[Electric pickups] The next big EV opportunity, IDTechEx
Electrification in the US is at an earlier stage than other regions globally but has made huge progress over the last few years, with electric cars making up nearly 9% of new registrations in the first half of 2023. The pickup truck is a large portion of the US passenger vehicle market but is at an even earlier stage of electrification, with only approximately 5% of electric vehicles sold in the US in the first half of 2023 being pickup trucks.
There is a plethora of startups involved in this space, and the traditional OEMs are now publicizing their offerings for this market. Now that the range, capability, and price of these vehicles are becoming competitive, we should expect to see a large adoption of electric pickups in the US market. IDTechEx's report on "Electric Vehicles: Land, Sea, and Air 2024-2044" predicts the passenger EV market in the US will increase over 8-fold from 2023 to 2034, providing a huge market for the electric pickup to take advantage of.
Requirements for electric pickups
One of the reasons for the slower progress of electric pickups is the market demanding long range while also wanting to tow and/or carry cargo. Pickup trucks are also not usually very aerodynamic in nature, making efficient use of the battery more challenging.
However, a key benefit of an electric pickup is the ability to use the vehicle as a power bank. People can use it as a backup for their home's electricity or to run tools on a worksite without needing a gasoline generator.
In order to achieve an acceptable driving range for the US market, electric pickups require large batteries. In 2022, IDTechEx found the average battery electric car in the US had a capacity of 76.5kWh. This is already much higher than other regions globally, but from IDTechEx's database of electric pickups, the average battery capacity is 145kWh, nearly double. The fact that traditional OEMs are targeting pickup prices competitive with ICE trucks is a testament to how far battery technology and supply have come, given the increased battery size used in pickups compared with the car market.
Startups leading, but for how long?
An electric pickup made it into the top 15 best-selling pickup trucks in 2022 thanks to Rivian's success with the R1T and R1S. In the first half of 2023, Rivian still leads the market, delivering just over 20,500 vehicles. This is compared to the next best-selling electric pickup, the Ford F150 Lightning, with over 8,700. Rivian made it to market earlier but is the only startup in the electric pickup space that has managed to deliver vehicles in larger numbers. Other pickup startups have had and will continue to have a hard time getting to market. Lordstown filed for bankruptcy in 2023, and Atlis paused the development of its pickup truck to focus on battery technology.
The pickup market in the US is dominated by 'the big three': Ford, GM, and Stellantis. The best-selling models respectively being the F-Series, Silverado, and Ram pickup. Each of these traditional automakers has released announcements for electrified versions of these models. Ford's F150 Lightning started deliveries in 2022, with GM's electric Silverado being available for commercial customers in 2023 and private customers in 2024. Ram's pickup is slated for Q4 2024. These brands often have fierce loyalty from their customers. Once they start having greater availability of their electric models, the existing brand customers will likely transition to their favorite brand's electric versions.
Currently, the demand for electric pickups is outpacing the production capability. But automakers have large expansion plans. Rivian plans to produce 52,000 vehicles in 2023, but its current plant has capacity for 150,000 vehicles per annum, with plans to open a second plant in 2026. Ford closed a factory in Michigan for 6 weeks in order to triple its production capacity. From Q3 2023, Ford suggests it can produce trucks at a volume of 150,000 units per year. GM has announced that its factories could produce 600,000 electric pickups a year. Tesla's Cybertruck has also made it to market in 2023, and if its previous progress in the car market is anything to go by, this could also present large volume orders. Given the relatively low sales of electric pickups so far, these are lofty goals. However, even if only a fraction of these figures become a reality, this is still a large opportunity, especially given the performance and size of the key drivetrain components required for vehicles in this category.
The pickup truck market is just one category of vehicle that is electrifying rapidly. Many other markets also present incredible opportunities throughout the global supply chain with vehicles such as two-wheelers, three-wheelers, vans, microcars, trucks, marine, construction, buses, air taxis, and trains, each with their own stages of electrification and adoption challenges. IDTechEx's report, "Electric Vehicles: Land, Sea, and Air 2024-2044", finds the EV market across these segments will be a multi-trillion dollar industry by 2044.