Tesla Cargo Van Coming Too?


Ford Transit Cargo Van

Ford Transit Cargo Van

In the lead up to the Tesla Gigfactory grand opening event, Tesla CEO Elon Musk was more active than usual on Twitter. The CEO’s biggest revelation via Twitter in recent days was that the upcoming Tesla bus would actually be a minibus built on the Model X chassis.

Following on from that, Twitter user James Ross questioned Musk, asking why no Ford Transit van killer? If Tesla builds a truck and a minibus, then why not a cargo van too? As Ross explained, “no on drives pickups in Europe,” which isn’t entirely true, but the cargo van is definitely more popular across the pond than trucks, so a Tesla van would seem to make sense.

Here’s the brief Twitter discussion:

Musk;s Tweet On Cargo Van

Musk;s Tweet On Cargo Van

So, if we see a Tesla cargo van at some point in the future, then it’ll likely make use of the Tesla truck chassis. The Tesla truck was first revealed as part of Tesla Master Plan Part Deux. We don’t expect to see the truck in production for several years though, so a van would come even later than that.

Ross followed up with this comment on the wheelbase differences between the Ford F-150 and Ford Transit van:

Wheelbase Comparison - F-150 & Transit Van

Wheelbase Comparison – F-150 & Transit Van

A minibus, a pickup truck, a semi, a CUV, a van….what’s next Tesla?

Categories: Tesla


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35 Comments on "Tesla Cargo Van Coming Too?"

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Pickups are RWD with high bed. European cargo vans are FWD with a low load floor. Trying to serve both markets with the same chassis is probably not a good idea.

Indeed, their proposed plan makes no sense. The Transit is loosely based on C segment frontend with a ladder chassis welded up to the front clip and a torsion beam rear suspension.

There is no reason to base this off a pickup truck, none, nada.

You start with a Model S, you keep the frontend motor, ditch the rear and install a torsion beam for the rear wheels (no drive).

You end up with a perfectly servicable van on the Model S underpinning and battery, and the 70-100kW front motor is more then enough to “go” for “Van drivers”.

To add insult to injury, the Clark Connect is basically a older model year Fiesta.

Don’t forget, Elon said, at the Model 3 Reveal: “Tesla doesn’t build slow cars!” – so I would think the same will apply to their Trucks and Vans!

If they go just front wheel drive, for a Van, they will put more power there than the Model S has, I think.

You can’t handover high-powered, high-performance vehicles to low-paid, low-grade drivers.

The machines would be destroyed in no time at all and somebody would probably get hurt.

Computers will handle a good deal of the driving. That’s how the more fuel-efficient transmissions work today, anyhow. While the power is there, it only needs to be applied when it’s needed.

That’s not the same as when any clod puts down their foot.

What about 3 options? FWD, RWD or both.

seth said:

“There is no reason to base this off a pickup truck, none, nada.”

Yeah, I suspect this was an off-the-cuff remark by Elon, without much thought behind it. As others have said, I don’t think it makes sense to try to use a Tesla pickup chassis for a much larger and heavier “cargo van” truck. Especially since I think it likely that the first Tesla pickup will be a small to medium sized pickup, not a large one.

I did notice that one of Elon’s quotes said a “new kind of pickup”

Based on that, everything we think we know about pickups we can toss out the window. It may not be rear drive with a high bed.

I won’t even try to guess what it will be, but it won’t try to compete with the F-150 by being an F-150 clone. It’ll do it in a completely different way.

Elon has specifically said Tesla is going after the F-150.

Full size pickups and the SUVs based on them generate ~70% of global profits for the Detroit Big 3. If you want to force Detroit to electrify you go after their cash cow.

Reasoning by analogy because legacy automakers did X this way with ICEv then Tesla must do it the same exact way with BEVs is faulty logic.

It may very well make perfect sense to go after the European truck market with a full size pickup chassis.

Tesla is approaching 14k employees and growing quickly.Plus Tesla will soon adding 15k Solar City employees.

