The next front in the electric vehicle war, it seems, will be pickup trucks. Granted, that might seems a little surprising in the abstract; EVs, after all, have long been marketed as little eco-friendly vehicles, whereas pickups have long been seen as giant gas-guzzling beasts. Still, the combination makes a certain degree of sense: electric vehicles need big batteries, pickup trucks have big footprints to fit them in; pickup trucks need a lot of torque, and that's something electric motors make early and often.
And besides, if carmakers are going to make serious inroads in reducing their carbon footprints, they'll need to bring EV technology to their biggest sellers — and in the case of Detroit's Big Three automakers, that's pickup trucks. Ford and General Motors have already made clear their plans to dive into the electric truck pool; now, it seems Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (soon to be Stellantis) will join them.
That's the word from FCA CEO Mike Manley, who revealed as much in a recent conference call with investors.
“I do see that there will be an electrified Ram pickup in the marketplace, and I would ask you just to stay tuned for a little while, and we’ll tell you exactly when that will be," Manley said, according to The Detroit Free Press.
Manley's remarks were notably short on specifics, especially in regards to a timeline for an EV pickup. Still, the position is a notable change from his comments during the last quarterly earnings call three months back, where he hesitated to commit when pressed on the subject of EV pickups. "Pickup trucks is a key franchise for us," was all Manley said then, "and we’re not going to sit on the sideline if there is a danger that our position gets diluted going forward."
Still, taking the fight to the rest of the Big Three in this field could be trickier than, say, whipping up a best-in-class gasoline pickup or a new full-size SUV. Unlike Ford and GM (and most other carmakers these days), FCA doesn't have a high-profile EV project in the works, at least not one they've announced. Their new partners in Stellantis, France's Groupe PSA — which includes Peugeot, Citroen, DS, Vauxhall and Opel — do have a new EV platform in the works, but it's designed for large European sedans, not American-sized pickups.
Ram could partner up with an upstart EV truckmaker, but many of them have already been locked down by FCA's competitors; Ford has a significant investment in Rivian, and GM has a hefty sum sunk into Lordstown Motors. Tesla, of course, is working on its Cybertruck — but given that demand for that still-technically-vaporware machine is already sky-high, it seems unlikely they'd be able to give Ram a chance to have at its parts even if they wanted to. And the less said about Nikola, the better.
The logical solution, then, would seem to be for FCA to develop its own in-house EV platform for trucks and SUVs — the sort of modular setup they could lean on for everything from Rams to Grand Wagoneers to Durangos. Still, that sort of thing takes years, and it's not clear how far along FCA's current work in the field is — which means any electric Ram will likely lag well behind the likes of the electric F-150 due next year and the GMC Hummer EV due in 2022.