years.

Shifting Political Factors

We can’t have a discussion of EVs or any clean energy technologies in 2021 without mentioning the changing political landscape. President Joe Biden entered office with an ambitious climate plan that could enable broader adoption of EVs in the coming years. It’s still far too early to tell how these actions will play out but there are already a few notable storylines the automotive industry has its eye on.

This includes a plan to install 50,000 EV charging stations, capable of covering an estimated 57 percent of charging needs by 2030. Additionally, Jennifer Granholm, President Biden’s nominee for Energy Secretary who secured $1.35 billion in federal funding for EV and battery development as governor of Michigan, is expected to help lead U.S. efforts to compete with China in the EV sector.

Looking Ahead

Following the unpredictability of 2020, many have started 2021 with high hopes. Even without knowing how the political and economic landscape might boost these technologies, there’s no doubt that EVs have gained serious momentum. More models are available than ever before and manufacturers are working hard to expand the market into the lucrative pickup and SUV categories, making it possible to find an EV that suits any lifestyle.

Elsewhere, corporations and commercial entities recognize that pivoting to electric transportation solutions is a crucial piece in broader clean energy and low-emissions initiatives. Of course, other factors and market forces could change things at the drop of a hat. While it’s too soon to declare 2021 a breakout year for EVs, there will be plenty for consumers and industry experts to keep an eye on in the coming months!

 

14 thoughts on “Will 2021 be the Year of the Electric Pickup Truck?

  1. Rich I like the positive thinking. I am hoping to make some of the same. I think I told you I had joined 3 car groups down here. Here are some pictures from last Saturday. My first time out with Westfield Lotus 7. Have you guys planned any rides? Talk to you soon. Rich

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    • Hi Rich, thanks for your comment. Yes, I’m thinking positively; I might refer to it as “guarded optimism”. We shall see. No rides planned as of yet; the last time Larry and I spoke of it, we said that it would depend in part when we thought restaurants might be able to accommodate us. Best, Richard

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  2. I don’t as much disagree as I believe the death of the most reliable form of automotive propulsion (IE the internal combustion engine) is still many years away. Yes, EV vehicles are getting more popular and selling more. But it is my estimation they will not fully surpass the ICE (internal combustion engine) for many many years. Here is one reason; many many “car guys”, as myself, grew up with muscle cars that had big engines, lots of horsepower and what is lacking in EVs, that great growl of the engines. Fact: Ferrari spends millions on “tuning” the exhaust noise to get that perfect pitch. You just can’t get that same sound thrill from an EV whistle.

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    • Hi John, first, thank you very much for your thoughtful comment. (This particular blog post has generated more comments than anything I’ve posted over the last 6 years!) While I may personally ‘not disagree’ with you, there are other forces at work. May I say that in my opinion piece, I did not predict a timeline when EVs would surpass ICEs; in fact, it could be 20, 25 years or more before that happens. When you refer to us “car guys”, most of us are baby boomers. Simple facts of life will inform you that in about 25 years, most BBs will have gone off to that great car show in the sky (25 years, gee, what a coincidence). The next generation has made it clear that a) new technology is something to embrace; and b) environmental issues will be more important than “that great growl of the engines”. One of the main points of my article is that I think 2021 will be witness to a growth in EV sales unlike previous years, but, they will still represent a tiny sliver of the new vehicle market (for now). Best, Richard

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  3. Hi Rich. First welcome back ! I missed your weekly updates and topics and glad that you’re back. Just a few comments in regards to EV’s. I’m not totally opposed to EV’s however I don’t believe we are as close to EV’s as the manufacturer’s and pundits would like us to believe. First there is the question and availability of charging stations. Our current environment in the US has a long way to go before this is a practical reality. Limited range on EV’s is also preventing daily use of an EV without thinking about if you have enough of a charge to get you to where you want to go and if you have a charging source at your destination. Besides the fact that a charge, even a “quick charge”, can take 20 to 30 minutes. So the idea of taking a leisurely ride becomes a chore. Another consideration is the maintenance of a EV. Most independent shops aren’t equipped or have the skilled techs to work on EV’s, thus making you more dependent on the Dealerships which can charge you anything since they are the only game in town. Again, I’m not opposed to EV’s but would rather see the efforts put into more hybrids until our infrastructure can support EV’s as a gasoline replacement. Also keep in mind that cars and trucks today run much cleaner and get far better gas milage with more HP’s on small turbo motors than in the past. Just my thoughts. Nick Dragone

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    • Hi Nick, first, thanks for welcoming me back, and thanks for your thoughtful comments. Similar to my response to John Maggio, I personally agree with at least some of the points you’ve made. In fact, I point to ‘problems’ like lack of charging stations in the article. RE: maintenance, I actually think that EVs may threaten the livelihood of repair shops. With the exceptions of tires, brakes, steering, and lighting, all other “maintenance & repair” work will disappear. EVs have NO fluids, NO belts & hoses, NO internally lubricated moving parts of any kind! My present company is looking at just what it is they’re going to sell in the future, even if that eventuality is 40 or 50 years away. While today’s vehicles are extremely clean compared to, let’s say, pre-catalytic cars, I’m very struck by the news articles which have observed that since the pandemic shutdown, with so many cars and trucks off the road, air quality has improved. As I said to John below, the next generation is already acutely aware of all this. Best, Richard

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  4. Hey Rich,
    I also find this subject to be fascinating as I had the good fortune of having access to a prototype EV for over a year. The instant torque, quiet operation and convenience of charging at home and work was great. Love the V-8 but EV is the future.

