Charge it! Expensive Detroit EV trucks target the discerning customer

The electric truck wars are in full swing with the Chevy Silverado EV and Ford F-150 Lightning heading to toe with prices starting at $40,000 for the first EV pickup.

Consider the $50,000 figure, too.

That’s how much RST trim on a Silverado EV costs from a similar diesel-powered Silverado RST. Ford has also released its own price configurator for the Lightning, and EV models run $18,000 to $25,000 more than their gas-powered counterparts. It will also be shopping for starter EV trucks like the Rivian R1T and the $125,000 Bollinger B2.

While manufacturers tout electric vehicles as the future of automobiles, their initial offerings certainly have an excellent feel. Like the Teslas electric SUV or the Mustang Mach-E, American pickups seem to be targeting a niche market of luxury customers with multi-car garages — or affluent companies with fashionable environmental sustainability goals to achieve.

“Currently, automakers know that electric vehicles are an excellent market. These are the same people who bought the Tesla Model Ss for their high performance,” said Carl Brauer, a California auto analyst, of iSeeCars.

An all-wheel drive Chevrolet Silverado EV RST model will debut in late 2023 at a staggering $105,000 — the same price as Porsche’s all-wheel drive electric Porsche Taycan. The RST poster is just shy of the $112,595 GMC Hummer EV Edition 1 price tag.

Ford Lightning platinum-loaded model decals are pricier at $92,569 (compared to a $72,000 platinum-loaded gas hybrid model)—more than $8,000 north of a standard rear-wheel drive Porsche Taycan EV. The Lightning will be offered in a variety of lower trims when it hits the market this spring, a year before Chevy.

All trims carry a hefty premium over their gas-engine siblings. Ford’s base Lightning Pro model starts at $41,669, about $10,000 (32%) above the starting price of $31,685 for the gas-powered F-150 XL.

That’s similar to the $10,000 premium that buyers paid for Chevrolet’s first electric vehicle, the Bolt EV, over a similarly sized, gas-powered Chevrolet Trax SUV starting at $22,595. The Bolt EV was touted as a seller of electric vehicles when it was revealed in 2016, but sales have been hovering around 20,000 units a year — or just 20% of Trax sales.

The Lightning will only initially be offered in a SuperCrew (four-door) cabin configuration. On the XLT, it would match the F-150’s meat-and-potato gas XLT model, one of the Blue Oval’s best-selling vehicles. Download XLT Lighting and Gas XLT, however, prices vary.

The AWD Lightning XLT, for example, costs $75,000 compared to its $57,000 gas-hybrid XLT counterpart before a $7,500 federal tax credit. That’s also on par with the luxury market, the $74,000 Rivian R1T. The price difference in the Gulf can be compared between the $57,000 Ford Explorer three-row SUV and the $75,000 BMW X7 luxury SUV.

Automakers like Ford and GM have targeted electric vehicle sales to be half as large by the end of this decade — with GM forecasting robust all-electric vehicle sales by 2035. Initial market offerings suggest less bullish prospects.

“This is not volume pricing. Automakers don’t think they can sell EVs by volume,” said analyst Brauer. “Electric vehicles don’t make sense in terms of volume right now because automakers won’t be able to make the profits they make from cars that drive volume. Gas powered.”

In keeping with the luxury sale compared to the mainstream brand, Ford emphasizes the capabilities of the Lightning versus the gas F-150, such as a whopping 563 horsepower (versus the 430 for the hybrid V-6) and 775 pound-feet of torque (versus the 570 the hybrid). Likewise, the Silverado EV offers 775 pound-feet of torque against the $56,600 Silverado diesel’s 460 pound-feet.

“Lightning has a number of capabilities that only an all-electric powertrain can provide,” said Ford spokeswoman Hannah Ohms. Like 9.6 kW Pro Power Onboard (charging), Ford Intelligent Backup Power, vehicle-to-vehicle charging, 400-liter front stem, 775 lb-ft. of torque, and 0-60 mph in the mid-4 range seconds,” compared to the hybrid F-150’s 5.3 seconds.

In addition to its price advantage, the F-150’s gas hybrid has other advantages such as 700 miles of range (versus 300 for the Lightning) and much higher towing capacity (12,700 pounds versus 8000 pounds for the electric vehicle).

Detroit EV trucks are so premium prices and features that auto improvement sites like Car and Driver list them as separate models.

The premium EV lettering appears on work truck models as well. Detroit automakers sell huge quantities to fleets servicing everything from landscaping to construction work. But Chevy and Ford are targeting electric work trucks at billion-dollar companies that need to meet the environmental social management quotas demanded by activist investors and governments.

“The Work Truck is about supporting our fleet customers and their sustainability goals through the desire for a sustainable future (and) ESG demands for their green investors.” Silverado Chief Engineer Nicole Kratz said in an interview, first reviewing the Silverado WT in early 2023. So we started with our fleet model first.

Activists’ push to electrify large fleets follows other fashionable solutions in recent decades such as ethanol and natural gas. In the aftermath of 9/11, the Bush administration in 2005 mandated the federal government’s vehicle fleet to be able to run on corn-based ethanol. FedEx, one of GM’s major partners with the Silverado Work Truck, has invested in natural gas-powered vehicles in the past decade to achieve sustainability goals.

Emerging automakers like Rivian and Bollinger also see an opportunity to take a share of the company’s fleet from older automakers. Rivian has tapped into Amazon Capital as the tech company builds a fleet of delivery vehicles on the bones of the pickup maker’s battery platform.

“The big companies have a symbiotic relationship with Big Auto. They both need to claim how green they are,” said Prawer. “Sustainability is the catchphrase among the tech public and government. Big companies also have money they can invest in freight infrastructure, which is ideal for road-specific commercial trucks in an urban area.”

Expensive EV trucks are also in line with the luxury pickup phenomenon of recent years. While Detroit’s luxury brands like Cadillac and Lincoln have focused on SUVs, luxury trucks like the Chevy High Country, Ford Platinum and Ram TRX now compete with German luxury brands with big screens, high-tech and gilded interiors. For example, a special ignition version of the 702-horsepower Ram 1500 TRX engine sells for $93,280.

Can capture makers translate premium EV bunkering into mainstream sales volume?

“Who knows what will happen in 10 years?” Brauer smiled.

The Chevrolet Silverado EV RST 2024 is the range-topping version of the brand’s first pickup and will start at $105,000 when it arrives in late 2023.

The Ford F-150 Lightning starts at around $40,000 but can go for more than $90,000. Kelly Jones, left, and Rhonda Senian, pre-delivery inspector, look at the 2022 F-150 Lightning truck inside the Rouge Electric Vehicle Center at Ford’s Rouge plant in Dearborn, Michigan, on September 16, 2021.

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