What We Want From A Tesla Truck



Elon Musk has hinted more than once that a Tesla truck could be in the works down the road. While Tesla may be focused on building electric luxury sedans and crossovers, it’s most disruptive move could be a capable electric pickup aimed at small businesses. So what would a Tesla truck need to have to upend the truck industry?

As Toyota and Nissan have learned, building a truck to American standards isn’t easy. Nor is tackling the embedded loyalty of the Big Three’s truck buyers, who buy the same vehicles time and again…because that’s what they know. To take on vehicles like the Ford F-150 and Chevy SIlverado isn’t impossible, but it’s going to be an uphill battle all the way. Instead of going after the big players though, Tesla should aim for the all-but-abandoned compact truck market.

Save for the Toyota Tacoma, Nissan Frontier, and upcoming Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon, the compact truck market has been all but abandoned, which leaves the door wide open for a new player, even one that looks like this.

Tesla could be that player, but there’s a few things they have to do to make it happen, a minimum range of 200 miles per charge being chief among them. Many local companies don’t drive even half that far on a daily basis, and the added bonus of “refueling” at the workplace means no more time-consuming gas station stops. Superchargers could zap it back to full power on a lunch break, and larger battery pack options could extended the driving range to 300 miles or more relatively easily.


Perhaps even more important though would be the ability to serve as an on-site power station, replacing costly (and loud) generators, at least in a limited capacity. The VIA plug-in hybrid pickups and vans boasts this same capability, able to provide a full day’s worth of juice from it’s on-board battery. Unfortunately, the VIA costs a staggering amount that’s difficult to justify, which brings me to my third point.

Cost is king. If a Tesla truck is going to happen, it will be years after the debut of the down-market BMW 3-series Tesla competitor that won’t be called the Model E. Many businesses and fleet managers are cost sensitive, and fuzzy math won’t fly in the face of decent accountants. An electric Tesla truck would need to start in the same price range as the not-Model E to even be considered, and since we’re speculating at least a decade into the future, the exact number could change with inflation. Long story short though, it has to make more financial sense than VIA’s plug-in pickup.

That means it needs to be reliably basic, with cloth seats, a smaller, simpler touchscreen center console (or maybe even manual controls!) and fewer standard features, but more options.

The potential for a battery-powered pickup is huge, and could help redefine a market that has seen trucks grow in size and cost, forcing automakers like Ford to turn to aluminum to trim their growing beltlines. A compact Tesla pickup should focus on the “compact” aspect, with a lower-to-the-ground ride to make for easier loading and unloading and requiring less “step-up” to enter the cab. An optional air suspension could make a Tesla truck even lower, and help improve highway aerodynamics as well.


That’s all just the tip of the iceberg really though, as Tesla has already shown how deeply integrated the company is with its vehicles. Making some of that info available to fleet managers could help them further refine the financial efficiency of their fleets, as well as keep an eye on errant employees. The future isn’t all sunshine and rainbows after all, and taking a 20-minute “gas break” could become a thing of the past as nosy managers ask why the truck has been idle this long.

To summarize, a Tesla truck should be:

  • Compact
  • Capable of driving 200-miles per charge
  • Focus on reliability and affordability
  • Able to power a worksite for an extended period
  • Low to the ground

I’m still just scratching the surface here too, as electric vehicle design applied to pickups could revolutionize the market. There’s just so much more space in a properly-designed electric vehicle, space that could store or haul any number of things in an open-bed configuration. Still, I think I’ve hit all the major points that would have me looking to buy a Tesla truck.

The U.S. market is in desperate need of a smaller and more efficient pickup, and domestic automakers seem content to ignore customers who don’t want or need a full-size truck. Even dedicated electric vehicle makers like Smith Electric would rather build electric vans than pickups, assuming the market just isn’t there.

It may be up to Tesla to once again prove the major automakers wrong.

About the Author

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.
  • Jason Carpp

    Something more utilitarian would be nice.

  • Kent Beuchert

    The problem with Tesla is their crappy batteries, which cost a fortune and take forever to recharge. And that 200 miles that Tesla talks about (like their “300 mile Model S”) will turn out to be more like 150 miles or less : Tesla Motors is the exaggeration king of the motoring world. And the idea of having a “supercharger”
    at your place of business would appear to be nonsense – it would have to be 100 kw and would cost who knows what : $30,000, $50,000, more? I see there are still lots of folks around who have goofy ideas about eectric vehicles as they now stand, which is that they are too expensive and not capable of competing against gas powered vehicles. In simpleterms – they aer expensive pains in the butt and will remain so until a cheap, good battery shows up. Until then, there’s no good reason to buy
    electric. And that includes emissions reasons as well. Their emissions footprint is only marginally better than a gas powered car.

    • Markwbrooks

      Nice FUD! Nothing like a bit of FEAR back up by stretched assumptions to stop someone from making a rational decision.
      Just for the record, the Tesla model S can go further on the energy used to produce a gallon of gas coming out of the sludge in the XL pipeline than an average car can on the gas. So take the 2170 cu ft of natural gas used to steam and manufacture each barrel of synthetic crude out of the oil sands (from which you get 20 gallons of gas) and instead run it thru you local power utility. Then Take the resulting 300Kwh and charge you Model S three times over and have fun driving!

  • Bi-Polar Bear

    Notice how similar that rendering is to the Isuzu trucklet concept reported on at Gas 2.0 last week? Doesn’t look like you could fit a 4X8 sheet of plywood or a Harley in the load bed, though. Can a truck be a REAL truck if it won’t tote that iconic sheet of plywood???

  • Burnerjack

    Of the bullet points posted, the one missing is “Cheaper to own/operate over a 5 yr period. Do that and offer a urban delivery/service van version and they won’t be able to build them fast enough.

  • antiCult

    Electric cars are one of the simplest low tech machine there is. Tesla lovers are just followers. You can buy a remote control battery power car that has speed control and and do tricks like flip over or ride on wheels for under $10 on canal street.

  • antiCult

    Tesla owners are like those trophy wives who buy $10,000+ hermes purse which is basically same as a $ 10 knock off. They want to show that they have money to waste but no grey cells.

    • Boosh Woggle

      so much ignorance, sexism, and jealousy in one comment

  • No way

    I have not seen more than a handful trucks in Europe in many different countries during the last decades. What is the strange obsession and “need” that makes Amerikans have something too big and unnecessary for 99% and it being so popular?

  • Boosh Woggle

    I don’t get why the author thinks Tesla needs to make a puny compact truck when so far they have exceeded the expectations of every type of vehicle they have made. The roadster went faster and had an all carbon fiber body for a quarter of what similarly spec’d sports cars cost, the Model S is the safest car in the world, A+ handling, styling, and is outselling many other luxury sedans, the Model X looks to be amazing, so why do you think they wouldn’t make the most badass truck that can appeal to the hottest-blooded American, but it just happens to be electric?