Having zipped from six-figure sedans to Costco-crushing crossovers, electrification is finally zeroing in on the auto industry's most esoteric form: the tiny pickup truck. At least two major carmakers are considering adding small, battery-powered pickups to their growing parade of EVs.
At General Motors Co., spokesman Stuart Fowle says a pint-sized pickup is one of several electric options mocked up by a team of engineers and designers focused on developing affordable models, though "at this point it's simply a design proposal." "There are still some steps before anything moves to production consideration," he says.
Nissan Motor Co., meanwhile, is eyeing its next wave of EVs and has promised to make two battery-powered models at its Mississippi plant. The first is the Ariya EV, which just hit the market. As for the second, advisory board member Tyler Slade reportedly said an electric version of the brand's Frontier pickup would be logical. A Nissan spokesman called the report speculation and said the company does not comment on future product plans.
Tiny trucks are a natural target for electrification. They're already lighter and more aerodynamic than their sturdier pickup siblings, which makes it easier for engineers to outfit them with smaller batteries. The smaller batteries will make these trucks lighter still — a flywheel-type equation that works against the auto industry when it's churning out massive electric crossovers. Small electric trucks are also relatively cheap to manufacture, which helps offset battery costs.
And while few drivers need a small pickup — they offer not much more utility than a similar-sized sedan, don't handle as well and often have half as many doors — people seem to love them, especially Americans. How they look. How they feel to sit in. What they can do, even if they seldom actually do it.
"There are an awful lot of people who are like 'I want a truck, but I don't really need a truck, so this little run-around pickup is fine,'" says Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Kevin Tynan. "For a car company, it's a great little strategy that nobody is really talking about."