Hybrid cars are all the rage in today’s automotive world. Their fuel efficiency simply can’t be topped, and it’s causing a lot of drivers to make the switch. But the majority of hybrids are sedans or hatchbacks, which can’t stand up to the functionality that certain people need from their vehicle for their everyday working life. Take for example a pickup truck. Hybrid or not, a Prius can’t carry a load of 2x4s in its trunk. So where are all of the hybrid trucks?
Chevy and GMC each came out with micro-hybrid—start-stop technology that keeps the engine from idling for long periods of time to reduce fuel emissions—versions of their Silverado and Sierra models, respectively. Since then, only prototypes have been announced. Chrysler has created a plug-in hybrid RAM 1500, and Lexus and Toyota are experimenting with a Toyota Tacoma 4WD hybrid. But why haven’t we seen these trucks on the road yet?
There are numerous speculations as to why hybrid pickup trucks haven’t succeeded yet in today’s marketplace. These include the price increase that hybrids command and the lack of technology that would allow hybrid trucks to keep the same towing and torque power as non-hybrid trucks. Marketers for truck manufactures also rely on keywords such as “maximum towing,” “hard working,” and “heavy duty” when it comes to selling trucks, and a hybrid truck doesn’t give off that vibe. But a main concern is that electrical motors function better in vehicles designed to weigh less. Sadly, pickup trucks tend to be some of the heaviest vehicles on the road, which is why in general, pickup trucks have poor gas mileage.
However, Ford has recently announced a change to the build of their most popular truck—debatably the most popular truck: the F-150. In 2016, all new F-150s will be built with an aluminum body instead of steel, which is currently used in most pickup truck designs. This change in design should cut 700 pounds off the F-150’s frame, creating a much lighter and more fuel-efficient truck, even without a hybrid or an electrical engine. This technological advancement increases the potential of fully functional hybrid engines being put in trucks.
Ford’s technological breakthrough and the continuous prototyping of hybrid trucks from various car manufacturers makes it feasible that a fully functioning hybrid truck could be on the road soon. The weight issue of pickup trucks can be solved by Ford’s switch to aluminum bodies. This would allow hybrid engines to drive at their highest capacity without sacrificing any of the truck’s towing or torque power. A hybrid truck could still be a truck well suited for rigorous tasks.
Even if it takes 50 years for hybrid trucks to reach the road, the development of hybrid truck prototypes suggests that the automotive world is moving in the hybrid direction. For aspiring automotive technicians, this means staying on top of what green initiatives are being put into place on certain vehicles. By doing so, you can keep up with the evolving industry and be better prepared for your future.