Saskatchewan

Will all-electric pickup trucks soon roll down Sask. highways?

When you look at a half-ton rumbling down the roads of Saskatchewan, the idea that it might be electric probably isn't the first thought that comes to mind. But that may change in the near future.

Ford shifts gears with huge investment to create an all-electric pickup

The 2017 Ford F-150 Raptor is displayed at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January 2016. Ford plans to have 40 new electric vehicles on the road by 2022, including SUVs and an electric F-150 pickup truck. (Mark Blinch/Reuters)

When you look at a half-ton rumbling down the roads of Saskatchewan, the idea that it might be electric probably isn't the first thought that comes to mind.

But there are signs that may change in the near future, says a Regina automotive journalist.

Earlier this year, Ford announced an $11-billion US investment in electric vehicles and plans to have 40 new EVs on the road by 2022, including SUVs and an electric F-150 pickup truck.

The automaker also recently invested $500 million US in Rivian, a Michigan-based company, to create an electric pickup truck.

That type of investment is a huge boost to the EV truck market, automotive journalist Dale Johnson told Stefani Langenegger Tuesday on CBC Radio's The Morning Edition.

If you can't beat them, might as well join em! Trucks are very popular here in North America and that's likely not going to change. Now car companies are spending millions to get an electric pick-up on the market. 5:25

"This demonstrates that Ford wants to really get into the electric truck market," he said adding, "I think of [Rivian] like the Tesla of the truck market."

But it's unclear whether truck enthusiasts will take a shine to an electric F-150. Many car buyers still seem to have questions around things like whether an electric pickup can handle a brutal Saskatchewan winter.

Johnson said there are a number of roadblocks automotive companies must overcome to make trucks popular in these parts.

"One of the things is the range, because a lot of people with trucks live in rural areas," he said.

But he added technology is quickly moving to make EVs viable in smaller centres.

For instance, he recently drove an all-electric Jaguar I-Pace SUV. It has a range of 377 kilometres, according to the carmaker, and can go from 0 to 100 km/h in 4.8 seconds.

An array of Ford's electric vehicles at the 2018 Vancouver International Auto Show. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

The efficiency and range of EVs will go down in our cold winters, but Johnson said people must keep in mind that internal combustion engines are also less efficient in really cold weather.

"Another issue is charging stations," Johnson said. "We don't have a lot of charging stations in Saskatchewan."

As well, big, heavy batteries are needed to power a truck. That will reduce the payload capacity and those batteries could take up a lot of space — both issues that could be deal-breakers for truck drivers.

Then there is the cost. Because of the price difference that still exists between electric and conventional vehicles, it will still take years to recoup your investment through fuel savings, Johnson said.

Quebec and B.C. offer rebates on electric vehicles. There are no such provincial offers in Saskatchewan, but the federal government recently introduced a national rebate program.

Not surprisingly, Johnson said Quebec and B.C. have the highest proportion of hybrid and electric vehicle sales.

One thing that could speed up the transition from gas to electric trucks is if the price of gas keeps rising, he said.

Johnson said while buyers already have a choice of electric SUVs, it will probably be another two or three years before we see EV pickups quietly rolling down Saskatchewan highways.

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