Ford Can Fix the Biggest Problem With Pickups When It Goes Electric

Without a big engine, it doesn't need a high front end.

Front end of the F-150
Front end of the F-150.

 Screen capture/ Ford Motor Company

Writing in Bloomberg, David Zipper summarizes the problems with SUVs and pickup trucks, including the design issues we have complained about many times.

"The American fetish for SUVs and trucks isn’t just an environmental disaster. It’s an urban safety crisis. Larger vehicles that share streets with pedestrians and cyclists are more deadly than compact or mid-sized cars, both because their greater weight conveys more force upon impact and because their taller height makes it likelier they will crash into a person’s head or torso rather than their legs. Worse, because SUV drivers sit so much higher than similarly sized minivans, blind spots can prevent them from seeing people standing in front, especially children."

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has said pretty much the same thing.

"Past research has found that SUVs, pickup trucks, and passenger vans pose an outsize risk to pedestrians. Compared with cars, these vehicles (collectively known as LTVs) are 2-3 times more likely to kill the pedestrian in a crash. The elevated injury risk associated with LTVs seems to stem from their higher leading edge, which tends to impart greater injury to the middle and upper body (including the thorax and abdomen) than cars, which instead tend to cause injury to the lower extremities."
F-150 factory
F-150 factory.  Ford Media Center

Meanwhile, Ford is building a giant new factory to build their new all-electric F-150 pickup truck, to be launched in 2022. They have not revealed what it is going to look like, other than the teaser in the Ford video. It will have dual electric motors, which are a lot smaller than the big engines under the big hood on a gas-powered truck. And where the engine used to be? According to Ford, "A giant front trunk on the electric F-150 adds even more cargo-carrying versatility and security to help protect and move valuable items."

Coming mid-2022
Coming mid-2022.  Screen Capture/ Ford

Kyle Field at CleanTechnica expands on this:

"Up front, Ford plans to use the now vacant real estate under the hood to let owners safely store valuable gear. 'It has an enormous front trunk,' Farley said. 'We call it the frunk.' Sounds familiar. Jokes aside, the addition of a large frunk to a work truck is a huge win. Open bed trucks force owners to add expensive lock boxes or to store tools in plain site [sic] inside the cab. Converting the area under the hood to lockable, secure, out-of-sight storage for owners is a huge win and brings much needed functionality and security to an already attractive package."
Streetscooter electric truck
Streetscooter electric truck. Ford Media Center

This is of course why most tradespeople use vans instead of pickups, but there is also an opportunity here for a huge win for pedestrians and vulnerable people outside of the pickup truck. Ford could make a smaller front trunk and they could slope it down to the front so that drivers could actually see who was in front of them. They could design it to meet safety standards for pedestrians as they do in Europe, which is why the electric truck Sami Grover showed us (above) based on a Ford Transit, has such a low sloping front end, designed to absorb the force of the collision and allow the person who is hit to roll up onto the hood. Without a gasoline engine there, it could be even lower and safer.

Front of a Ford
Front of a Ford.  Lloyd Alter at Canadian Auto Show

But as Jim Farley, incoming CEO of Ford says, "we are preparing to build a fully electric version of America’s most popular vehicle, and it will be a seriously capable, purpose-built tool for serious truck customers." They are not going to mess with success and make it look like a wimpy Transit, real men NEED frunks and a high front end, especially with all those deer and moose you see on city streets.

The shape of the hood matters a lot.  Euro NCAP

Of course, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which is responsible for safety could actually regulate this and demand that Ford and Rivian and Tesla make their electric pickups safer for pedestrians.

But then I listen to James Owens, the Deputy Director of the NHTSA, and lose hope of them regulating anything, they are just cheerleaders for the industry now.