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Do I Want an Electric Pickup Truck?

Rivan electric pickup truck prototype on display at an auto show.

Electric cars, including hybrids, plug-in hybrids, hydrogen models and full-electric models are widely available, with many manufacturers offering them. The trend, however, is moving toward full electrification, represented by vehicles that rely exclusively on an all-electric powertrain and battery pack for motivation. The segment is comprised of car and crossover models exclusively, but an electric pickup truck is on the horizon as both traditional and upstart manufacturers intend to bring one to the market soon. Here’s what you need to know before buying one.

The Players

General Motors and the Ford Motor Company are committed to building electric trucks, likely converting a current model or working in partnership with another company to develop one. Other names in the mix include Rivian, Lordstown Motors, Tesla and Nikola.

Electric Considerations

Developing an electric pickup truck brings with it certain challenges for manufacturers that go beyond building an electric car or a crossover. Electric vehicle (EV) manufacturers know these cars need to do everything that models powered by an internal combustion engine can do. The good news is that these manufacturers appear ready to do just that.

The Chassis

Unlike cars and crossovers that use unitized construction (unibody), the traditional pickup truck features a body-on-frame design. This traditional design is heavier than unibody, but is also more durable for off-road use and towing. Body-on-frame is easy to adjust for different cab styles and lengths, while unibody is not.

Therefore, when manufacturers offer an electric pickup truck, most will use a unibody based on one design. Tesla and Rivian may have solved some concerns about unibody construction with their designs. For instance, Tesla may utilize stainless steel patterns to stiffen the architecture for improved off-road performance, and Rivian is touting a complex stretchable skateboard design to accommodate varying vehicle sizes. However, both designs will add cost when compared to a gas-powered midsize model.

Powertrain Performance

Electric vehicles rely exclusively on electric motors for propulsion. The Rivian design features four wheel-embedded motors, allowing for individual torque vectoring, something no conventional pickup truck delivers. This makes for superior on-road management and off-road capabilities. Rivian claims a zero to 60 mph time of about 3 seconds with its R1T model thanks to its instant torque, a measurement unmatched by current Chevrolet, Ford and Dodge models.

Towing and Payload Capabilities

Pulling power is a huge consideration for many pickup truck owners. Today’s standard trucks can usually tow upwards of 12,000 pounds, although most owners require far less. Rivian promises an 11,000-pound tow rating with its truck, which is excellent for a model the size of a midsize Nissan Frontier. Notably, pickups in this segment pull no more than 7,700 pounds. As for payload — represented by the weight a truck can hold in the cabin and truck bed — the R1T carries a rating of 1,760 pounds, which is much higher than the Toyota Tacoma and just behind the Ford Ranger.


EV manufacturers should match, if not exceed, the amenities of competing ICE models. You’ll find tie downs, heated seats, navigation and a full infotainment system. Like standard models, there will be the usual choice of spend-up packages and options. All the safety and semi-autonomous features are likely to be included, too.

How far an electric truck can travel on a single charge and charge station availability are critical considerations before making a purchase. The environmental upside is enormous as EVs produce zero emissions.

The pickup truck has always been a steadfast symbol of strength in the automotive industry, but the future of electric pickups will influence a new symbol of strength and energy-efficiency. The next time you find yourself in need of a new pickup, an electric model might be a viable option.

Check out all the truck products available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on the electric pickup truck, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons.


Matthew C. Keegan View All

Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.

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