CES 2023: Ram electric pickup joins crowded field next year

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DETROIT (AP) — When a futuristic-looking Ram electric pickup truck goes on sale next year, it’ll hardly be the first in line.

By then, there will be at least seven EV competitors on sale, all vying for a share of the massive full-size truck market, which now includes the three top-selling gasoline and diesel vehicles in the United States.

Four models – Ford’s F-150 Lightning, Rivian’s R1T, Lordstown Motors’ Endurance and the GMC Hummer EV Pickup – are already on the way. And three more — the Chevrolet Silverado EV, GMC Sierra EV, and Tesla’s Cybertruck — are planned for this year or next.

Still, executives at Ram, Stellantis’ truck and utility vehicle brand, say they don’t mind following rather than leading their competitors.

“It’s actually a benefit to us,” Ram brand CEO Mike Koval Jr. said in an interview. “Because we’re fully aware of what the other guys have announced.”

On Thursday afternoon, company executives unveiled a concept version of the Ram 1500 Revolution battery-powered truck at the CES gadget show in Las Vegas. The production truck probably won’t be as edgy as the one on stage, which looks like a halfway point between Tesla’s angular Cybertruck and a conventional gas pickup. But the Ram EV, Koval said, will outperform competitors in the areas customers value most: payload, pulling power, range and technology.

GM has announced that the Silverado EV can travel more than 400 miles (640 kilometers) on a single charge. (Its rivals have a range of between 230 and 400 miles, depending on battery size.) Koval emphasizes that the production Ram “will surpass anything our competitors have announced.”

Next year, he noted, more charging stations and other infrastructure will be in place, making the electric car market more attractive.

Jessica Caldwell, executive director of insights for Edmunds.com, said the Ram won’t be too late to market because the electric trucks on sale now can’t fully meet the continued growth in consumer demand.

GM says more than 170,000 people have made $100 refundable deposits on the Sierra. Last year, Ford sold more than 15,000 Lightning trucks, even though the vehicles weren’t available until May. The company closed reservations after receiving $100 deposits from nearly 200,000 potential buyers.

Last year, Americans bought more than 2.1 million full-size pickups, most of which still run on gasoline. Large pickups accounted for more than 15% of all new vehicle sales in the US, a huge and lucrative market. Sales of electric vehicles are growing rapidly: 807,000 were sold in the United States last year – 65% more than in 2021.

EV truck prices, which are relatively expensive, will need to move closer to petrol versions to draw buyers away, said Michelle Krebs, executive analyst for Cox Automotive.

Ford’s electric pickup would initially have a version starting at around $40,000. But the starting price is now just under $56,000, driven up by demand and raw material price increases. That’s way more than the standard gasoline-powered F-150 that starts just under $34,000.

“The problem with pricing,” said Krebs, “is that the cost of building EVs is rising. The prices of lithium and other (battery) minerals are high.”

Automakers say prices should fall as companies spread costs across more vehicles and as breakthroughs in battery chemistry reduce or even eliminate the amount of minerals now needed to store energy.

Koval says he’s well aware that the electric Ram will have to appeal to customers who want working versions of the base model as well as those who want higher-end luxuries and technology — even with “insane” raw material costs.

“We’re going to try to have something for everyone,” he said, “but with that critical price point in mind.”

The truck also offers 350-kilowatt fast charging, which can add up to 100 miles of range in about 10 minutes, a large interior accessed through “salon-style” doors with a multi-configuration interior.

It may take a while for people to give up their gas-powered trucks, Krebs acknowledges. In the Midwestern states and Texas, where most pickups are sold, there aren’t many electric vehicle charging stations that allow for longer trips.

Electric trucks may also appeal to companies that buy fleets of work trucks and want to receive tax credits and not pay for gas.

Caldwell thinks the electric pickup market will include buyers who use them for work and those who would otherwise buy an electric SUV for personal use.

Electric trucks, she said, “give people who might have doubts about (an EV) more reason to buy.”

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