EVCCON 2011: Electric Pick-ups Dump Fossil Fuels

Truck owners represent a huge chunk of all vehicle traffic, and – when it comes to gas prices – they’re in a tougher spot than the guy driving a big luxury sedan or sportscar.  They need a truck, in other words, to get to work or just get by, whereas the guy in the Viper wants a Viper (maybe that guy needs to be seen in a Viper, but that’s for Freud to analyze, not me).  Some truck owners are looking towards CNG conversions, while others still are considering a hybrid-electric engine upgrade – but, if EVCCON 2011 is anything to go by, many truck owners could probably do worse than consider a swap to a full electric drivetrain!

When converting anything from gas to electric, the most difficult question to answer is usually “How am I going to carry all these batteries?”  A truck (or van, for that matter) has the answer built right in:  they’re built to haul extra weight.  All three of the converted pickups at this year’s EVCCON (two older Ford Ranger pickups and a VW) made handy use of the stout suspension and huge storage capacities pickups already have.

The green Ford Ranger (above and below) was completed in 2008 and was its driver’s third home project.  Initially, it ran off 24 lead acid batteries weighing 100 lbs each, but these were replaced with 41 CALB li-ion batteries mounted out of sight – under the bed between the truck’s frame rails, which significantly reduced load and improved overall performance and range.

Speaking of the range, the driver was rather unorthodox. Rather than give an expected range, he pointed out that it was directly related to speed; at 20mph, the Ranger “had more range than you could bear to sit in the seat,” while at highway speeds it went “about 80 miles”, with working air-conditioning and power steering (although neither is driven by the main 9″ FB4001A electric motor).

The other Ranger present (the red ’93) took the easy route of filling the truck bed with batteries. Again, the initial conversion used lead acid and was later switched to lithium ion.  The factory suspension was more than able to handle an additional 700 lbs of lithium ion batteries.  With no heavy lead batteries in front, the ’93 Ranger doesn’t really need power steering, so the driver ditched the system, relying on the “mid-engine-like” weight distribution to stabilize the truck and keeps the front easy to steer.  It, too, will travel about 80 miles between charges …

… which brings me to the oldest truck at EVCCON 2011:  a dark green (and super-awesome) ’81 VW pickup.  Following the (now familiar) pattern of gasoline to lead-acid to lithium-ion conversions, the little VW’s been running on batteries for over a decade now, and is on its third battery pack.

These are 3 very different trucks, for sure, owned by very unique and independent thinkers.  You can get a better look at the trucks in the gallery, below, and let us know which one’s your favorite, in the comments.

Source:  EVCONN 2011.

Charis Michelsen

spent 7 years living in Germany and Japan, studying both languages extensively, doing translation and education with companies like Bosch, Nissan, Fuji Heavy, and others. Charis has a Bachelor of Science degree in biology and currently lives in Chicago, Illinois. She also believes that Janeway was the best Star Trek Captain.