LOS ANGELES - On any given day, you might see dozens of pickup trucks getting things done on the road, and at job sites. They're the true workhorses of vehicles.
Now a new, very different kind of pickup truck is being readied for production. It's a plug-in electric vehicle.
"We designed this to be a direct replacement for a gas or diesel truck," said Steve Burns, the CEO of Ohio-based Workhorse Group, Inc.
The new Workhorse W-15, which made its debut at a commercial vehicle trade show in Long Beach, was primarily intended as a commercial truck. Workhorse already produces electric cargo vans, used most notably by UPS for city delivery needs.
On a full charge, the W-15 pickup was designed to run on battery power for about 80 miles. That range should be perfect for smaller cities and other fleets that stay close to their base and can recharge at night.
But Workhorse decided that a truck like this would be much more useful if it could go longer distances and could truly replace a conventional pickup truck.
"We have a small generator on-board which is designed to keep the batteries charged for trips out of town, longer duty shifts for emergency crews, and so on," Burns added.
The system is not unlike the one in the Chevy Volt passenger car, which is now in its second generation as a plug-in vehicle that can go extended distances with the motor/generator under its hood.
ABC7's Car Specialist Dave Kunz was invited to test the prototype W-15 for a brief spin around a parking lot, and he said it drives pretty much like any other electric vehicle. Power comes on instantly and quietly. Cargo capacity is 2,200 pounds, towing capacity is 5,000 pounds, and it has 4-wheel drive.
In other words, it's designed to have real pickup truck capability.
Workhorse has also fitted it with some cool features to further appeal to commercial buyers. Since pickups often need warning lights, the W-15 has them built into an overhead roll hoop as an option.
And another option on the truck could replace gasoline-powered generators at work sites, in order to further save fuel and reduce emissions. An on-board inverter allows for 120-volt power to run things like work tools, lights and more.
For consumer users, the W-15 could provide at-home backup electricity in the event of a residential power outage.
Workhorse estimates the price will be about $50,000 when deliveries begin toward the end of 2018. A basic conventional pickup is closer to $30,000, but fleet operators often factor fuel and maintenance costs into their long-term budgeting.
Here, the W-15 will pencil out nicely, said Workhorse, due to much lower energy costs and much less need for maintenance.
Workhorse said regular consumers would be able to buy one sometime after commercial deliveries begin. Workhorse was in the process of setting up a dealer network for retail sales.
"We initially saw this as strictly a commercial vehicle," noted Steve Burns of Workhorse. "But then we quickly realized that it would have great appeal to consumers as well."
Workhorse will build the W-15 pickup alongside its other commercial electric vehicles at its factory in Indiana.