A former Chevy truck owner from Middle America watched the Silverado EV announcement with some interest. He had already made reservation deposits for the Rivian RT1 and F150 Lightning, but production delays meant that decision was far from final.
Like most big product releases, the Silverado EV unveiling was more of a hype video than something designed to influence a purchase. But, after the event ended, he thought about it for a few days, read some of the initial press reactions, then eventually made another EV truck deposit for the Silverado.
That guy in Middle America is me. I am the one who is eagerly awaiting their first EV truck so this comparison is a review of everything I have learned, a summary of lots of things that I have read or watched, and many of the things you should know before making your EV truck decision.
Did I forget the Tesla Cybertruck? While the Cybertruck is not a finalist for me, it is an important EV truck with some revolutionary features so I have included it in this plug-in adventure in case you find it on your wishlist – you would not be alone.
Why Are EV Trucks So Exciting?
Our CEO said that this was the year of the EV truck in his 2022 prediction article for InsideEVs. If EVs are to become the mainstream – the everyman vehicle that we want them to be – trucks are a necessary market segment to convert. “The top selling vehicle model across 30 states in 2021 was the Ford F-Series, and the numbers we’re talking about are 5X what the Model Y has done,” he said.
EV adoption in the US has been slow, particularly in the fly-over states where I live. Average travel distances are longer, charging infrastructure is less developed, and all-wheel drive is almost essential given the 12-inch snowfalls that we see in the winter. These long-range EV trucks check the logistical boxes that a two-door hatchback with 150 miles of range (in ideal conditions) would not for a lot of people in the Midwest.
Candidate 1: Chevrolet Silverado EV
Chevy’s Silverado has been around since 1999 and is due for a shake-up. The first model year of the Silverado EV is 2024 and can be expected to hit dealer lots sometime in 2023. It will include the much-hyped Ultium battery and share some technology with the premium-priced Hummer EV.
While a lot of details are yet to be answered, none of the basics are surprising. This truck starts at about $40,000, offers 300+ miles of range, and clearly was in part designed with recreation in mind. Keep in mind that $40,000 is the very lowest available price, which is something we’ll see from Ford, too.
We will dive much deeper into the specifics, and how they compare to other truck options, but it is safe to expect product parity from this classic truck brand.
That is the promotional video from GM’s announcement of the Silverado EV at CES.
Candidate 2: Ford F150 Lightning
The Ford F-series has been the best selling pickup truck in America since 1977 and hopes are high that it’s popularity will carry over to the electrified version. While less than half of the 200,000 reservation holders will see their F150 Lightning this year, 80,000 – the target set by Ford – will still be a lot of electrified trucks roaming North American streets. As both an EV lover and a truck lover, that’s an exciting number.
Ford also offers a base price of about $40,000 with options to extend estimated range at full charge from 230 to over 300 miles. After adding to the powertrain and interior features, the Lightning price can more than double. As we’ll see, it’s the features that are most exciting about the F150 Lightning.
One of those exciting features is its bidirectional charging ability. That means this truck can borrow and return energy to your home electric grid, acting as a generator in case backup power is needed. There are standard 110 V and 240 V plugs on the truck itself and enough juice in a full battery pack to power an average American home for a few days. It can also charge other EVs.
This is a short promotional video that Ford created in December 2021. Just wait for the line that refers to its frunk as, “A walk-in closet that you can drive.”
Candidate 3: Tesla Cybertruck
Lots of Cybertruck details are still in flux, despite being one of the first EV trucks to open reservations in 2019. We should expect starting price tags and available ranges similar to the Silverado EV and F150 Lightning, although it’s safe to assume that anything under the Tesla brand will reach its destination faster than its competitor.
It might be some time before you see one in your neighborhood. Production has been delayed several times and it’ll probably hit the streets about the same time as the Silverado EV, somewhere in the 2023 calendar year. It’s unlikely that you’ll miss it, given its unique 007-meets-Battlestar-Galactica design.
This announcement video from 2019 has become infamous for the cracked window incident – skip to 11:45 in the video if you want to relive it. Elon Musk might have said, “Well, maybe that was a little too hard,” but I am still impressed.
Candidate 4: Rivian R1T
Rivian is the new kid on the block, both literally and figuratively. This new automotive brand was the first market with electric trucks, starting customer deliveries in late 2021. After making changes to its production process, we will likely not see as many Rivian models this year as we will F150 Lightning models, but I would be surprised if you don’t see an R1T like this drive by at some point in 2022.
The R1T trades a lower starting price for more standard features. The base price has fluctuated some, but the website currently lists $67,500. Examples of appealing standard features include a 300-mile EPA range and all-wheel drive on both configurations – Explore Package and Adventure Package.
Since Rivian has already started deliveries, there are a million test drive videos on YouTube. Maybe more. I selected this one because it is a quick intro that is helpful before we go into the details.
EV Truck Battery & Range: Rivian vs Ford vs Tesla vs Chevy
The best descriptors for the batteries and powertrains in this generation of EV would be big and fast. Half of these electric trucks have battery configurations that are more than twice the size of a Tesla Model 3 Long Range, the best-selling EV, and could exceed its 0-60 time in some models. Rivian’s R1T clocked 0-60 mph in 3.2 seconds.
