Ask Nathan: A 300-Mile Range Electric Truck Already Exists, Closely Examining Tesla’s Lead And Frequent Recalls

Electric Truck -- SAIC Maxus T90
(Images: SAIC Motor)

In this week’s Ask Nathan:

  • Sorry Ford, a 300-mile range EV pickup truck is already available!
  • Tesla is so good, I’m buying some stock (a closer analysis)!
  • Are all these recalls a good thing?

The first question comes from a viewer who is sick of our EV pickup truck banter, and mentions a 300-mile range EV pickup that’s already in production.

Q: Blah blah blah about the Ford Lightning all you want when there is clearly a 300-mile range EV pickup that already exists!

Everyone at TFLtruck goes on and on about the Ford Lightning being so amazing. They talk and talk about the Rivian being a game changer. Where is the Hummer? I don’t see it anytime soon do I? Everyone who talks about the Tesla Cybertruck acts like it is a masterpiece by King Elon.

I am sick of all that. You guys forget to look at other markets and see for yourself that these amazing non-existent trucks are to late to the game. Sometimes you and Andre talk about the world market which is good. But you are never on both sides. You need to see this.

Check out for yourself and try to call me a liar!

— Ting

Electric Truck -- SAIC Maxus T90

A: Wish you would have sent me a link to the 300-mile range EV pickup truck you’re talking about.

I think you’re talking about the SAIC Maxus T90 EV.

Please forgive me if I dug up the wrong truck, but you didn’t leave me any clues. This is one of the few 300-mile range EV pickup trucks I could find in production.

I have to agree with one point you made: none of these EV trucks are here as of now. On top of that, just reported that Rivian is delaying their EV pickup truck again. In other, overseas markets, industrial electric trucks have been in service for many years. I suspect we’ll see a major confluence of our EV pickup market shortly.

I get your frustration, but in our market, pickup trucks are the biggest selling vehicles – by far. The idea that electric versions of these vehicle are coming has grabbed consumer’s imaginations. It’s new territory for us, and it’s exciting. That’s especially true when you consider what the performance expectations are.

It’s not just about range.

Anyway, let’s look at the SAIC Maxus T90 EV. It appears that the (midsize) T90 has a permanent magnet synchronous motor that makes 174 horsepower and 229 lbs-feet of torque. It’s hooked up to a 88.55 kWh battery. It’s listed to have a top speed of 65 mph.

SAIC says it has a 332 mile maximum range, but I am unable to find towing and payload numbers. Also, I am forced to conclude that this a rear-drive pickup truck as well. Prices start at approximately $46,400 USD (it retails at CNY 299,800).

It’s a pretty good bet that it would pull a maximum of 5,000 lbs – at a significantly reduced range. Also, it may not be ideal for off-road. That battery probably lowered the payload numbers on the truck. I would guess it would be at, or below 1,000 lbs.

With these numbers in mind, I don’t think this truck would work in our market, even if it did pass our stringent DOT requirements.

Electric Truck -- SAIC Maxus T90 vs Ford F-150 Lightning
This is the 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning (Image: Ford)

Another way to look it is by using the Ford F-150 Lightning base model as an example. The smaller battery pack on this (full size) truck allows for a 230 mile range, but the optional bigger battery nets 300 miles. More to the point: the base model Lightning makes 423 hp, 775 lb-ft of torque, and has standard four-wheel drive. The base model can haul up to 2,000 lbs and tow a maximum of 7,700 lbs with the max tow package. Those are just the basics.

Technologically speaking, in a completely different league. Oh, and the base price will be $39,974.  

I suspect that the slew of upcoming EV pickups heading our way will have competitive numbers as well.

With all that being said, you’re right – other automakers were first. Still, just because you’re the first one to arrive at the dance, doesn’t mean you’re a good dancer.

Thanks for the email!

— N

The next question comes from a fan who wants our take on his Tesla insights.

Q: I have been researching Tesla and trying to estimate the lead they have over competitors.

