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Electric pickup trucks – are they suitable for agriculture?

In this article, James Grimshaw expresses his opinion on electric pickup trucks and asks if they are suitable for UK agriculture.

Electric vehicles have begun to dominate the national conversation around vehicles and transport. Over the past decade, electric vehicles have been constantly improved upon in design, and become much more affordable for both businesses and individuals to invest in.

With the climate crisis reaching a fever pitch, the pressure is on for industries to catch up with green initiatives. Agriculture is one such industry, responsible as it is for 10% of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

Electric vehicles are one part of the equation, and with the introduction of electric pickups on the market, the move to electric is close at hand. But some farmers are recalcitrant. Are electric pickups a suitable alternative?

Environmental and Financial Benefits

The environmental benefits of adopting EVs over petrol- or diesel-fuelled vehicles are well-evidenced.

The burning of fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, hastening the rate of global warming; on a more local level, the heavy metal and carbon particulates released by the exhaust have harmful consequences for local flora and fauna.

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Perhaps more importantly for the small farm, though, adopting an EV pickup over a gas-guzzler can have positive financial consequences. Fuel is costly, and a finite resource; recent fuel price instability was not an isolated incident, and further instability could make it prohibitively expensive for farmers to buy fuel. Besides, electricity is cheaper per mile as an energy source, as well as more reliable.

There is also the matter of vehicle maintenance. Electric pickups have fewer moving parts than petrol or diesel pickups, meaning fewer points of failure and lower maintenance costs.

Of course, there are aspects that remain the same between electric and fossil-fuelled vehicles. Your electric pickup is just as likely to need an aircon regas as your diesel pickup, to say nothing of the tyres and suspension being tested by the rural environment.

Charging Infrastructure

But electric pickups may not necessarily be a suitable option for rural environments, if only due to the state of charging infrastructure in the UK. EVs can be charged from a domestic 230V plug socket, but to do so takes considerable time. Fast-charging ports can be costly to install, and difficult for farms in hard-to-reach areas.

It is also the case that the UK’s charging infrastructure is not growing fast enough – and that some farmers may be less inclined to gamble with the range of an EV pickup over a petrol pickup with a jerry can in the back.

Infrastructural concerns are sure to be short-lived, though, as the government pours more funding into picking up the pace on EV charging port installation. Rural areas may be slow to catch up but will not be ignored as the demand begins to snowball over the coming years.

Payload and Towing Capacity

Another chief concern for farmers lies in whether an electric vehicle can truly rival the combustion engine for basic tasks like towing and carrying heavy objects.

The debate here is short-lived, though, as electric motors are capable of producing extremely high levels of torque – and doing so instantly. The only weak link in the chain is the pace of development for agriculture-friendly and heavy-duty electric vehicles, even as pickups begin to enter the market today.

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