* Estimates or untested promotional values
I’ve included max charging speed because the max range reflects EPA estimates in favorable conditions. But fill the truck bed with camping supplies and attach a boat trailer, and actual range will drop considerably, sending you back to the charging station more often.
An EV that can charge at 350 kW is lightning (lowercase L) fast and would exceed the fastest charging times recorded from production cars. It’s kind of like owning an 8K television today: impressive technology but it is rare that you will take full advantage of it. The best way to think of it is that these electric trucks are either meeting or surpassing the charging standards of most electric vehicles today and should not be any cause for concern. Because we care, this our chance to remind you that frequent fast charging is not good for longterm battery health.
Comparing Electric Truck Design & Style
Each of these electric trucks looks surprisingly unique. While the Ford and Chevy have the most traditional half-ton pickup truck aesthetic, even those two brands took their truck exteriors in different directions.
The F150 Lightning certainly feels the most familiar to American truck consumers, at least on the outside. That’s not an accident. Ford is electrifying its F-Series category leader, rather than trying to create an electric truck category. You can see that in the advertising, which promotes new electric features instead of introducing a totally new product line.
On the inside, Ford’s F150 Lightning has a lot of the things that you would expect from an F-Series truck, with some things that you would not, like a 15-inch vertical center screen. Reflective of modern Tesla-inspired instrumentation that is also found in the Mustang Mach-E, the Lightning feels like a bridge between the past and future with lots of familiar tactile buttons to support the large digital center command center.
The Silverado EV has perhaps the most familiar truck interior, but took the exterior in a direction that could appeal to its existing EV audience as a bigger, more recreationally-focused option, while also catching the eye of early adopting electric truck buyers. For anyone who misinterprets Chevy being late to the EV truck game as being an EV laggard, GM is an undisputed EV leader among major car brands. Only GM and Tesla have sold enough electric vehicles to outgrow their US federal tax credit.
To illustrate how GM is meeting in the middle to appeal to the most people, doesn’t the Silverado EV kind of look like a cross between the Bolt (left) and the gas-powered 2022 Silverado (right)?
The Silverado’s recreational mindset is visible in features like folding rear seats, which extends the pickup bed into the cab, and creates a bit of the soft-top Ford Bronco atmosphere for people in the front seat. I can almost feel the wind in my hair.
In some ways, Rivian goes a step further to prove it is all-in on recreation. While the hobbyist can certainly be found in its minimalist interior style choices, it’s the add-ons and features that define its image. Nested camping stoves, bicycle racks, and popup tents are all available from the manufacturer to flesh out the R1T’s full weekender persona.
Tesla’s Cybertruck is clearly a lone wolf in this group. Well, in all groups. If the F150 job-site workhorse is on one end of the spectrum, the Cybertruck is on the other. It’s a totally different look that Elon Musk has referenced a few times. While the initially jarring exterior appears that it would be sharp to the touch if not handled with care, the interior should be very familiar to Tesla drivers.
The promotional models are free of nearly all physical buttons, feature the familiar single display, and continue to push auto design into the future. You can put me on record promising that the vehicle that you’re driving in 20 years will look a lot more like the picture above than the quarter-ton truck in your garage today.
Dimensions: F150 vs Cybertruck vs R1T vs Silverado EV
While Tesla and Chevrolet may make adjustments to their production models, the Ford and Rivian details are fairly concrete at this point.
* A collapsible rear seat can extend the bed into the cab
Payload and Towing: F150 Lightning vs Rivian R1T
This is an area where the standards have already been set for American pickup trucks. Any truck, whether powered by an electric motor or a combustion engine, has to meet basic expectations to thrive.
* Estimates or untested promotional values
Compare those figures to a 2021 Silverado 1500 on the road today that can tow 8,000 to 12,000 pounds depending on the combustion engine. That puts these electric trucks in the mix, with promises from GM to double the Silverado EV’s towing capacity in the future.
Despite some promising towing tests, it’s important for any potential EV trucker shopper to understand that maximum range could be slashed in half with something connected to your trailer hitch. That’s probably fine for infrequent road trips or seasonal migrations, but not appealing for people who regularly tow hundreds of miles.
Trying to Choose Just One EV Truck
Going into my decision, I assumed that it would be tough to choose only one because the trucks have so much in common. For example, all of them can check the boxes that I need to check with an electric truck.
- All-wheel drive for harsh winter conditions
- 300-mile range for weekend trips to the lake
- 10,000 pounds of towing to haul the ski boat two times a year
- Similar price points when equipped with the features that I want
- All of the creature comforts that I expect as a recreational truck owner
But I would be really surprised if, after reading this, one has not jumped out ahead of the others on your wishlist. One certainly did for me. After looking through the features, verifying government incentives, measuring my 1950s garage, and thinking about how I spend my weekends, I have selected a finalist.
But I’m still not going to cancel my reservations on the others. Not yet, anyway.