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Will Your Next Pickup Truck Be a Tesla?

Truck lovers and Prius huggers alike, prepare to have your minds blown. Elon Musk wants to build an "F-150."

Start with this Ford F-150, open the hood... Source: Ford.

That was the upshot of an interview that the chairman of SpaceX, SolarCity (NASDAQ: SCTY  ) , Tesla Motors (NASDAQ: TSLA  ) gave to Business Insider last week. Asked whether he had ever considered building big delivery trucks for FedEx (NYSE: FDX  ) and UPS (NYSE: UPS  ) , Musk confirmed being interested in "trucks" but denied any interest in "delivery."

UPS operates a fleet of nearly 100,000 cars, vans, tractors, and other delivery vehicles, you see. FedEx has an additional 47,000. But according to Musk, that's just not big enough of a market to interest him. He'd much rather build something like an electric version of Ford's (NYSE: F  ) F-Series full-size pickup trucks, which sold 60,000 units in September alone. Ford moved 60,000 units of the F-150 in September alone -- or about three times as many units as Tesla hopes to sell of its Model S sedan this entire year.

...  and now slap a Model S in there to power it! Source: Tesla.

Now, on the one hand, Musk's statement may have been typical Musk thinking out loud. On the other hand, though, you can sort of see where he's coming from. Why target a limited commercial delivery truck market of just 147,000 vehicles, when you can go after a consumer market where Ford alone -- and let alone rivals Dodge, Chevy, and GMC -- sells an entire fleet's worth of trucks in just three months?

Will truck guys go electric?
Looked at that way, Musk's idea to build an electric pickup makes a lot of sense. But will "truck guys" even be interested in expensive, green, electric trucks in the first place?

I think so. For one thing, it's generally understood that at low rpms, electric motors produce more torque than internal combustion engines do. Truck buyers love torque, because it's so darn useful for hauling heavy stuff like bricks and boats -- which buyers have a habit of tossing/bolting onto their vehicles. For that reason alone, experimenting with the idea of an electric truck makes sense to me.

Of course, there's still the question of whether pickup drivers would consider buying electric trucks in the first place. After all, "going green" comes at a cost, and the Model S sedan costs a hefty 60,000 greenbacks. But here, too, I think Tesla has a chance of booking some sales.

Psst, look busy! That's the boss' truck! Source: GMC.

Consider that "boss truck " luxury pickups (i.e., the ones the boss drives, as opposed to those his employees drive) such as GM's 2014 Sierra 1500 Denali, for example, already start at $46,815. Add in a few options such as four-wheel drive, a nice tonneau cover, and a 6.2L EcoTec3 V8 engine, and pretty soon you're pushing $60,000 for a vehicle that gulps gas like a horse drinks water. A Ford F-450 Super Duty Platinum, meanwhile, can set you back close to $70,000.

Inside the boss's mobile office -- a leather-seated F-450 Super Duty Platinum. Source: Ford.

What does this mean to you?
Still, you won't want to go rushing over to Tesla's website to place your preorder for a full-size "T-150" just yet. Musk was shooting from the hip last week, and offered no elaboration on the idea other than a blanket denial that Tesla would even consider building an electric pickup for at least five more years. (He's floated the idea before, however, commenting in 2012 that "we have this idea for an electric truck that could really be a big improvement in truck technology.")

For now, though, Musk has his plate full while launching Tesla's anticipated 2014 Model X electric crossover, and working to bring a cheaper, mass-market Model E sedan to market after that.

But once Tesla does get around to building an electric pickup truck, yes, I think there's going to be a market for it.

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Read/Post Comments (6) | Recommend This Article (4)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On November 20, 2013, at 9:40 AM, rmorriso86 wrote:

    An electric truck would be next to useless unless you lived in a big city and it was just for show. When you have a truck you should use it for that purpose of dumping a few thousand pounds of gravel in the bed hooking up to the trailer and going even a couple hundred miles. Going off road up mountians would destroy the batteries especially pulling a trailer. It would be a $60000+ drive queen cause that is all it is good for.

  • Report this Comment On November 20, 2013, at 9:42 AM, coll1951 wrote:

    Musk is offering one free ticket on the Los Angeles to San Francisco HyperLoop and one additional ticket on the maiden flight of his Electric Super Sonic Airplane, to the first one hundred customers who place orders for his latest creation, the Tesla F150. Truly Great men dream, but most keep their mouths shut.

  • Report this Comment On November 20, 2013, at 11:10 AM, ffbj wrote:

    Most people who buy trucks hardly ever use them for anything that they were designed for as regards to hauling things. Perhaps moving your friends stuff on occasion. A decade away.

  • Report this Comment On November 20, 2013, at 12:15 PM, ssejhill wrote:

    Interesting concept ... but the determining factor will be battery life. I can only imagine towing a trailer around or carrying tons (literally 2000 lbs) of tools or work gear around will sap the battery pretty quickly. Many of these truck sales (F-150, Silverado, Ram, ...) are work trucks. Used daily by carpenters, plumbers, ... If they have to plug in at each job site that probably won't go over to well.

    I haven't seen numbers on those F-450 or a top end Sierra Denali recently, but they are no where near the total sales of F-150 pickups which could go over 600,000 this year.

  • Report this Comment On November 21, 2013, at 9:21 AM, TMFDitty wrote:

    Cargo weight could be an issue, but ... my 1998 Chevy S-10 weighed two tons, and had a cargo capacity of just a little over half a ton. That's a 4:1 ratio of truck-to-cargo, so the weight of the load being carried mayn't drain battery life as quickly as you fear.

    Factor in more room for installing more batteries, and this shouldn't be an insurmountable problem.

    On the other hand, the small market for boss-trucks could be a limiting factor.

  • Report this Comment On November 27, 2013, at 3:06 PM, blesto wrote:

    Oh yeah! Torque! As a pickup truck guy myself, I do like more torque. It's also why electric cars can consistently beat muscle cars off the starting line.

    But I think a hybrid would be more feasible.

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