Tesla must learn to walk and chew gum at the same time. It can’t roll out 1 new product every 4 years.

Rob Stark said:

“Reasoning by analogy because legacy automakers did X this way with ICEv then Tesla must do it the same exact way with BEVs is faulty logic.”

Yes, and that’s exactly why we should not expect Tesla’s first pickup to much resemble an F-150, even if Elon says he’s targeting that market.

Just my opinion, of course.

Tesla followed the formula when they attacked the luxury sport sedan market. The US pickup market is even less accepting of change. Look at GM’s ads trashing Ford’s “radical” use of aluminum. Gorillas in cages? Seriously?

If Musk wants to attack the Ridgeline market, then sure. Feel free to go wild with FWD, low bed height, whatever. The F-150 market? Better stick to the formula.

Tesla should go after the new Postal Service vehicle.

I’ve agreed with this for a long time.
Surely they could strip down an X. All the USPS needs is a shell, a battery and a motor. ALL the expensive stuff isn’t necessary.

The Post Office expects their delivery vehicles to last 30-35 years. I think UPS expects about the same lifespan for their delivery vans. Tesla vehicles, at least to date, are built like passenger cars, with an expected lifespan <20 years.

Never say never, but at this stage of company development, I don't think Tesla is a good fit to make utility or delivery vehicles expected to last 30+ years.

Great idea, but why not just electrify the LLV instead?

Full disclosure, my uncle worked at Grumman when the LLV was designed and started production. He claimed he designed the bumper modules, but we have no evidence of this.

It’s true: some people in Europe do drive a pickup: people who want to show off with their big ass, shiny car. No one uses pickups for what they’re intended in Europe. They use panel vans for that.

Not so many people use them for their intended purposes in North America either.

I own a pickup truck, and I will admit, in the moderate climate I live in, I don’t use the 4WD much. As a third car type of utility vehicle, I do find I drive it more than I want to. It’s absolutely necessary to have, due to it’s utility capabilities. In that, I “discovered” Sprinters many years back and wondered why American companies had no equal. Then I discovered the “Chicken Tax” of the 1960s and it all became crystal clear. Today, Ford and now FCA have busted open the Chicken Tax by selling their European vans here in N.America. While I thought the Ford Transit would be a good option to the Sprinter, oddly Ford priced it near Sprinter levels even though it’s built in the USA. So the Sprinter remains the best van out there – unless your needs are to have a gas engine instead of a diesel. Now Mercedes ups it’s game by selling the Metris van here – a smaller ( midsize ) van that again has no equal by competitors. My main drawback is I don’t want to buy a new vehicle that is not even a hybrid, let alone full BEV. To… Read more »

Interesting comment, James, but I confess this comment is completely opaque to me:

“Thing is – a van is dry without purchasing a heavy canopy that breaks your back when you try to step up into the space.”

Can’t decipher any part of that, especially not the “dry” and “breaks your back” parts. I’d appreciate it if you (or someone) could rephrase that or explain what is meant.

Thanks for pointing out my err …Point of the post was pickup trucks vs. vans.

A van is enclosed ( dry inside ) vs. an open pickup that requires a cumbersome and expensive canopy to keep your cargo dry. Canopies are expensive, don’t give you direct access to your cargo, force you to bend over and break your back to get inside and deal with your cargo, and to top it all off ( no pun intended 🙂 ) Truck canopies are not very secure – can easily be broken into.

Trucks are America’s #1 most popular vehicle. I think vans need a closer look.

There is another thing which makes vans popular especially in Germany.
Whereas the huge cargo-space compared to a pick-up truck is a great advantage for contractors working in local areas, it also enables contractors to do cross country jobs (many small contractor companies based in East-German cities (or even Poland) send there workers out to do jobs in West or Southern German cities every week). They arrive Monday morning and leave Friday afternoon, having all equipment and parts on board. Same goes for service teams from the larger machine manufacturers based in South and West Germany. Vans do not fall under a general speed limit like Semis or smaller box-trucks (not the pick-up kind) and one can see them on the Autobahn almost always going top speed (>100 mph).

