The word “maverick” comes to us from cattle ranching and means an unbranded calf or yearling. Over the years, it has also come to mean an unorthodox or independently minded person. Synonyms for maverick include individualist, nonconformist, free spirit, and trendsetter. The first Ford Maverick was a sporty two door coupe sold from 1970 through 1977 that was based on the Falcon chassis — the same chassis that formed the basis of the original Mustang.
Fast forward nearly 50 years and the Maverick name has reappeared in Ford’s lineup, this time as a compact pickup truck that is smaller than the current Ford Ranger. That in itself is big news, but what will really knock your socks off is that it comes standard with a hybrid powertrain that gets up to 40 miles per gallon in city driving.
Jennifer Sensiba first told the CleanTechnica community about the new Maverick pickup truck a few days ago. Since then, some new details have come to light. First, the base version of the truck will list for $19,995 according to TechCrunch. Car and Driver puts the starting price at $21,490. The difference is probably because one includes transportation charges while the other does not.
Way back in the ’60s, Datsun and Toyota introduced America to trucklets — handy sized pick-em-ups that were just perfect for weekend handymen who needed to haul building materials and appliances once in a while but drove them like passenger cars most of the time. America fell in love with these bite-sized machines, which soon spawned competitors like the Ford Courier and the Chevy L’UV.
But then Americans decided (with quite a lot of encouragement from manufacturers) that they wanted 4 doors, room for 5 passengers, leather seats, infotainment screens, and enough torque to rip stumps out of the ground or haul a camper to the mountains. To meet all those demands, the manufacturers started reducing the size of the cargo box, the very thing that was supposed to be the essence of a pickup truck in the first place.
The new Ford F-150 Lightning has a 5.5 foot bed, the new Ford Ranger has a 5.3 foot long bed, while the Maverick will make do with a 4.5 foot long cargo box. That’s barely long enough to get a 4′ by 8″ piece of sheetrock home, even with the tailgate down, but the Maverick does have 4 doors and room for 5 humans inside its unibody structure. The relationship between bed size and passenger space really says all that needs to be said about what many people today actually use these vehicles for.
There may be minor differences between the Maverick Hybrid and the Ford Escape Hybrid, but the two powertrains are kissing cousins if not fraternal twins. For one thing, the electric motor that is part of the hybrid system for the Maverick is the first designed and built in-house by Ford. The truck has a 27 kW/1.1 kWh battery — the same as the Escape Hybrid — but the motor is something special.
According to Motor Trend, it is an internal permanent-magnet reluctance design. That means it places magnets in V-shaped slots that help maximize magnetic attraction at some angles and minimize it (maximizing reluctance) in others. Tesla uses similar motors on the rear of its Model 3 Performance cars and in the Raven spec Model S and Model X Performance and Long Range models. The new motor weighs 20% less than the unit used in the Escape Hybrid.
The new hybrid powertrain couples a 2.5 liter inline-four to the electric motor for a total of 191 horsepower. The package uses a CVT transmission driving the front wheels. Maverick customers who want all-wheel drive can select a 2 liter EcoBoost 4 cylinder engine mated to a 8 speed automatic transmission. Towing capacity is 2000 lb for the hybrid or 4000 lb with the EcoBoost engine. The Escape Hybrid is available with all-wheel drive and Ford says AWD with the hybrid powertrain may be offered if enough people ask for it. [Gee, who would want that, huh? … If you said “everyone,” go to the head of the class.]
Another trick Ford may have up its sleeve is a plug-in hybrid version of the Maverick. The sharp-eyed people at Motor Trend noticed the rear floor of the hybrid’s cab is slightly higher than the floor in the non-hybrid truck. The tiny hybrid battery occupies some of that extra room on the right side of the chassis, leaving plenty of room for a larger battery in the future. Is there a PHEV version of the Maverick in Ford’s future? The company scrupulously refuses to comment.
Even better than the extra fuel economy of a plug-in hybrid, Motor Trend says, is the availability of Ford’s Pro Power Onboard system that has proven so popular on some models of its full size pickup trucks. The ability to power up a campsite or a construction area miles from the nearest electrical outlet is a powerful sales tool. People are clamoring for this feature, which makes it likely someone at Ford is thinking about making it available to Maverick customers.
As it is, the Maverick comes standard with wifi connectivity plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. There are generously sized places for drink bottles and extra room under the rear seat for small coolers and the like. The truck is available in XL, XLT, and Lariat models, with off-road packages optional on the top two trim levels. Ford has already begun accepting orders for the Maverick in all its configurations.
One last word about the cargo box: It can carry 1,500 lb and comes with two 12 volt power outlets. 110 volt and 400 watt outlets are available. There are four tie-down points, four D-rings, and threaded holes in the side of the bed to bolt in custom concepts. Use your smartphone to scan the QR code inside the load bed for ideas about do-it-yourself upgrades like a bike rack.
As the American pickup truck gets bigger and bigger, many drivers find parking those behemoths to be a chore. Most of us have witnessed people backing and filling in parking lots as they try to squeeze into tight parking spots. Maybe, just maybe, folks don’t need a Stupid Duty to run a few trash cans to the local landfill or pick up a new circular saw at Home Despot.
The truth is, pickups today are used very much like the sedans of yesterday. They take us to work and back, bring the kids to soccer practice, or transport a couple of kayaks to the lake. Are there people who really use their pickups to haul big trailers or transport building materials in order to make a living? Of course there are, but full size trucks today often cost $50,000 or more. Is there a market for a truck that does 88% of what the big trucks do but costs half as much? Oh, you betcha.
At our monthly kugel and crepe fest last week, the CleanTechnica staff had a good laugh about the Maverick being a sort of Prius pickup, the vehicle Toyota could have made but never did. There were even a few suggestions that if Tesla offered such a vehicle at an affordable price, it would quickly become the best selling electric car in America. Everyone would want one!
What with the introduction of the new F-150 Lightning a few weeks ago and now news of the Maverick hybrid, Ford has suddenly become the legacy American automaker with the best products for the electric vehicle future. They really have got the bit between their teeth and are leading the way, while GM futzes with 9,000 lb electric Hummers that cost $112,500 and Dodge crams ever larger Hemi engines under the hood of its Ram pickups.
Ford’s offerings are aimed squarely at the heart of the market. That usually is a pretty astute sales strategy. With the new right-sized Maverick, Ford could very well have a major hit in the marketplace on its hands.