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    • Hi Larry, thanks much for your comments. Take a look at some of the other comments here; I’m not surprised that this topic generates strong opinions! There are still hurdles, of course, with widespread EV adaptation. You had the advantage of a work-based charging station, which not everyone will have. But eventually, there will be enough charging stations, and it’s my opinion that they will get here sooner rather than later. Best, Richard

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  5. Delivery vehicles may represent the “low hanging fruit” for EV adoption: They travel relatively regular routes, return to their home base every evening to facilitate charging, and are leased or purchased by businesses which are much more sensitive to long-term maintenance cost (another EV plus, as you pointed out) compared to the average private customer.

    Notwithstanding the hype generated by all the current and planned luxury sedan, pickup truck, and sport-utility EVs with six-figure MSRPs, I’m waiting to see how (some of) the legacy automakers’ apparent commitment to electrification pans out. I view GM and Volkswagen as being the potential leaders here, with the Chinese “new energy vehicle” market being the main global focus for both (along with Europe, obviously, for VW).

    For widespread EV adoption in the U.S., we need a major expansion of charging infrastructure, significant and sustained purchase incentives, a continued decline in battery cost, and a major commitment to retailer and customer education.

    This will be interesting to watch.

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    • Steve, thanks for your thoughtful reply. I presume that you wrote this before the GM bombshell which was dropped this week, to wit, that GM plans to go 100% electric by 2035. Some of your words are quite prophetic about that! I especially agree with your last paragraph, and would only add that the amount of TIME it will take to hit all those goals will be a significant factor also. Best, Richard

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  6. Hi Rich,
    Glad to see you back up and running. I’m playing catch up here regarding your article on EV’s. Great information but I believe that until we can have an infrastructure robust enough to support an electric vehicle population, the ICE will be around for many years. Range anxiety and the inability to find fast charge stations that work on all models will limit the acceptance. Hybrids make sense to me, but not plug-in. A small ICE that powers the generator for battery boost would be my choice.
    Additionally, if EV’s for the masses becomes reality, where are all those apartment dwellers and small condo owners going to plug in? A spider web of extension chords comes to mind (think Christmas Story).
    My neighbor has a Tesla S. He’s totally into the no fossil fuel mindset and has solar panels all over his roof. He also has a fast charge station in his garage. Last fall we lost power for 7 days due to downed trees and power lines. Rain and clouds did not help his solar energy enough to charge the car. How did he do it? He ran his gas generator like the rest of us…go figure.
    Stay healthy and I look forward to driving with the guys sometime in 2021
    Best, Peter

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    • Hi Pete, it’s great to see your comment, and on a personal level, I agree with much of what you state, especially concerns about range anxiety and lack of charging infrastructure.

      It’s interesting to me how many of the comments about EVs remind me of where the auto industry was at its start. I’m a student of history, and I’ve read several books about the launch of the “horseless carriage” at the dawn of the 20th century. At that time, there was a groundswell of opposition to the smelly, noisy, contraptions, with a not-insignificant portion of the population chanting “the confounded automobile will NEVER replace the reliable horse!” We know how that turned out.

      And when we look at the individuals who literally drove production forward (Henry Ford and Ransom E. Olds, to name just two), as they cranked up the sales volume, they did so EVEN THOUGH this country lacked decent roads and a “refilling infrastructure”. These entrepreneurs did NOT take a “wait and see” attitude, but instead, built cars to meet demand, while a convergence of elected officials, private industry, and public demand eventually paved the roads and erected the service stations to support the country-wide vehicle ownership numbers.

      I see parallels with that today. Certainly, EVs are off to a very slow start (about 2% of total vehicle sales last year). Yet these are the facts: Tesla sold 500,000 units in 2020; The Mustang Mach-E is sold out of its 50,000 unit run for 2021; the Launch Editions of the Rivian R1T, the GMC Hummer EV, and the VW ID.4 EVs are all sold-out for 2021. I’m NOT saying that “EVs will overtake ICE sales in 5 years” – in fact, I’m not predicting any timeline at all, except to opine that it may take a generation or more for the balance to tip in favor of EVs. But just after I published this blog post, GM announced it’s going “100% EVs” for light-duty vehicles by 2035….. It will be interesting to watch!

      Best, Richard

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