At a glance, it may seem that the pickup truck, the last bastion of cathedral-strength manliness, is taking an assault. First, there were reports of aluminum trucks. Then, Tesla—of all companies—wanting to try its hand at an all-electric pickup truck. And with a report that Ford and Toyota want to build a hybrid pickup truck today, you’d think that the ghost of Joseph McCarthy is taking a beating from the secret Reds in the Senate.
But wait just a second there, pardner. Ford and Toyota have been collaborating for the past year on how to increase fuel efficiency in pickups, and the fruits of this labor have indicated that a pickup truck with a hybrid drivetrain is the start of this partnership. Both companies need to achieve fuel-efficiency standards for their trucks and SUVs if they are to do business in America. And last year, their agreement concerned developing a hybrid platform for rear-drive powertrains.
Kevin Layden, the director of electrification programs at Ford, says that they’re working on a plan with Toyota, but who knows when a production vehicle might arise from all of this. For the engineers, there’s too much to sort out first, least insignificant of which is how a bed-load of battery packs can handle the workload of construction workers, lumberjacks, firefighters and weekend Home Depot gardening department devotees.
Towing is especially taxing to a hybrid drivetrain’s performance, Layden says. Maximizing fuel efficiency while paying heed to the growing arms race of towing capabilities—a 2013 Ford F-150 can tow up to 11,000 pounds—is key to the challenge. After all, the EcoBoost V-6 can tow that much and win over the critics of a six-cylinder pickup; why is it so much of a stretch to imagine that a hybrid can do the same?
There’s even a possibility that the Tundra and F-150 could share a platform, “I never say never about anything,” said Layden. Ford’s philosophy is designing vehicle platforms to accommodate electric drivetrains, rather than special one-off models. Toyota’s, it turns out, is similar. Prius notwithstanding, look at the Highlander Hybrid for big SUVs, and the Camry Hybrid for mainstream cars. Could a Tundra Hybrid be not far behind? How about a Tacoma Hybrid? CAFE regulations, like time, wait for no man.
Source: Ward’s Auto