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As zero emission vehicles (ZEVs) have gained in popularity and captured a foothold in the light vehicle sales market, there is considerable interest about whether the introduction of electric pickup trucks will be the same kind of game changer.

It’s not an exaggeration to suggest that In the United States, the pickup truck is king, consistently being the best-selling vehicle in the country. In 2021, the Ford F-Series, Ram Pickup and Chevrolet Silverado took the top three spots of all vehicles sold in the US. With multiple electric pickups arriving on the scene, the question is, will truck lovers join in on the EV excitement?

While there are clearly differences between the Canadian and American new car markets, a new study by Geotab provides food for thought and sheds some light on significant factors that influence EV pickup uptake on both sides of the border.

Geotab sells vehicle telematics systems and in October 2021, it worked with Enterprise Fleet Management to analyze data from 91,000 fleet vehicles, concluding that 45% of pickups could be replaced with electric versions. The study examined the issue of range anxiety to determine whether electric vehicles are a viable solution for fleets in the US, while also examining the extent to which such a process would help fleet operators reduce emissions and ownership costs.

Looking specifically at the real-world distance these trucks are driven, Geotab found that 76% of trucks wouldn’t need to be charged during the day if they were electric. In fact, half of the light-duty trucks analyzed never exceeded 280 miles (450 km) in a single day over the entire year and tended to stay well within the range capabilities of most electric pickup models entering the market.

Of course, the economics also must make sense. At this point, the electric pickups coming to market have a much higher price tag compared to their gas equivalents, so the question is – do the savings on fuel and maintenance offset the premium cost of the vehicle?  The answer depends on how the vehicle is used but clearly there is a sweet-spot for vehicles that both drive short distances to be range-capable and high enough annual mileage to provide a lower total cost of ownership compared to a gas-powered pickup. Geotab found that 45% of light-duty trucks used by fleets hit this ideal scenario over a seven-year service life. In fact, the study found that by electrifying those trucks deemed economically viable, fleets could save an average lifetime savings of $4,000 per vehicle.

The total cost of ownership becomes more favorable where government incentives or rebates exist, to help offset the higher upfront cost. Other less well-known factors include the weight distribution of the battery, which gives the truck a lower center of gravity, better handling, and more stability, even when the pickup bed is empty.

If one thing is clear, it’s that electric pickup trucks represent a huge opportunity for fleets and for the general population. The models that are just starting to enter our market already meet most of what we would consider daily driving requirements. As their purchase price comes down, whether through a rebate or because of the falling cost of battery technology, they will become even more economically desirable.

Blair Qualey is President and CEO of the New Car Dealers Association of BC. You can email him at bqualey@newcardealers.ca