As I write this, it looks as if the COVID-19 numbers may finally be declining. If that continues and the vaccines work against this disease and its variants, we might collectively indulge in a sigh of relief. And yet we all know the world has other problems. If you’ve read this space before, you know that I’m about to talk about climate.
Let’s look at fun solutions, such as buying a fabulous new personal or work vehicle. Is it time to go electric? You bet it is. And it might be at the top of the list of good things you can do for the planet.
It’s positive that we’re creating cities with better walking and cycling infrastructure, but North Americans will not give up cars, SUVs and pickup trucks any time soon. For many construction professionals, vehicles are occupational necessities, whether you’re an engineer, project manager, government inspector or technician.
Global sales of electric vehicles (EVs) increased by 43 percent to more than 3 million in 2020, despite overall car sales slumping by about 20 percent during the pandemic. So, you won’t be alone if you decide to go electric. The global EV market is expected to grow almost 40 percent every year from 2020 to 2027, according to Precedence Research.
About 350,000 EVs were sold in the United States in 2020; this could jump by 70 percent this year. Consulting firm Guidehouse Insights predicts sales of at least 500,000 units in 2021; President Joseph Biden plans to electrify 645,000 federal vehicles over the next few years.
Every day we read someone’s opinion about the right way to fix Earth. Decarbonizing transportation is a huge topic, with plenty of conflicting information or misinformation.
Some facts, as provided to me by fleet managers and individual owners I’ve interviewed in the past few years: Electric vehicles save about 75 percent on fuel. They save about 65 percent on maintenance. And EVs reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent. These numbers may not be exact in individual cases but, in general, they are about right.
The emotional case: Plenty of very cool electric cars, SUVs, vans and pickup trucks are hitting the roads in North America during the next two years. There’s something for everyone. Read on.
The environmental case: It’s a complete fabrication, debunked by numerous studies, that electric cars are just as bad for the environment as fossil-fuel cars. Guess who made that up? If you have doubts, check out this link: http://bit.ly/3pARvLO.
In most countries, the top two emissions contributors are buildings and transportation. We prefer to blame big business or the government for climate, but really, we’re all part of the emissions problem. Buying an electric van or putting solar panels on your roof are very visible ways you can set the example in your neighborhood or with your work peers and build your street cred. So, it’s time to go electric
Investment Increases and Delays
The Ford F-150 electric and Tesla Cybertruck were supposed to come out in 2021, but both are running late due to the pandemic. Cybertruck deliveries will likely begin in 2022. It appears that Ford’s entry will be for the 2023 model year. Nevertheless, Americans will be able to test drive and order several electric pickup trucks and vans this year, with some models also being delivered.
As sales of electric vehicles keep hitting record highs month after month while internal combustion car sales have been tanking, Ford increased its EV commitment. In February, it announced it was doubling its planned investments to $22 billion through 2025.
General Motors also changed its attitude. A year ago, GM was downplaying the coming EV shift and its electrification plans, but in January, it announced it would stop making fossil-fuel cars by 2035. For a time, a group of legacy automakers fought with California and 22 other states against emissions regulations. Those suits have been terminated.
The world has changed. For example, Germany’s electric car sales increased by more than 500 percent year over year in the fourth quarter of 2020.
Some of the prices in this column should be considered guidelines. Car companies are famous for chicanery, multiple models, options and configurations. The good news is that in the modern electric vehicle world, you should be able to do all your specs and pricing research in advance online. After the test drives, you usually don’t even have to finalize your order with the slickster on the showroom floor.
• Rivian R1T, R1S SUV (Amazon, Ford
There is every reason to expect Rivian to become one of the largest American electric vehicle companies. For starters, it is working on 100,000-plus delivery vans for Amazon at its Plymouth, Mich., factory. It also has ties to Ford and is about to begin selling a pickup truck and an SUV under its own brand name. It has handled its brand management and capitalization partnerships masterfully; thousands of pre-orders are on the books.
You can preconfigure your order on Rivian’s website right now for the R1T pickup truck, with an official launch event planned for June and deliveries for January 2022. Range is 298 miles (480 km). The R1T starts at $67,500. Three versions are on offer now, with a 400-plus-mile version and a less expensive 250-mile version coming later.
The Rivian R1S SUV offers up to three rows of seating with 14.5 inches of ground clearance for better off-road performance. Like the truck, it employs four motors (one at each wheel) and three battery pack options: 105, 135 or 180 kilowatts/hours. The latter provides a range of more than 300 miles on a charge but is not available with the seven-seat configuration. The R1S starts at $72,500.
• Lordstown Motors Workhorse delivery vans (U.S. Post Office, GM, BlackRock)
President Biden’s recent announcement that the 645,000-vehicle federal fleet will go electric was music to the ears of management at Workhorse, the only brand on the U.S. Post Office procurement shortlist (186,000 vehicles) that is both all-American and all-electric. Lordstown has made Workhorse delivery vans at the former GM plant in Ohio since 2016. It is pilot-testing more than 1,000 of them with the USPS and other fleets.
Lordstown is now introducing the 2021 Endurance pickup truck with a range of 250 miles and a starting price of $52,500. Its 109 kilowatts/hour battery and four-hub electric motors should give users 600 horsepower.
• GMC Hummer, Chevy electric pickup truck
Production is expected to begin late this year for the GMC Hummer EV at the Detroit-Hamtramck plant in Michigan. It starts at about $80,000 and aims to provide 350 miles of range. Says Electrek.com: “The Hummer EV truly shines off-road, with features such as Crab Mode and loads of suspension travel.”
Not many details have been released yet on another Chevy electric pickup truck expected to be launched during 2021 or 2022.