As the midsize to large van market heats up…I expect more price competition and hopefully more clever powertrain options. A full BEV Sprinter would be great for companies that do their deliveries in town. Surely it wouldn’t work for the lion’s share of companies as they need to be spontaneous if a job is needed – can’t wait for a charge. Hybrid versions of Transport and Sprinter would be fantastic. YouTube shows a very light hybrid version of the Sprinter testing, I think Mercedes marketed it, but it was too expensive, so they pulled it. Do some deep Google and you can find a nice plug-in Sprinter hybrid van that made the show circuit a few years back but the company never produced any for public sale. FCA’s Fiat van or “RAM” over here, has a tinny engine and FWD. It’s more affordable up front than it’s competitors with a lower load floor due to no drive shaft. Thing is, the FCA is not of the same caliber as a vehicle as the Mercedes or Ford. GM has stood on the sidelines, refusing to jump in the competitive pool. Google images shows some Renault full sized vans with heavy camo… Read more »
I LOVE VANS! *Can you tell? 🙂 More food for thought: A Tesla van is perfect for versatility in that a FWD, AWD and RWD version could easily be designed. The larger motor could be up front for FWD, which would be an attractive option for areas located more northerly, but moderate in climate, like Seattle. The AWD version a no-brainer for tne Northeast and Canada. A RWD van for everyone else. Being so low profile with the motors, power electronics and gearcases between the wheels allows advanced options for a low load floor and maybe even stand up utility inside WITHOUT the high roof option!!! WOW!!! That is a big deal! The limiting factors are price and range. This category of vehicle puts trillions of miles on the job each year – the C02 and pollution improvements would be significant. When there is a Supercharger on every corner, and battery cell prices plummet due to mass production – I can see the BEV van with super fast charging ( say full charge in 20 minutes or less ) becoming the go-to tool for all companies needing vans. Until then – it would be local tool only. Is the crowded… Read more »

Isn’t there enough on Tesla’s plate already?

Every vehicle or tuner they’ve released to date has, to my mind, inexcusable problems; only a fraction of which have been adequately addressed.

In my own ownership experience, any door, or door lock apparatus (whether made by the Ford Motor Co. or not) on my Roadster had not been permanently fixed. Although I certainly could have, I’ve never invoked NY State’s Lemon Law since I was so enthralled with the idea of an electric convertible.
But other minor things like 5 cooling fans in 4 years of ownership show that Tesla simply at the time, was not ready for the truck market. These vehicles will not be ‘babied’.

Judging from owners’ troubles on subsequent vehicles, I’m resigned to agreeing with Don C’s analysis that Musk is not interested in Quality, merely Quantity.

Bill Howland said:

“Every vehicle or tuner they’ve released to date has, to my mind, inexcusable problems; only a fraction of which have been adequately addressed.”

Every auto maker has dissatisfied customers, Bill. Tesla has a 98% customer satisfaction rating. Of course that doesn’t mean that Tesla cars are perfect; there is room for improvement, just as there is for every auto maker. But that doesn’t mean it’s appropriate to focus on the relatively few problems, rather than Tesla’s often breathtaking innovation, and they way they make everything work together as a cohesive whole, a gestalt, far superior to any vehicle from any other auto maker. A cohesive whole which has garnered Tesla more “Best car of the year” and more reviews saying “This is the best car ever made”, than any other car ever.

From all your posts, Bill, it certainly looks like you’re one of the 2%, not the 98%.

YOU have no experience with electric cars, and have no intention of purchasing one. You have no experience with the hardships we EV owners go through.

Rather like a 7 year old telling an experienced adult he doesn’t know how to do his job because he read something else in Wikipedia.

:”Isn’t there enough on Tesla’s plate already?”

absolutely. I wouldn’t count this vague comment from Elon as meaning a Tesla Van will be coming pretty soon. It’s an interesting idea though.

