A couple weeks ago, Alpha Motor Company announced the Wolf+, an extended cab version of its Wolf EV truck. It appears to all be CGI at this point, but the appearance and specs it is promising look like a serious entrant into the EV market. What most sets these trucks aside, though, is that they’re similar in size to the small trucks that were sold until the 90s. In a world where trucks are getting bigger and bigger, these small and efficient trucks stand out from the pack.
It’s Not Your Imagination. US Trucks Really Are Growing.
This video from Donut Media really covers the issue well if you’re a video person:
There are three fundamental forces at work in the industry here: Demand for larger vehicles, space for safety features, and that larger vehicles are subject to less strict fuel economy standards.
Consumer demand for larger vehicles is a big one. Americans have always liked larger vehicles, and that trend continues. I’ve seen people go for small crossovers over a sedan, even when the crossover has less interior and cargo room (good example: Nissan LEAF vs Nissan Kicks). They go for the crossover because it looks bigger. They want their truck to be Big McLargeHuge.
There’s also the issue of space for sensors, airbags, clearance for airbags, crumple zones, and more. A bigger car can fit all of that in, while smaller cars just can’t. People tend to take safety ratings very seriously, so manufacturers are going to do what it takes to physically get there.
Finally, there’s the EPA’s “footprint” rule. Basically, you take the distance from rear axle to front axle and multiply that by the vehicle’s width. That gives, in square feet, the vehicle’s footprint. Vehicles with a high footprint get a discount on the gas mileage requirements they must meet, while small vehicles must be the most efficient. This gives manufacturers a financial incentive to make vehicles bigger.
Demand For Small Trucks Still Exists
This situation has left many car and truck enthusiasts wondering if any manufacturer would start selling small trucks again, but we seem to be a minority that the big automakers won’t cater to. Even Tesla’s first truck is going to be quite large.
With this niche market left largely unserved, enthusiasts are converting coupes and sedans into utes, or small car-based pickups like the El Camino of old. Some of them use kits, while others do custom builds. Within the Tesla community, the best example of this would probably be Simone Giertz’s “Truckla.”
With people willing to go through all this trouble just to get a small truck, there’s clearly a fair amount of demand for such a thing. Even with an efficient and clean electric drivetrain, some people just prefer the feel of a smaller vehicle, even for trucks. In the urban and suburban environment, there are also clear advantages in terms of parking and maneuvering for a smaller truck.
How Alpha Wants To Serve This Segment
The Wolf and Wolf+ electric trucks are a clear response to this. Not only are the vehicles smaller, but they’re also styled like an older small pickup truck, which will help them get a piece of the small truck nostalgia market.
It looks a lot like the trucks we used to see so much on the road, like the Chevy S10, old Ford Ranger, Nissan, and Toyota. The round headlight metal surrounds add that much more to the effect.
At the same time, the company is making the vehicle a very modern and capable EV. The specifications of the Wolf Plus are clearly going to outclass anything a small truck offered in the 80s and 90s.
Range will be 250-275 miles, with either an all-wheel-drive or rear-drive option. Not loaded down, Alpha claims 5.9 seconds for the 0-60. Towing capacity is an incredible claim at almost 7000 pounds. To handle all this, it has battery heating and cooling, as well as CCS rapid charging capability.
Torque and horsepower figures are not given.
The extended cab version has room for four passengers (2+2), as well as 40 cubic feet of cargo. Unlike any of the mini-trucks from the good old days, it will have a digital display in the center and for the driver, premium seat and trim material, Bluetooth, and a premium sound system. Details on software, etc are not out yet.
The trucks have a frunk, but they also seem like they’re going to have a variety of cool accessories for storage. A bed extender, a roof rack, and even a custom camper shell are all shown in renders.
Why This Matters
One thing this shows us is how much potential there is for EVs to meet the needs of many more people who were ignored before. The number of people wanting a smaller truck didn’t justify a company going against the advantages a larger truck gives (largely regulatory).
EVs aren’t up against fuel efficiency rules the way gas trucks were, so there’s just not a big advantage to making their footprints enormous. When that happens, it makes a lot more sense to serve small markets again. In other words, the company won’t be punished by the government for giving us a small electric pickup truck.
Another thing this will do is make for better EVs. A smaller vehicle, even if it’s not the most aerodynamic, will use less energy because they have a smaller frontal area. On top of that, lighter weights will help once again. This is better for both the environment and the longevity of the battery pack.
Finally, there’s an opportunity for the nostalgia factor to beat out the other cultural factors that favor giant pickup trucks. When someone is looking at their EV truck options, they won’t have to go with the same flow that everyone else does. For people my age, many of us rode in small trucks when we were kids in the 80s and 90s, so it’s a nice thing to be able to remember and possibly get back to again. Hopefully smaller trucks like this will help ignite a new truck counterculture that helps rein in the excesses in today’s truck market.
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