CES 2023: Ram electric pickup joins the crowded field next year

DETROIT (AP) – When the futuristic-looking electric Ram pickup goes on sale next year, it’s unlikely to be first in line.

At least seven EV rivals are slated to launch by then, all vying for a share of the huge full-size truck market that now includes the three best-selling gasoline and diesel vehicles in the U.S.

Four models — Ford’s F-150 Lightning, Rivian’s R1T, Lordstown Motors’ Stop and the GMC Hummer EV Pickup — are already on the road. And three more vehicles — the Chevrolet Silverado EV, GMC Sierra EV and Tesla’s Cybertruck — are slated for release this year or next.

However, executives at Ram, Stellantis’ truck and commercial vehicle brand, say they are not concerned about following their competitors instead of outpacing them.

“It’s actually an advantage for us,” Ram brand CEO Mike Koval Jr. said in an interview. “Because we know exactly what the other kids are announcing.”

On Thursday afternoon, company executives unveiled a concept version of the battery-powered Ram 1500 Revolution truck at the CES gadget show in Las Vegas. The production truck isn’t likely to be as edgy as it was shown on stage, looking like a cross between Tesla’s angular Cybertruck and a regular gas pickup. But the Ram EV, Koval said, will outperform its rivals in the areas customers value most: payload, towing, range and technology.

GM announced that the Silverado EV can travel more than 400 miles (640 kilometers) on a single charge. (Competitors have ranges of 230 to 400 miles, depending on battery size.) Koval insists that the production Ram will “beat anything our competitors announce.”

Next year, he noted, more charging stations and other infrastructure will be built, making the EV market more attractive.

Jessica Caldwell, executive director of insights at Edmunds.com, said Ram won’t be too late to market because electric trucks currently on sale can’t quite keep up with continued growth in consumer demand.

GM says more than 170,000 people have placed a $100 refundable deposit on the Sierra. Last year, Ford sold more than 15,000 Lightning trucks, even though the vehicles weren’t available until May. The company closed reservations after receiving $100 deposits from nearly 200,000 potential buyers.

Last year, Americans bought more than 2.1 million full-size pickup trucks, most of which still run on gasoline. Large pickup trucks accounted for more than 15% of all US new vehicle sales, a huge and lucrative market. Sales of electric vehicles are growing rapidly: 807,000 of them were sold in the US last year, a 65% increase from 2021.

Michelle Krebs, an executive analyst at Cox Automotive, said the prices of relatively expensive EV trucks will have to approach those of gasoline versions to attract buyers.

Ford’s electric pickup was originally supposed to have a version starting at around $40,000. But the starting price is now slightly below $56,000 due to raw material demand and price increases. That’s a lot more than the base gas-powered F-150, which starts just under $34,000.

“The problem with price,” Krebs said, “is that the cost of making EVs is increasing. The prices of lithium and other (battery) minerals are high.”

Automakers say prices should come down as companies spread costs across more vehicles and as advances in battery chemistry reduce or even eliminate the amount of minerals needed to store energy.

Koval says it will have to appeal to customers who want base-model business versions of the electric Ram, as well as customers who need higher-end luxury and technology — even with the “crazy” cost of raw materials.

“We’re going to try to have something for everybody,” he said, “but with a focus on that critical price point.”

The truck will also offer fast 350-kilowatt charging that can boost range to 100 miles in about 10 minutes, a spacious cabin accessed through “cabin-style” doors with a multi-configuration interior.

Krebs admits it may take some time to get people to ditch gas-powered trucks. Midwestern states and Texas, where most pickup trucks are sold, don’t have many EV charging stations to allow for longer trips.

Electric trucks can also appeal to companies that buy fleets of trucks and want to get tax breaks and avoid paying for gas.

Caldwell thinks the market for electric pickups will include buyers who use them for work and those looking to buy an electric SUV for personal use.

Electric trucks, he said, “maybe give people on the fence more reason to buy (an EV).”

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