• Bollinger pickup truck and SUV
The champagne of electric vehicles is now starting to manufacture high-quality, hand-crafted, boxy-looking trucks and SUVs in Michigan. The first two models — the B2 pickup truck and the B1 SUV — are built on the same platform. Both start at $125,000.
They’re designed especially for heavy work and off-roading, with a sealed assembly allowing them to keep motoring well after the going gets wet. They are pretty large and can carry 16-foot lumber. They offer 614 horsepower and 200 miles of range, thanks to a 125 kilowatts/hour battery. The company only plans to produce a few thousand units annually for now, with more than a thousand orders in hand
• Tesla Cybertruck (BlackRock, Vanguard)
A few months ago, I devoted a whole column to the strength of Tesla as a company, so I’ll give that a rest and provide a few details about the Cybertruck. It will likely start production late this year at the new plant in Texas.
Commentators are expecting 500 miles of range and the ability to tow up to 14,000 pounds. Its total reinvention of what a pickup truck looks like comes in an unpainted triangular, stainless-steel body with bulletproof glass (a famous video shows the glass demo faltered a bit).
Tesla claims it will cost about $40,000. With its other vehicles, Tesla has made such suggestions then quietly withdrew the cheapest models. On the other hand, the company seems serious about introducing a $25,000 electric car in China next year, a price-driven entry designed for mass-market adoption.
• Ford F-150 (or E-150)
Electrifying America’s No. 1 selling vehicle has to be worrying for Ford, particularly given that some of the target customers are very unlike Tesla buyers and may be skeptical about electric vehicles in general.
Information is limited, and some of these details are quite speculative: It might be called the E-150, starting at $72,000 and providing 300 miles of range. It may come with two electric motors, one on each axle, and a crew cab design. Fast- and slow-charging options will likely be possible.
• Atlis XT
Startup Atlis says it will have 100 pre-production Atlis XT pickup trucks on the road this year as it continues to work on capitalization. The company is targeting 500 miles of range, a starting price of $45,000 and its own charging network. It also will offer an alternative to truck ownership that it calls a “subscription.” It comes in a flatbed configuration, as well as a service body design with clever exterior toolbox cabinets.
• Ford E-Transit van
The Ford E-Transit electric van is now available in Europe; the 2022 model will be launched this year for the United States and Canada. It is being built at the Kansas assembly plant and will come in cargo, chassis cab and cutaway body styles.
The range will be between 100 and 126 miles. Payloads are from 3,200 to 3,800 pounds. Peak power will be 198 kilowatts, 266 horsepower, and it will offer several fast- and slow-charging options. This is a key entry for hands-on mechanical professionals, given that the gas version is the best-selling van in the country.
• Lightning eMotors van conversions (Ford, etc.)
Upfitter Lightning eMotors of Colorado is one of many electric truck companies that has struggled but survived. It converts Ford's small and large cargo vans, passenger vans, shuttles, food trucks and cutaways to electrified versions. It works with other partners in various configurations and recently signed an agreement for a reverse special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) merger that will allow it to enter the stock market without an IPO and improve capitalization.
• Endera shuttles
Startup Endera has done a good job learning about specific customers and securing a foothold in the electric airport shuttle niche. Focusing on a key customer, San Diego International, and expanding out from there, it has spent considerable development effort on leading-edge vehicles and software for the telematics, automated operations and analytics associated with shuttle fleets.
It has survived beyond concept and capitalization and well into manufacturing, deliveries, operations and data crunching. It is beginning to expand into new products and markets, including providing shuttle fleets for corporate, educational and institutional campuses all over North America.
• Canoo cargo vans
Canoo is one of several EV companies to use a SPAC model to do a reverse takeover and enter the stock market. The company raised $415 million through two rounds of private funding. It offers two cargo vans and, like Endera, offers both a subscription arrangement or cash purchase to end-users. One van model is listed with a starting price of just $33,000. The Los Angeles firm already employs 300 people, including many who worked at tech firms and other EV companies.
• Chanje vans and trucks (Ryder, FedEx)
Chanje (pronounced “change”) is a promising electric vehicle company working out of Los Angeles and Hong Kong. It has a partnership with Ryder, which leases its trucks to large commercial clients. Ryder and Chanje received an order for 1,000 delivery vehicles from FedEx in 2019 (900 leased through Ryder, 100 direct sales). This relationship should become more significant over time.
Chanje has several vehicles already on the road in China. The pandemic delayed the expected 2020 US deliveries, but it looks as if they’ll be in the United States soon.
The V8100 is an electric medium-duty panel van with 675 cubic feet of cargo space and a 6,000-pound payload. It comes with a 13.2-kilowatt onboard charger that supports Level 2 for overnight charging at the depot or DC fast-charging to 80 percent in about an hour.
Chanje also offers a turnkey, fleet-depot infrastructure model, with strategic partners who can design flows of renewable energy, storage and grid services into the charging infrastructure.
• Arrival vans and buses (UPS, Hyundai, Kia, BlackRock)
UPS ordered 10,000 vehicles from Arrival in the United Kingdom, with an option to buy 10,000 more. Some will be deployed in the United States. Arrival also sells electric buses at an attractive price point and is opening a factory in South Carolina to build them. They may also make delivery vans there. Arrival does not aim its marketing at consumers; it may attempt to compete with Rivian for some Amazon cargo van business.
The long-predicted shift to electric vehicles is here. Tesla sold the most EVs in 2020 at 500,000 units, followed by Volkswagen. These numbers mostly relate to passenger cars and SUVs, but auto manufacturers are increasing the production of electric vans and pickup trucks, too, for commercial customers.
After months indoors, it will be great to take to the open road in a shiny new high-tech vehicle — while saving some money on gas and maintenance. This may be the year to order your electric vehicle — or at least take a test drive. Happy (electric) motoring!