Why midsize electric pickups are the next big thing
- Regardless of the size of an all-electric pickup truck, its towing capacity could prove troublesome.
- In a recent test of a Ford F-150 Lightning (pictured above) towing a 23ft Airstream trailer, the pickup lost about half its range, according Electrek.
- If electric self-propelled trailers are becoming more popular, the size of your tow vehicle may not matter much.
Suburban cowboys and cowgirls have embraced the bloat of full-size pickups over the past quarter-century. Modern “midsize” trucks such as the Ford Ranger and Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyon are closer in size to the Ford F-150 and Silverado/Sierras of the late 1990s.
Intentionally or not, the EPA’s “footprint” formula, which links the length of a vehicle’s wheelbase and track width to the required improvement in fuel economy, gives automakers an advantage for selling more full-size trucks than midsize trucks before the federal 49-mpg 2026 company average fuel economy standard.
But the footprint rule is basically moot if automakers sell enough battery-electric pickups.
The all-electric F-150 Lightning 4WD’s 76/61 mpg-e EPA city/highway rating puts the big truck on the plus side as Ford Motor calculates its overall position with CAFE 2026. The same goes for the range version. extended from the F-150 Lightning (at 78/63 mpg-e) as well as the Platinum 4WD variant (73/60 mpg-e).
The Lightning is 232.7 inches long on a 145.5 inch wheelbase and 83.6 inches tall. The Rivian R1T is 217.1 inches long on a 135.8-inch wheelbase and 78.2 inches high, yet its 74/66 mpg-e EPA ratings are surpassed in city driving by the much larger Lightning. Range is similar: 230 to 320 miles for the Lightning, versus 314 miles for the R1T, while the Rivian’s maximum towing capacity is 11,000 pounds, 1,000 pounds better than the Ford’s maximum.
“The Rivian R1T is just five inches longer than a Ranger and seven inches shorter than the longest Colorado/Canyon,” says Sam Fiorani, vice president of global vehicle forecasting for Automatic forecasting solutions, which expects Rivian’s next pickup, the R2T, to be a larger full-size truck for North America. Its first model for the European market will most likely be a mid-size delivery van.
The next big electric truck for the US (after the Chevy Silverado EV next year) is expected to be a Ram (debuting in concept form this fall, then launching in 2024), possibly followed by a Toyota Tundra EV .
But before that, Toyota could launch a smaller Tacoma EV, which is expected to be followed by a slew of similarly sized battery-electric pickups: in 2026, the Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyon, Kia and Hyundai unibody EV pickups; and an EV replacement for the Honda Ridgeline. A Ford Ranger EV is in the planning, says Fiorani, and won’t arrive until 2027.
Regardless of the size of the truck, its towing capacity could prove troublesome. Although the advertised towing ratings of the midsize Rivian and full-size Ford are in the same range as the full-size half-ton models, that capability doesn’t go far.
In a test last month of a Ford F-150 Lightning towing a 23ft Airstream trailer, the pickup lost about half its range, according Electrek. This is not unexpected and no worse than the reduced fuel consumption of towing with a combustion engine truck, although a truck stop to recharge the EV takes much longer than the 20 minutes it would take to fill a 25 gallon tank with gasoline or diesel.
Enter another emerging sub-industry: electric self-propelled trailers. German caravan and motorhome manufacturer Dethleffs, to name one, has designed its E.Home Caravan (Recreational Vehicle) with batteries nestled inside the inner frame and its inverter charging unit and control unit mounted on its outer frame . Apply this technology to a variety of trailer styles, and the size of your tow vehicle may not matter that much.
Could small electric trucks be the next big thing? It depends on how quickly the market moves from ICE trucks to BEV trucks, says Fiorani. And it depends on the amount of towing that will be required by buyers buying EV pickup trucks. But consider this: if midsize BEVs offer competitive towing capabilities compared to full-size pickups, why not pick a model that’s better suited for city/suburban roads and parking lots? If your trailer isn’t that big, why go for a full-size truck?
Are you planning to buy an all-electric pickup? If so, do you need a full size truck or will something smaller suffice? Please comment below.
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