U.S. firm Workhorse has debuted the auto industry’s first electric pickup, a crew cab model that boasts 130-km all-electric driving and a range-extender that promises up to 500 km total range.
It may not be a pure electric vehicle, but the truck is definitely more than a hybrid, and it’s here now while EV performance car maker Tesla says its own electric truck is at least two years away.
Workhorse says the W-15 was conceived for use by commercial fleets, and as such designed the truck using input from fleet managers. At first glance, you’d be excused for confusing this truck with a Honda Ridgeline, but there are no ties between the two beyond that superficial resemblance.
The truck is built around a bespoke chassis essentially formed around a Panasonic lithium-ion battery pack, which puts the weight of the cells under the floor and out of the way.
On a full charge, Workhorse says that 60-kWh pack is good for about 130 km of all-electric driving; when its power potential drops below a certain point, a three-cylinder gas engine built by BMW runs a generator that supplies electricity to drive the truck for another roughly 370 km.
Workhorse says the gas engine never drives the truck directly, but leaves that up to electric motors at both axles that give the W-15 AWD traction. The manufacturer makes no mention of low-range gearing and doesn’t refer to the truck as a 4WD.
Claimed power output is 460 hp, with a promised zero-to-97 km/h (60 mph) acceleration time of 5.5 seconds. Charging a depleted battery takes seven to eight hours at a level 2 charging station.
In all-electric mode, Workhorse claims the W-15 is good for 3.2 Le/100 km, and a bit less than 8.0 L/100 km in combined city/highway driving when the gas engine is running the show.
Those figures are similar to estimates for plug-in hybrid versions of BMW’s 7 Series and Mercedes-Benz’s S-Class, though Workhorse’s economy in all-electric mode is a bit better than in those two full-size sedans.
Neat features include a power outlet that allows things like power tools to draw 30 amps directly from the battery pack.
Pickups live or die by their payload and towing capacities. Workhorse calls the W-15 a commercial vehicle, suggesting equivalency to heavy-duty trucks like the Ford F-250 or 2500 variants of the Chevrolet Silverado-GMC Sierra twins or Ram.
Workhorse’s claimed – and impressive – payload rating of just under 1,000 kg is indeed in line with what traditional heavy duty trucks offer, but its sub-2,300-kg towing capacity only matches the Ridgeline and doesn’t touch what light-duty versions of the domestic trucks can haul.
Workhorse says a carbon-fibre-reinforced plastic body keeps weight down to around 2,200 kg; the interior also looks very plastic-ky, which may sit fine with commercial users but won’t fly if Workhorse ever hopes to expand into the market truck marketplace.
Production is set to start in late 2018, with Workhorse planning a future lineup expansion that will include other cab configurations and heavier-duty W-25 and W-35 models.