- I drove all three electric pickup trucks on sale in the US.
- The Rivian R1T, Ford F-150 Lightning, and GMC Hummer EV are three very different takes on the electric truck.
- They all offer more than 300 miles of range and lots of interesting features.
Sleek Teslas got Americans interested in electric vehicles. Big pickups could launch them into the mainstream.
After all, Americans love their trucks.
And there's good news for anyone considering swapping their gas-drinking F-150 for something a little greener. Three battery-powered pickups are now on sale in the US, up from zero just over a year ago.
To some, they might all seem about the same. They all have a bed and some electric motors, and none come particularly cheap.
But the Ford F-150 Lightning, GMC Hummer EV, and Rivian R1T couldn't be more different. I drove all three and learned all about their highs, lows, and special features.
The F-150 Lightning is the most traditional of the bunch. It looks nearly identical to the gas-powered F-150 inside and out — and that was the point. Ford aimed to electrify its best-selling vehicle without messing with it too much.
There's an electric powertrain deep inside, but no need to relearn how to drive.
Stomping the accelerator instantly reminds you that you're not in just any truck, though. The Lightning's 775 pound-feet of torque and 580 horsepower enable it to scoot to 60 mph in around four seconds. Acceleration is instantaneous and a little scary in such a big vehicle. At highway speeds, the Lightning is surprisingly quiet.
And the Lightning delivers fun features that aren't possible in conventional trucks. Its spacious front trunk provides lockable storage that can fit a few duffel bags. Using several outlets scattered throughout the bed and frunk, the Lightning's battery can share enough energy to power a house for several days.
The Lighting has the most mainstream appeal of the three trucks and a relatively attainable price to match. The 2023 model starts at $51,974. But if you want maximum range, get ready to fork over $81,000 and up.
On the other end of the spectrum, you have the R1T, the very first model from the startup Rivian. The firm took the basic contours of a pickup and grabbed the opportunity to create something completely new and different.
The result is a high-end, tech-heavy, off-road truck aimed at outdoorsy types.
Like Tesla, Rivian shuns practically all regular buttons in favor of a big touchscreen that controls almost everything in the vehicle, from drive modes to the direction of the air vents. Tapping a screen for every little thing can get tiresome and distracting, but Rivian's interface is beautifully designed. And the lack of switches allows for a clean, minimalist interior.
What mainly blew me away about the R1T were its many, many thoughtful and one-of-a-kind features.
There's the Gear Tunnel, a cargo area that runs sideways behind the rear seats and has doors that double as steps or seats. There's an air compressor built into the bed for inflating tires after a day on the beach or trails. There's a flashlight that pops out from the driver's door and a portable speaker that lives under the center console.
And the truck's off-road capabilities are off the charts thanks to a monstrous powertrain, a comprehensive system of cameras, and an adjustable air suspension that provides up to 15 inches of ground clearance. I'm a novice off-roader if there ever was one, and I found great success on the trails simply pointing the R1T at treacherous obstacles and pressing the accelerator.
For now, the R1T starts at $87,000 and is only available with four motors and a 314-mile battery pack. Cheaper versions are on the way.
GMC Hummer EV
The new Hummer is a lot like the one that was discontinued 12 years ago. It's huge, excessive, and above all else a very good way to get noticed. The main difference is that this one guzzles electrons, not gas.
The Hummer EV is supremely capable, particularly in the $113,000 Edition 1 trim that I tested. It boasts 1,000 horsepower, three motors, a positively ridiculous 60-mph sprint of three seconds, and a segment-leading 329 miles of range. It's billed as a tremendous off-roader, but I wasn't able to test that out during my weekend loan.
Plus, it's packed with outlandish features that are just plain fun.
It has a removable roof made up of four glass panels. It has a large front trunk. It has a spacious, flashy interior and a screen that plays video game-like graphics every time you switch drive modes. (When you switch into Off-Road mode, for example, the display shows a Hummer trundling across the surface of Mars.)
The addition of rear-wheel steering enables the Hummer's most-hyped feature. With Crab Walk switched on, the Hummer's rear wheels turn the same direction as the fronts, allowing it to drive diagonally.
It's fun to experience, but doesn't seem all that practical on a day-to-day basis. And that pretty much sums up the Hummer as a whole.
These trucks serve such vastly different needs and personalities that crowning a winner is almost no use. It's kind of like comparing a mountain bike, a road bike, and a folding bike — they're just different. Still, since these are the only electric trucks available right now, there are bound to be at least a few people cross-shopping them.
For me — a weekend adventurer who appreciates modern style and a smaller form factor — the Rivian's friendlier proportions and outdoors-focused features take the cake.