Electric pickup truck or crossover/SUV? Let's see what was going on back in 2006.

All-electric pickup trucks have been a hot topic over the past year or two. That's not strange as electrification of the largest segment of the automotive market is one of the most important things to do.

There were multiple tries to electrify pickups in the past, but we don't have to go all the way back in time to the 1990s to read about one of the first all-electric pickups - like the Chevrolet S-10 EV and Ford Ranger EV, equipped with lead-acid or NiMH batteries.

Chevrolet S-10 EV (source: Wikipedia)
Chevrolet S-10 EV (source: Wikipedia)
Ford Ranger EV (source: Wikipedia)
Ford Ranger EV (source: Wikipedia)

Today, we will take a journey back into history to 2006, when California-based Phoenix Motorcars introduced its all-electric sport utility truck "SUT" and sport utility vehicle "SUV".

Those were probably the first electric pickups with lithium-ion batteries envisioned for series production, but as you can guess, it didn't make it.

At the time, Phoenix Motorcars teamed with a promising battery developer Altair Nanotechnologies, which was offering one of the first long-lasting LTO batteries, rated at up to 20,000 charging cycles. Moreover, those batteries were ready for 10-minute charging! It was a revolutionary solution.

However, the LTO batteries had also drawbacks - price and low energy density (but better than lead-acid). This is probably why they never really took off for cars, although they found a niche in buses in the following years.

Phoenix Motorcars equipped the prototype of SUV (converted from SsangYong pickups) with a 35 kWh pack (there was a 70 kWh option in the works as well) for 130 miles (209 km) of range. The bigger pack was supposed to increase the range to 250 miles (402 km).

The electric motors (100 kW peak) would be supplied by UQM. For charging, Phoenix Motorcars was targeting a 6.6 kW on-board charger and 250 kW DC fast chargers (something that Tesla was finally able to deliver more than 10 years later).

The starting price for the SUV was supposed to be $45,000 (as of 2007), but it was questionable whether the company would be able to actually deliver the product (several thousand in 2008). Those were turbulent times, and the company filed chapter 11 in April 2009.

The project was closed, but when we look at the specs, generally it was a move in the right direction. Just ahead of its time.

Phoenix Motorcars SUT target specs:

  • 130 miles (209 km) of range or 250 miles (402 km) with the bigger battery
  • 35 kWh battery (70 kWh option)
  • 100 kW electric motor
  • 6.6 kW on-board charger
  • up to 250 kW DC fast charging

Today, 14-years later, we are waiting for pickups with 100-200 kWh battery packs and they are closer to reality than ever before.

Let's take a look at a couple of videos with Phoenix Motorcars prototypes (both SUT and SUV) in the early days of YouTube, which recently turned 15 years old: