Opinion: Why electric utes are doomed to fail in Australia - SUV VEHICLE

Opinion: Why electric utes are doomed to fail in Australia


If the future of utes like the Ford Ranger and Toyota HiLux is electrified, I don’t want it.

Let’s face facts, the future of motoring is electric – or at the very least, hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and full-electric models will be much more commonplace over the next decade.

And I’m all for it.

There are tangible benefits to fuel-sipping technologies or tailpipe emissions-free models that will work for some, if not most, people here in Australia.

RELATED: Why aren’t there any hybrid utes in Australia?

But there is one market segment where I think electrified powertrains will never catch on, and that is utes.

Buyers of big, burly dual-cab utes, which need to be just as at home on the worksite during the week as on a campsite on the weekend, will not flock to the myriad of models due to touchdown in Australia over the next few years – and rightly so.

These are the types of people who depend on their workhorse to lug tools and surfboards, so adding complexity with a hybrid or all-electric set-up is just not going to fly.

Weight is the enemy of efficiency, and battery packs and electric motors will push up the already portly one-tonne ute into territory that could be considered vehicle obesity, having an impact on payload capacity and more.

But a dual-cab ute needs to not only be reliable but also offer a strong set of off-road skills, the ability to tour long and often barren distances, as well as tow.

And it’s all these features that are at odds with what an electrified vehicle can currently offer.

But let’s take a look at the state of the hybrid ute market that is set to explode in Australia over the next few years to prove my point.

Ford Ranger PHEV

What we know so far about this new model is that it will pair a 2.3-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine with an electric motor and battery, serving up an all-electric driving range of 45 kilometres.

The Blue Oval brand says it has data that shows nearly half of Ranger owners travel less than 40km a day, so Ford is already aware that this eco-friendly ute is only going to appeal to 50 per cent of its sizeable audience.

The obvious concern is that most jobs might be less than a 40km round trip for tradies, but what happens when it’s a cracking summer’s day and you want to hit the Great Ocean Road for a surf?

That’s where the petrol engine comes in to get you the rest of the way and home, but then you are still lugging around an empty battery and unused electric motor that will have an impact on fuel economy and capability.

Ford is yet to reveal full details like combined system output, fuel economy or battery size, but is promising the hybrid Ranger will maintain the 3500kg towing capability of diesel-powered models, as well as a similar payload rating thanks to tweaked suspension.

LDV eT60

There is already an all-electric ute available in Australia, and it comes in the form of the LDV eT60.

Priced at $92,990 before on-road costs, the eT60 is even more expensive than the cream of the dual-cab ute crop like the $73,990 Toyota HiLux GR Sport, $70,765 automatic Nissan Navara PRO-4X Warrior and $89,190 Ford Ranger Raptor.

But unlike those flagship models, the eT60 is rear-drive only with outputs of just 130kW/310Nm, while its 88kWh battery affords a 330km driving range.

Crucially, though, the towing capacity is just 1000kg in the LDV eT60, which also cuts the driving range in half.

Guess you won’t be able to take the eT60 to the beach with a few jet skis then.

Mitsubishi Triton/Nissan Navara

It looks increasingly likely that the new-generation Mitsubishi Triton will also adopt a plug-in hybrid powertrain, leveraging its expertise with the tech found in the Outlander and Eclipse Cross.

But what does this mean for the Nissan Navara that is set to migrate to the same platform as its Triton cousin?

Nissan has already closed the door on PHEVs, so it looks like an e-Power set-up – as seen on its Qashqai and X-Trail SUVs – will be the way forward.

This set-up means there is a small petrol engine that is used as a generator for the electric motor that turns the wheels.

The benefit is that it offers an EV-like driving experience without the extended downtime for charging.

However, it does add complexity, complication and cost, and the efficiency gains as seen on the X-Trail are arguably not that significant.

Concrete details on these new-generation products are yet to surface, but an e-Power approach from Nissan could differentiate it from the hybrid ute pack.

Isuzu D-Max/Mazda BT-50

The next all-electric ute confirmed for Australia will be the Isuzu D-Max, previewed by the EV Concept shown recently in Thailand.

Powering the model is a dual-motor electric powertrain, with a front motor outputting 40kW and the rear pushing out 90kW for a combined output of 130kW/325Nm.

With a 66.9kWh battery, the D-Max EV will travel about 300km before needing a recharge, but keep in mind that is without a load in the rear.

For those that want to haul, there’s a 1000kg payload and a 3.5-tonne towing capacity, but again, when maxing out the electric D-Max, the range will take a significant hit.

The model is due to be revealed in full in 2025, and is already confirmed for Australia, but expect pricing to exceed the current $67,500 before on-road costs price of the current flagship X-Terrain variant.

Toyota HiLux

Toyota has talked a big game about electrifying its line-up for a while now, and with the HiLux being its best-seller, sooner or later the fleet favourite is going to have to come to the table.

There is a 48-volt mild-hybrid set-up coming later this year to the HiLux, but Toyota Australia is at pains to call it a hybrid despite other brands spruiking the tech, instead opting for the moniker ‘V-Active’.

And this marketing move is telling, because the bigwigs at Toyota have not wanted to overpromise on something that is just a marginal improvement in fuel economy – just 10 per cent according to Toyota’s lab testing.

For reference, the series-parallel hybrid tech used in other Toyota models such as the Corolla, Camry, Kluger and RAV4 can cut fuel usage by up to 50 per cent.

Also of note, Toyota is working on a full-electric HiLux as seen with the Revo concept, but a production model is so far only destined for Thailand as it offers up only 200km of driving range.

Is it worth buying an electrified ute?

So, as you can see, the electrified technologies currently available today – quite simply – do not suit the needs and demands of the current ute buyer.

There is simply nothing in the short-term future that can offer the right blend of practicality, performance and capability, and certainly not at the price point that ute customers will want to pay.

Will they get there over time? Probably. But until then, expect to keep seeing diesel-powered utes on (and off) local roads for some time to come.

The post Opinion: Why electric utes are doomed to fail in Australia appeared first on Drive.


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