Human beings have a hard time accepting the inevitable. Take death and taxes for example. Both are essential aspects of the world we inhabit. Yet finding willing volunteers for either institution is almost as hard as selling people on the idea of an electric powered pickup truck. There’s just something about the idea of a plug-in truck that seems not only wrong but downright unnatural – kind of like a Texas barbecue with a vegan option. Had God meant either of these oddities to exist, then he would have made tailgates with extension cords and tofu with a discernible taste.
Appeals to the Almighty aside, the days of electric pickups are upon us. As proof, we refer skeptics to Ohio-based Workhorse Group’s W-15, a hybrid battery/gas-powered vehicle with an 80 mile-per-charge range slated for release later in 2018. As the first passenger truck built from the ground up to run on electricity, it beats Ford’s planned F150 hybrid by two years. But is the W-15 the vehicle of the future or a toy for organic farming hippies with no sense of reality? While some are betting on the second opinion, the smart money is on the first. Here’s why.
At the End of the Day, It’s All About Money The pickup truck’s iconic association with all things rugged and Western hails from its link with a much older form of transportation: the horse. Our ancestors relied on their trusty steeds to do everything from pulling a stagecoach to staging a fast getaway. Working alongside such a loyal and hardworking creature forged a tight bond between animal and owner.
When all was said and done, however, the horse’s value lay in its economic rather than its emotional appeal. The animal produced more in terms of work accomplished than it consumed in terms of grass, hay and water. The same is true in principle of pickup trucks, which takemoney out of the owner’s pocket with every visit to the gas pump. Less fuel consumption equals higher profit; and there’s nothing more American than earning a buck. Let’s see how the W-15 delivers when it comes to the bottom line.
Costly Upfront But Cheap to Keep At $52,000.00, the W-15’s sticker price is not for the faint of heart. But those who scoff at the amount are thinking like consumers, not fleet owners. Organizations that buy trucks 10,100, or 1,000 at a time base a vehicle’s cost on the lifetime fees associated with fuel, maintenance, and estimated repairs. Seen from the perspective, the W-15 begins to shine. The 80 mile range of the W-15 in battery mode means that workers can make local trips for years while never giving a thought to filling up. In hybrid mode the W-15 enjoys average MPG ratings of 28 highway, 32 city, impressive results for a full-sized vehicle. Factor in the cost-saving advantages of battery vs. internal combustion mechanics and it’s easy to see why this is one battery-powered ride that has a lot to offer.
The W-15 is no slouch when it comes to hauling a load either. It boasts a 2200 lb. cargo capacity and a 5,000 lb. towing capability. It can transport five workers to the job site in comfort and it even has built-in electric outlets for powering tools. The carbon-fiber body is strong yet lightweight and the vehicle is assembled at the Workhorse Group’s Union City, IN facility, making it friendly to both the economy and the environment. With such a litany of benefits to back it up, it’s easy to see why pre-orders for the truck are keeping Workhorse Group employees busy as bees.
None of this is reason for purists to wring their hands in despair, of course. The internal combustion engine still rules the roost and will continue to do so for some time to come. But the W-15, the upcoming hybrid F150, and Tesla’s planned electric truck are signs of big changes down the road. Maybe in a few decades observers will look back on gas-powered pickups in the same way they look at six-shooters and horse drawn coaches today: as quaint reminders of a bygone era. The thought makes me want to saddle up and head out West.