Huge die casting machines, robotic manufacturing, battery tech, almost total control of manufacturing process to name the major areas.

Solid state batteries, hydrogen power are not ready for prime time and realistic time lines for either technology don’t exist. (2025 to 2030) Tesla goes into production with their second generation of batteries in early 2022. The holy grail of 500 mile range will be attained. (Rivian should make it too, limited manufacturing capability will be a limiter for them) but mainstream/old school companies, GM, Ford, BMW, VW, Mercedes, Toyota, Chrysler/Fiat (or whatever it’s called this week); Ford is the best of this group, all seem way behind.

Watching teardown videos on YouTube, the comparisons of Tesla vs Mach-E, vs. VW ID.4, dramatically show that starting from a blank design sheet, Tesla takes the advantage of a clean design. Mach-E has oodles of hoses everywhere and VW has way too many bolts and screws holding things together.

If Tesla can fix the quality issues and get a lobotomy to adjust their crappy service, I don’t see how the others compete.

So, I bet on Tesla by buying some stock, (at $664/share just a few shares), and to hedge my bet bought some Ford stock since trucks not going away anytime soon.

All this leads up to my question, do you and your cohorts at TFL agree with my evaluation? Please tell me I’m wrong before I lose my shirt.

Thank you and please continue to provide the best coverage of all things that go on two, three and four wheels.

— Joe M

In The Wake Of Coronavirus, Tesla Factory Will Remain Open

A: Thank you for the great email Joe!

(I am not a fan of how some folks at Tesla can change the investment game with a simple Tweet.)

The gang and I agree with a lot of what you stated, the potential for greatness is there. I find that the underpinnings of Teslas are extraordinary. Unfortunately, like you mentioned, the quality and service behind Tesla products leaves a lot to be desired.

Do you like spots? I look at Tesla the same way I view certain professional athletes. As I yell at my television during an upsetting game, I know, I simply believe – that they are capable of so much more. In some cases, I know it’s yet another bad call made by the coach, other times – the player simply isn’t ready.

TFL Studios has owned three Tesla vehicles. They were awesome in their own way, but imperfect. My big gripe with Tesla is still with pricing. Not only is it often in flux (with base models suddenly vanishing and whatnot), but it’s exorbitant. I see Ford and Volkswagen keeping a majority of their vehicles within a realistic price-point for many. On top of that, service and quality will be better. So will media relations.

I know that, with a few adjustments, Tesla could trounce all EV competitors. Unfortunately, over the years when they could have set the overall bar too high to reach, they showed the automotive world their weaknesses. Now, they will have to fight a battle with more things being equal.

I can’t advise you on trading, buying, selling or Bitcoin giveaways – but I can say that Tesla needs to clean house, and shape up a bit. The sheer amount of resources their competitors have (and are beginning to tap into) is bewildering.

The last question comes from a fan who wants to know if all of these recent recalls is a good thing.

Q: (via Twitter@NathanAdlen) It seems like there are more recalls than ever before.

Do you think it’s because the quality of manufacturing has gone down over the years?

— Volker B

recall lable
NHTSA recall label on mailings.

A: That’s a great question.

Overall automotive quality vastly over the years. So has safety – and safety precautions. Yes, we are seeing more recalls to a certain extent, but it’s based on quicker reactions to issues. It is SO much easier to report problems to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) today. It’s also much quicker for automakers to issues information to the public. All of that is thanks to the new level of telecommunication we’re seeing in the modern age. In many ways, better communication is helping everyone get the word out faster.

Another part of that may have to do with perception. We see transportation organizations, automakers and media react to recalls in such a tight time frame, some information may be repeated. One recall can be echoed on a variety of different forms of media (emails, phone calls, letters, news-feeds, social media, etc.), and all of it is for safety’s sake.

All in all, it’s good news. We’re hearing about potential issues rapidly. In today’s environment, automakers are well aware that, failure to issue appropriate recall information, can hurt their reputation (and their pocket books).

Thanks again for the question!

— N