I think the all electric semi is the most challenging project. Where do you put the superchargers????

In a Flying J of course??

Can you imagine if Tesla offered these high end Semi tractors with free super charging??

I think everyone under estimates what can be done.

The Chicken Tax effectively kept lots of great foreign-made vans out of our country…Giving Americans no choice besides pickup trucks and pickup truck-based gas guzzler vans like the Econoline Series from Ford and Chevy’s Express vans.

Most likely why the car companies pushed for it to be snuck into page 150 something of the Chicken Tax. Typical Washington D.C. politics. Surely Congressmen were paid off liberally. Only in the last couple of years have car companies skirted the Chicken tax, but really nice vans such as VW’s T6 vans are still not allowed into the country (without extreme tariffs).

On the RV front. Tesla’s plug in van, a PHEV or a VIA-style EREV van/van chassis with cab would also be a great fit for RV manufacturers since many RVers frequent campgrounds where there is always a supply of electricity to plug into.

RV buyers oft are retired and want to spend time exploring our great continent. Since the buy-in for most RVs is steep…imagine the burden on these folks and families who travel – to pay for 5-12 MPG!!! Many more folks would RV if they could get a good class C that got decent mpg. Go shop and many van campers cost north of $100,000! Wow!

Well there’s one company that make what your dreaming of.


It’s interesting, but it’s not cheap or available in america.

Some time in the late 1980s, I realized that panel vans are a better choice than pick ups in many cases. I bought a used 1982 VW Transporter (Vanagon) T3 in 1991 and have never looked back.I now drive the Nissan equivalent (3L Inter-cooled Turbo diesel) and would be thrilled to get a Tesla equivalent as my next Van! The Volkswagen T5 Load compartment volumes range from 5.8 m3 (200 cu ft) to 9.3 m3 (330 cu ft). As usual, most people in the US are completely unaware that these vans exist even though the worldwide market is huge. Out of Japan there are: Mitsubishi L300, Nissam Urvan/Caravan/NV350, Isuzu Como, Mazda E Series and Toyota Hi-Ace. Out of Europe: Ford Transit, VW Transporter, Mercedes Vito, Vauxhall (GM) Vivaro, Renault TRAFIC and Peugeot Expert. Just for kicks, below is a link to a video of someone horsing around in a Toyota van. This one has probably had the motor swapped for a 1JZ (straight six) or the 2JZ, 3L twin turbo out of the Celica Supra. Someone in my neck of the woods has a older van than the one in the video with the 1JZ turbo motor swap. It is… Read more »

If you’re curious, look up the Chicken Tax on WIkipedia.

It was law passed in Congress by the American Senate and House. Plainly a protectionist law for American poultry farmers against lower-priced foreign poultry – as goes with politicians – the American auto industry managed to get provisions buried inside this mundane law that put huge import tariffs on trucks and vans from outside our borders.

This “hidden” law prevented Americans the chance to see what amazing, efficient diesel vans from Europe could do. Instead, we got a steady stream of body-on-frame trucks and vans with old, tired tech V-8 engnes that suck gas like a vacume cleaner sucks dirt!

Huge profit margin for American car companies, and a huge rip off of the American people. Meanwhile – super efficient, multi-purpose practical and versatile vans showed the rest of the world how to haul – camp, travel and have fun.

4+ decades later, the pickup truck with heavy frame and big gas-gulping engine have taken over the N. American auto world. Even women now want to look tough and handy – a single driver using these big rigs mostly for usual domestic duty like grocery shopping and commuting.

“…This “hidden” law prevented Americans the chance to see what amazing, efficient diesel vans from Europe could do.”

No thanks… This American does not want to live in an atmosphere such as London or Paris that has made children sick by all the Diesel particulate and NOx pollution.

I only drive electrically around town, but I’ll take the relatively clean v-8 gasoline entrails before I’d want any of the “Clean Diesel” crap that made kids sick.

Did this actually get released?