When we will see an EV ute in New Zealand?
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Utes are great at traversing the green stuff, but when we’ll actually see models with truly green powertrains in New Zealand is still not clear.
The electric spotlight is definitely on the US at the moment. We’ve seen Tesla’s outrageous Cybertruck, but there’s also the Rivian R1T and another all-new pure-electric plug-in pickup truck called the Lordestown Endurance.
The mainstream brands are in on it too: Ford has just launched its all-new F-150 in hybrid form and we know that a pure-electric version will follow. Rival General Motors also plans to revive the Hummer off-road brand with an EV model.
But there are two problems with all of the above: the first is that they’re very much focused on the US market and left-hand drive - with the exception of Tesla, which has an appetite for right-hook as well.
The second issue is that they’re all works in progress, with launch timing still to be decided.
The Tesla is anybody’s guess, while Hummer, Rivian and Lordsetown will be 2021 at the earliest. You might think the F-150 EV is the most production ready given the new-gen base vehicle is already out there, but in fact Ford says it’s still under development. It probably won’t be on the market until 2022, and again - only in left-hand drive.
None are especially NZ-relevant product anyway, because they’re American-style “pickup trucks” rather than the one-tonne utes that are so popular among Kiwi buyers.
Electrification is on the cards for the big players in the NZ ute segment, but probably no time soon. It’s now well-known that Ford and Volkswagen will collaborate on the next-generation Ranger and Amarok models to be launched from 2022. It’s possible that among the multiple powertrain options offers there’ll be electrified and even plug-in hybrid technology offered, but a pure Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV)? That’s a harder question to answer.
Toyota has also undertaken to electrify its entire model range, including Hilux, in the years to come, and it’s a company with decades of experience in hybrid technology. But a BEV Hilux is a stretch.
Nissan will almost certainly have some form of hybrid technology in its next Navara and it must be a no-brainer for the Mitsubishi Triton.
But a pure-electric one-tonne ute for the NZ market? The first might still come from China.
Great Wall Motors (GWM) is set to launch a replacement for the ageing Steed ute, which aims to make the step up from cheap and cheerful to being a genuine contender among the mainstream brands.
Unveiled at last year’s Shanghai Motor Show, the new ute will be produced in turbo-diesel, turbo-petrol and fully electric versions. The latter is the most intriguing; it was shown in rear-drive form with leaf springs, in contrast to the 4WD and coil-sprung rear of the more conventional models.
Of the Chinese light commercial brands, GWM is the one most focused on right-hand drive and the lucrative (but picky) Australasian market. While the current Steed is very much an entry level product, the company seems to be investing all of its engineering expertise into the replacement truck.
Quirky coda time: Nissan and its Chinese partner Dongfeng have already produced a BEV one-tonner, based on the ubiquitous Navara. The Nissan –Dongfeng Rich 6 EV dual-cab is aimed at urban business users and is powered by a 68kWh battery and 119kW/420Nm electric motor that gives a range of 403km.
It’s not a lot heavier than a diesel Navara, but the payload is a very modest 490kg, which wouldn’t go down well with Kiwi buyers. That’s just a “for example”: the Dongfeng isn’t destined for sale outside China. But it does illustrate one issue with any forthcoming BEV one-tonne ute: it’ll have to offer similar payload and towing to conventional models to be accepted.