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Tesla pickup truck talk starting to make more and more sense

Elon Musk continues to bring up a pickup truck as one of the next three vehicles the company plans to produce for sale. The closer one looks at an electric Tesla pickup truck the more sense it starts to make.

When we first heard Elon Musk mention an electric Tesla pickup truck this we thought it was just Elon poking fun at the old-iron pickup makers. Some of which get as low as 12 GPM around town. Elon Musk spoke again this week about an electric pickup truck. That made us take a deeper look at why a pickup truck from Tesla might make sense and we now think a Tesla pickup could be wildly successful.

Tesla Electric Truck Market Size
The single most sold nameplate in the US auto industry is the Ford F-150- by a huge margin. Other trucks from Chevy and Ram also sell in numbers that make even the best-selling fuel sippers’ sales look small. If Tesla really wants to change the automotive world as we know it, this is the real target. If Tesla took just 5% of the market share in this segment it could surpass the 2013 Model S sales easily.

Trucks are already pricey too. That is a big advantage for Tesla. It would be a lot easier to sell a $60,000 electric luxury truck to an ICE truck business owner that paid $50,000 for his last pickup than to sell a commuter a $35,000 GEN III sedan who paid $20,000 for his last Prius.

Tesla Electric Truck Environmental Impact
Mid-size family cars like the Honda Accord Hybrid already get 50 MPG and they are already affordable. A Gen III Tesla car displacing them is fine, but each Tesla electric pickup would have a four or five times larger impact on the environment. There also would appear to be a market segment of environmental buyers who want or need the utility of a truck bed and 4WD.

For example, every single Solar City installer, the US Department of the Interior, The EPA, and every other US governmental agency that buys a lot of pick-ups and only buys from “domestic” brands. Can you even imagine the bad press that the president would have to endure if a viable US-made electric pickup was available and the government chose to use gas powered vehicles at the EPA and National Park Service?

Tesla Electric Truck Design
Trucks have a unique location where a large battery pack can be placed that will not impact passenger or cargo area at all. Just behind the cab and in front of the truck bed is the perfect spot. A Tesla battery pack folded in half and then mounted vertically (up and down) would fit perfectly in this area. This would be much better than horizontally under the vehicle as in the Model S. It would be out of the way of rocks and debris that are more likely to be an issue for a work truck. A Tesla truck using a similar electric motor to that now in the Model S would also have plenty of torque, which is the key metric to truck buyers. Power and twist would not even be a challenge.

Another huge advantage for Tesla would be an external power outlet for use on jobsites. Where power is not available from the homeowner the Tesla truck could power the compressor that almost all carpenters, roofers and similar trades use to drive their air tools (nail guns, table saws, Sawzalls). For road crews a Tesla vehicle could also light up the jobsite with high intensity lighting, or act as a shift-long traffic flasher sign. A Tesla EV truck could also offer a tool box with charging ports for electric battery operated tools like drills or dry-wall drivers. What’s not to love about these features?

On jobsites where an electric power source is available the Tesla could be trickle charging during the whole workday. Even if the add rate to the Tesla’s range was 3 miles per hour of low current charging the truck would easily be driven to and from the jobsite free of charge.

Think too about plowing. I am friendly with the guy that plows my 200 foot driveway (hill at both ends if you can believe that). His main concern is losing the transmission in his truck. This is exactly what happened to the previous plow guy I used and he quit. The Tesla has no transmission to fail.

For small business owners a high power wall charger that will recharge a Tesla in under an hour would be a much more reasonable cost, and would possibly be able to handle multiple vehicles. The one hidden cost and financial disadvantage of the Tesla Model S is no longer an issue at all.

Corrosion of pickup trucks is also a major issue. Work trucks see a lot of salt and sand, nicks and chips, dents and dings. Compared to the family car they are rarely washed. Truck beds even with bed-liners have their paint chipped away from loading and unloading cargo. An aluminum Tesla EV truck would have a major advantage in longevity, and therefore the cost of ownership equation would tip even further in Tesla’s favor.

Ford and Chevy Pickup Changes
Ford recently announced not only an aluminum body (steel frame) F-150, but also a new, smaller turbocharged gasoline engine to save fuel in its ginormous trucks. Ford knows that 12 MPG city isn’t going to be viable in the next ten years. Chevy has just brought back the smaller Colorado pick-up. Between the two they have tried CNG trucks, hybrids, flex-fuel, diesel, and other gasoline saving technologies. The disadvantages are significant and customers were indifferent. None of these pickup truck half-measures really does much to improve the bottom line of businesses that use them.

Like it or not, pickup trucks are by far the highest selling vehicles in the US, and also in Canada where gas is dramatically more expensive. They are used as family cars, by single men and women as commuter cars, and of course business and government agencies of all types use them in staggeringly large numbers. Elon Musk may be pulling our leg, but the more he talks about an electric Tesla pickup truck, the more it is starting to make sense.

Video courtesy of CNN Money and Still image courtesy of EPIC Creative and It is a GMC in case you were wondering.


Stephen Pace (not verified)    January 21, 2014 - 12:21AM

Bob Lutz has also gotten into the electric truck game with VIA Motors. Those trucks have options for 110V and 240V export inverters.

Aaron Turpen    January 21, 2014 - 11:51AM

In reply to by Stephen Pace (not verified)

Bob Lutz is a huckster pimping a never-gonna-sell product in hopes of getting his company bought out by someone larger so he can cash in like some Silicon Valley kid. It doesn't take long to unravel the VIA Motors dream machine into the vaporware it really is. It has no ROI, no serious real world application, and little appeal over a diesel or natural gas truck with a cheap, small generator on board.

John Goreham    January 21, 2014 - 8:02AM

Oh man, you invoked the Lutz! I wish I had thought to put that in the story! A few other electrified trucks are out there, but like the EV car scene they are all just wanna-bes compared to what a Tesla might become. Thanks Stephen. Your comments are always a positive addition to the story.

stevef (not verified)    October 26, 2015 - 6:48PM

Batteries are soon to be dead, they are hitting the stops on energy density, efficiency, reliability and the total energy cost and CO2 cost of making and recycling them. The US makes the best trucks in the world, and the German make the best passenger cars. Germany will have 400+ hydrogen fuel stations by 2020, California will have a lot too - the world is going hydrogen fuel cell, admittedly assisted by some battery storage, but the idea is MUCH more efficient and more life-cycle efficient than tons of batteries on board. Wake up Tesla, or you'll be a flash in the pan...