According to a story that ran on our website Monday, just about every farmer will tell you that an electric truck won’t work for their needs. Some might even chuckle at the notion. That’s without seeing one or driving one, because no one makes an electric truck, yet. It’s an EV image problem, not a conclusion based in fact.
But that doesn’t mean the farmers are wrong, if the current crop of electric vehicles on the market right now is anything to go by. They’re mostly small cars with limited physical dimensions that prevent having big battery packs to provide equally big range. Since most EVs are tailored to urban dwellers with access to some charging infrastructure, the cars don’t actually need a lot of range.
An electric pickup, though? With the disproportionate level of pickups to cars bought in this country, a properly done hauler — with enough size for huge batteries — could be a breakthrough vehicle for the first automaker over the wall. Ford’s US $500-million (Cdn $665-million) investment in EV company Rivian is proof that at least one mainstream automaker is thinking about it. Rivian surprised the market when it trotted out an example of an electric pickup, one that could address some of the stigmas surrounding EVs.
First is battery range. Rivian claims 400 miles (640 kilometres), which isn’t huge, but the company says extra batteries can be added for more range. And if another Rivian truck is around, one can charge the other. This is good, but needing robust range might be more psychological than anything. One farmer quoted in our story said he doesn’t often drive very far. But the idea of having to plan charging — because the vehicle is out of commission for hours — is a big negative, even if it’s more perception than reality. The fact is most people spend very little time driving. Just leave it plugged in, then.
A nagging unknown is cold-weather battery performance and battery depletion during heavy hauling. Another negative would likely be a hefty sticker price, but consider that a Chevrolet Silverado High Country can cost $75,000. Price might not be a huge issue.
What comes of the Ford’s investment in Rivian remains to be seen, but it shows that Rivian’s own pickup is on the right track. Presuming it does roll out, it will not be the final solution for Canadian farmers, but the beginning of one. The primary problem is that farmers interviewed for our story don’t think there’s any need to fix what isn’t broken. What will change their minds? That first electric pickup needs to be great, even if it doesn’t check all the boxes.