A Greater Cincinnati manufacturer is rolling out what it believes is the first electric pickup work truck for fleet usage.
Workhorse Group Inc. (Nasdaq: WKHS) is expected to begin production of the Workhorse W-15 light duty pickup truck in 2018. The trucks will have an 80-mile battery range along with a gasoline generator that will begin operating once the battery power has been depleted.
“We believe this will be the first plug-in range-extended electric pickup truck built from the ground up by an original equipment manufacturer in America. It’s not a conversion vehicle,” Workhorse CEO Steve Burns said in a statement. “We feel the extended range capability from the combination of Panasonic batteries and an on-board generator will deliver the performance that fleet managers expect from a work truck.”
Duke Energy, the city of Portland and the city of Orlando’s municipal fleet have signed non-binding letters of interest to purchase the trucks for their respective uses. Duke Energy has said it could purchase as many as 500 trucks.
Burns said the pickup truck market is one of the most competitive landscapes where Workhorse could operate because they're the most-purchased vehicles in the U.S. He said Workhorse officials have been talking to fleet managers who said they've been waiting for greener pickup options.
"There's definitely a cry for it from fleets," Burns told me. "Once we found out the appetite was there and the price point would be applicable, we surveyed them to see how big the battery pack needs to be."
Burns said the 80-mile battery power should be plenty to handle most days for fleet vehicles but the generator option was created to facilitate longer drives such as when Duke utility workers have to drive to parts of the country affected by hurricanes and other disasters.
For now, Burns said Workhorse is targeting utility companies with its new product and focusing specifically on fleet usage.
"To come with something completely different, we think that's how a small company like us will be able to break into the industry," Burns said.
The trucks are expected to lower fuel and maintenance costs for fleet managers while reducing overall emissions. Burns said the trucks will also be the safest pickups on the market with the largest crumple zone and lowest center of gravity.
Workhorse recently expanded its deal with United Parcel Service to include 200 additional trucks for its delivery routes. UPS previously had 125 of those vehicles on the road. The new pickup trucks will use similar battery packs, Burns said.
Workhorse is also creating prototypes for the United States Postal Service. It's one of six finalists for what would be a $5 billion federal contract.