I’ve had my fair share of trucks. I know they need to put up with a lot of abuse and neglect. These things are built to be used. Electric cars are coming, and soon, but it might take trucks a bit longer to catch on. Ford is taking a stab at it with its electric Transit Connect van, and Nissan is talking about an electric NV200. But neither is a pickup, and I haven’t seen too many electric trucks demonstrated. There aren’t even any truly viable hybrid pickups.
ALTe has a clever solution that sounds promising. At the World Truck Show, they unveiled an F-150 plug-in hybrid demonstration pickup with a 4-cylinder engine and a 25 kWh battery pack that they make some impressive claims about. For starters, a 52-mile all-electric range, and better gas mileage than most diesels.
I’m hopefully skeptical of this claim, as there are obvious complications when it comes to hybrid trucks. Pickups are tough, and heavy, and a hybrid system has to put up with a lot of abuse. I’m not saying it can’t, but nobody has really made one yet that justifies the extra cost. The Chevy Volt has the same basic setup as the ALTe pickup with a different name for the system (extended-range electric vehicle versus range-extended electric-powertrain).
The v8 engine is replaced by a 2.0 liter Ford four-cylinder engine that powers two electric Remy DC motors that crank out 295 ft-lbs of torque. They are hoping a 25 kWh battery pack will get the F-150 52 miles on an electric charge, at which point the 4-cylinder engine starts powering the motors. ALTe is aiming for 32 mpg with the four-cylinder engine running. The Tesla battery pack has 53 Kwh of power and can go 200 miles on a charge. But it is also a lot lighter and more aerodynamic than a truck as it is basically a Lotus Elise. It certainly sounds feasible, and the truck is supposed to be just 200 lbs heavier than stock. This would give the truck a range of 469 miles, better than the V8 trucks, while using less fuel. Sounds amazing… if they can do it.
According to Green Car Congress, ALTe says they are already in talks with several large car manufacturers. They do happen to have a former President and CEO of Chrysler (Tom LaSorda) and Executive Vice President of North American Sales and Marketing and Global Service and Parts. And Chrysler is, by outward claims, still looking to be a leader in electric cars at some point (although when/if is largely a mystery). This could be a real game changer, as most trucks with gas engines are stuck in the low-20’s still, even on the highway. With a better range and better gas mileage than the equivalent conventional petrol truck, Detroit better be paying attention.