Pickup trucks are far and away the most popular vehicles in America, with the Big Three’s full-size pickups regularly ranking in the top 5 sales spots. The Ford F-series has remained the best-selling vehicle in America for decades, and it just got a major makeover that will bring it even closer to achieving 30 MPG. Yet I still find myself wondering when the hell is someone going to build a hybrid pickup?
First I need to mention that GM has at least tried, and actually succeeded somewhat with an EPA-rated 20 MPG around town. That’sabout a 30% increase over stock, though it hardly made up for the cost of the two-mode hybrid system, and it was quietly discontinued when the new generation of Silverado/Sierra pickups launched. In other words, we’ve actually gone backwards, not forwards, in the quest for an efficient hybrid pickup. and I’m not seeing too many signs of changing that.
Instead we have Ford converting the F-150 to an aerodynamic aluminum body, Ram opting for a turbodiesel V6, and GM trying to eek every MPG it can out of a tried-and-true V8 engine. The only hope I have for a hybrid pickup comes from Mitsubishi, and the chances of it ever making it to the U.S. shores, nevermind the production line, seem far fetched.
Why isn’t any major automaker working on a hybrid pickup? Is there some sort of technological barrier keeping automakers out of the hybrid truck market? I’d wager not, as VIA Motors seems confident in the workhorse ability of their plug-in hybrid pickups to justify the $80,000 price tag. Chrysler also developed a fleet of plug-in hybrid pickups at the government’s request with a claimed 20-mile EV range, but that program was shuttered without any any updates.
Hell, even Bob Lutz thinks the Chevy Volt should have been a pickup instead. Of course, he’s also employed by the aforementioned VIA Motors, so he might be a bit biased.
Is it an acceptance thing? Does Ford really believe buyers are more willing to accept an aluminum body than they are a hybrid drivetrain? It’s possible, as truck owners can be notoriously anti-liberal and anti-environment, “rollin’ coal” on Prius drivers to show their disapproval. Aside from that local minority though, all most people care about is capability and cost. The industry seems to believe that a 30 MPG pickup truck would be good enough, and for awhile they might be right, as the current crop of engines and weight reduction has the Big Three closing in on that goal.
But if we can get to 30 MPG pickups without hybrid technology, imagine how much more efficient we could make them. Show me a capable hybrid pickup that will pay for the premium cost in three years or less, and I’ll show you the new pickup sales champion.