EVs for Everybody
Are High Performance Electric Trucks the Antidote to our Combustion Addiction?
With the US Senate’s recent passing of a sweeping climate bill, a future without (or with far fewer) internal combustion engines seems like a foregone conclusion. This is, of course, a very positive step. Less fossil fuels ought to slow the warming of our oceans, and give us a chance to right our global ship. What’s more, this fuel-less future is already well underway. As a quick spin through practically any major city will tell you, electric vehicles (EV’s for short) are quickly becoming the norm. Tesla’s, Chevy Volt’s, Priuses, and the like are rapidly overtaking their gas-powered equivalents. In California, it will be illegal to buy or sell a gas-powered vehicle by 2035. It now seems somehow realistic to seriously consider the next phases of EV evolution: they may be self-driving, or submersible, or may even grow into Jetsons-inspired flying machines. All this is very likely good news for the planet, and exciting stuff for the futurists and sci-fi fans among us.
However, what do we say to those who also have a fond attachment to the experience of driving? What will become of those who relish powering through turns, or traversing a tricky offroad trail, or using vehicles to explore some of the remotest destinations? Can the EV meet the standards of this sort of customer, and survive all the paces that a serious adventurer might put it through?
If recent developments in EV technology are anything to go by, then the answer to all these questions is a resounding ‘yes.’
There are a few basic facts about EVs that automatically recommend them to the adventurous driver:
- Four-wheel drive often comes standard. Because bringing power to both axles only requires another set of motors (rather than a transfer-box or complex mechanical add-on), extra traction and power comes at a fraction of the traditional cost.
- There’s high torque to match hard terrain. Whereas gas-powered vehicles require complex gearing to achieve the torque needed to power up a steep hill, ford a river, or zip off a start-line, electric motors maintain astonishingly high torque throughout their speed ranges. That means rather than lower torque as you pic up speed, the EV will be ready to grip and push the road at any second.
- No Engine means extra storage. The VW bug might have done it first, but Tesla has popularized the term ‘frunk’. The ‘front-trunk’ made available by the EV’s lack of an engine means a whole lot of bonus storage. On a skiing trip that’s also a business trip? Put the gear in the back and the formalwear in the front.
Beyond these basics, individual manufacturers are making leaps and bounds in EV development—especially when it comes to the trucks and SUVs so cherished by gearheads and adventurers. A couple trucks in particular provide a good example of this: first, Ford’s new F-150 Lightning.
Part of the fourteenth generation of the American carmaker’s beloved light-duty pickup, the Lightning seems to be a successful updating of a traditional model—but look beneath the hood, and it’s so much more than a simple upgrade. Ford took full advantage of the extra space afforded by the truck’s design and packed the Lightning with batteries. Even the base model is capable of hauling 1000 lbs. of cargo for 230 miles on a single charge (a number that jumps up to 400 miles if you’re driving with an empty bed).
As is to be expected, the Lightning offers massive torque and acceleration, which translates into 10,000 pounds of towing capacity in the high-end trim package. Combine this with Ford’s “Charge Station Pro” add-on—which turns the truck into a battery-generator capable of powering an average sized home for over a week—and you have an exploration vehicle that can keep you safe and comfortable for a weekend in the mountains or at the campground.
Of course, the F150 Lightning is hardly alone in its capabilities. New companies like Rivian have been coming out with highly innovative trucks and SUVs that highlight their novelty, rather than billing themselves as simply electric updates of traditional vehicles. For an example of this divergence, compare the styling of the Lightning to that of Rivian’s flagship R1T. The latter’s vertical headlights, stout lines and sleek coloring make it look like it rolled off an assembly line ten years in the future.
With the tagline ‘World’s First Electric Adventure Vehicle,’ the Rivian is sure to pique the interest of any environmentally minded adventurer, and even the serious off-road who cares only for performance. And luckily, the stats back up such a bold motto. The range easily matches and even exceeds the Lightning’s, while the three second 0-60 time blows Ford out of the water; eight separate drive modes guarantee comfort and safety on practically any terrain, aided by a low (battery-weighted) center of gravity. Viral videos of the Rivian blasting through several feet of water is likely to convince even the most hardened skeptic of this newcomer’s offroad cred.
A quick look at the advertising for the Rivian as compared to the Ford reinforces the difference we noted earlier, between Rivian’s future-forward messaging and Ford’s appeal to tradition. As the products are similar in many ways, this split tells us more about the companies’ consumers than about their vehicles. I posed the question earlier whether serious adventurers—those who like to put trucks and SUVs through their paces—will be quick to adopt the new EV normal. It seems that these adventurers may come in many stripes: some might think of EVs the way Ford does, as a practical upgrade to an old stand-by. Others might think of them along Rivian’s lines: as a sign of the new reality, where adventure and off-roading doesn’t come at the cost of the environment.
Only time will tell how readily the future is accepted. What’s already clear, however, is that the car industry is ready with EV options that can meet and exceed the expectations of the most performance-minded drivers, regardless of their reasons for going electric.