CES 2023: The electric Ram truck will join a crowded field next year

DETROIT (AP) — When a futuristic-looking electric Ram truck goes on sale next year, it won’t be the first.

By then, no fewer than seven EV competitors are set to go on sale, all vying for a share of the full-size monster truck market that now includes the three best-selling gasoline and diesel vehicles in the United States.

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

Still, executives at Ram, Stellantis’ commercial truck and vehicle brand, say they don’t bother following their competitors rather than leading them.

“It’s actually an advantage for us,” Mike Koval Jr., CEO of the Ram brand, said in an interview. “Because we have full knowledge of what others have announced.”

On Thursday afternoon, company executives revealed a concept version of the battery-powered Ram 1500 Revolution pickup truck at the CES gadget show in Las Vegas. The production truck isn’t likely to be as sharp as the one seen on stage, which looks like a midway point between Tesla’s angular Cybertruck and a traditional gas car. But Koval said the Ram EV will outpace competitors in the areas customers value most: payload, towing, range and technology.

GM announced that the Silverado EV will be able to travel over 400 miles (640 kilometers) on a single charge. (Its competitors have a range of between 230 and 400 miles, depending on battery size.) Koval insists that Ram Productions will “exceed everything our competitors have announced.”

He noted that by next year, more charging stations and other infrastructure will be established, making the electric vehicle market more attractive.

The Ram won’t lag far behind the market, said Jessica Caldwell, executive director of Edmunds.com statistics, because the electric trucks for sale now can’t meet the 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, though the vehicles weren’t available until May. The company closed reservations after receiving $100 in deposits from nearly 200,000 potential buyers.

Last year, Americans bought more than 2.1 million full-size pickup trucks, most of which are still gasoline-powered. Large pickups account for more than 15% of all new car sales in the United States, which is a huge and lucrative market. Electric vehicle sales are growing rapidly: last year, 807,000 of them were sold in the United States — up 65% from 2021.

Pricing for EV vans, which are relatively expensive, should approach prices for the gasoline versions to lure buyers away, said Michelle Krebs, executive analyst with Cox Automotive.

Initially, Ford’s electric pickup was scheduled to have a starting version of around $40,000. But the starting price is now just under $56,000, driven by demand and increases in the price of raw materials. That’s a lot more than the base gasoline-powered F-150, which starts at just under $34,000.

“The problem with pricing is that the costs of building electric vehicles are going up,” Krebs said. “The prices for lithium and other (battery) metals are high.”

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

Koval says he realizes the electric Ram should appeal to customers who want work versions of the base model as well as those who want luxury and technology at a higher price point — even with the “insane” costs of raw materials.

He said, “We’re going to try to get something for everyone, but with an eye on that critical price point.”

The truck will also offer a 350-kilowatt fast charge that can add up to 100 miles of range in about 10 minutes. A large interior is accessed through “saloon-style” doors with a multi-configuration interior.

Krebs admits that convincing people to ditch their gas-powered trucks may take some time. In the Midwestern states and Texas, where most pickups are sold, there aren’t many EV charging stations that allow for long trips.

Electric trucks may also attract companies that buy fleets of work trucks and want to get tax breaks and avoid paying for gasoline.

Caldwell believes the market for electric trucks will include buyers who use them for work and those who might buy an electric SUV for personal use.

She said that electric trucks “give people who may have been on the fence about[the EV]one more reason to buy.”

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