Remember back when Daimler Trucks, the owner of Mitsubishi FUSO, the commercial truck lineup of Mitsubishi Motors, started making all-electric trucks? It was unheard of when the announcement happened back in the spring of 2017. Commercial trucks are known for taking care of heavy duty jobs, sometimes needing to tow tens of thousands of pounds. However, being that electric motors are able to generate more torque without straining too hard, all-electric trucks were a possibility. Soon after, electric off-road vehicles from an unknown automaker started popping up. It’s almost as if Mitsubishi FUSO gave the electric car competition a kick start.
Mitsubishi FUSO Kicks Off the All-Electric Game
We like to think Mitsubishi FUSO started the all-electric madness. Electric vehicles were still unpopular and seemed impractical back in 2016-2017. Barely any automakers made electric vehicles, even Kia, known only for the Kia Soul EV at the time. When Mitsubishi FUSO came out with the eCanter, the all-electric version of its Canter truck, they changed the minds of the auto industry and what could be.
When the eCanter was first announced, the goal was to have a towing capacity of 10,000 pounds and a fuel economy of 100 miles. As a Class 4 truck (GVWR between 14,001-16,000 pounds), the e-Canter’s GVWR of 15,995 pounds almost boost the electric vehicle into the next truck class, making the latter goal harder to manage. As desired, the eCanter does in fact have a load limit of 10,000 pounds, but even on a full charge, the vehicles only got about 62 miles. What might save this investment is when the eCanter was first released, only 500 units were made, using the lineup as a testing ground so the next model year could be modified and fixed up for better performance based on a survey of their performance.
Then came Bollinger Motors. These guys are based in New York, and might soon give Jeep® a run for their money. Initially, Jeep shied away from hybrid systems and electric vehicles. Although electric vehicles do help in providing torque, Jeep was looking at more than just off-road action. They also thought about the journey Jeepers take, and how they need the fuel economy of an internal combustion engine to get to their destination. With the 2018 Jeep Wrangler JL and the eTorque system, Jeep may have changed their minds, adding a mild-hybrid system to their powertrain with hybrid capabilities.
It’s possible the change for the Wrangler JL was Jeep’s response to Bollinger Motors. Bollinger Motors made an all-electric off-road vehicle to compete with Jeep and other off-road automakers. With a production-ready vehicle in 2017, the B3, this all-electric off-road truck featured a substantial 15.5 inches of ground clearance, a four-wheel hydro-pneumatic independent suspension, 10 inches of wheel travel, and disconnectable sway bars. The B3 was already shaping up to be a great option. Plus, with a chassis mostly made of aluminum and reinforced by a high-strength steel crash structure, the vehicle is lighter, and that gets rid of the fuel economy problem. So, electric off-road vehicles are possible, and the B3 shows what Jeep can accomplish.
Now we have Rivian Automotive, an automaker with a much lower profile in the world of electric vehicles. What really got news going was Rivian taking up space in an old Mitsubishi Motors assembly plant. It’s here that Rivian Automotive states they will be producing all-electric pickup trucks with a 450 mile range. Not only that, but they plan to make SUVs on the same platform, but with the capability to sit seven or eight people by adding an extended cabin and full second and third row seats where the truck bed would go.
At the moment, Rivian Automotive has claimed that their all-electric pickup truck will feature a ground clearance of more than 14 inches, be capable of climbing 45-degree inclines, and can handle up to 3.6 feet of water. Given their other specs, this truck from Rivian Automotive sounds like it could also prove some competition for Bollinger Motors and Ram trucks. With a range of 200 miles to 450 miles depending on the battery configuration (various options available) and the ability to accelerate from 0-60 mph in 2.8 seconds, this may be an electric truck worth keeping an eye on.
Mitsubishi FUSO may have given the electric world a kick start, but they also woke up a lot more names in the industry. The Fiat Chrysler Automobile Group invented the eTorque for the Jeep Wrangler JL and 2019 Ram 1500. Kia Motors started working on an all-electric SUV, the Kia Telluride. All it took was an all-electric commercial truck to get automakers thinking.