Electric Trucks and The Aftermarket

Foretelling a swell in consumer demand, Ford's all-electric F-150 Lightning received 200,000 pre-orders before a single unit was assembled, and newer buyers are waiting for months before they're allowed to reserve a truck. Even so, numerous specialty-equipment companies already offer products for the Lightning, including suspension and tire upgrades as well as exterior accessories. Courtesy Ford Motor Co.

A Nascent Growth Market Presents Fresh Opportunities

›››By Douglas McColloch

Electric pickups currently comprise less 1% of a $220 billion global truck market, but rapid growth in the segment is forecast for the remainder of the decade as legacy OE manufacturers roll out more electrified pickups and SUVs, and as startups such as Faraday, Rivian and Lordstown Motors carve out new market niches. According to a recent white paper published by Grandview Research, the global electric vehicle (EV) pickup market is expected to rise in value at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 49% every year through 2028, with a total valuation of $9 billion by the end of the decade.

For specialty-equipment manufacturers that are already invested in the truck and SUV market, the entry of new vehicle platforms into the marketplace portends a promising new revenue stream in an already-thriving business sector. Consider the following data from the most recent "SEMA Truck Accessorization Report":

  • Pickup owners spent $16 billion on specialty parts in 2021. That's roughly a third of the entire specialty-
    equipment market.
  • 62% of late-model pickup accessorizers buy off-road-focused parts for their trucks.
  • 84% of late-model truck accessorizers plan to make additional modifications in the foreseeable future.

Additionally, nearly half of all specialty-
equipment businesses view battery-electric pickups as an opportunity. For companies willing to invest in this sector, whether an established truck supplier or a fresh startup, getting in on the ground floor of a burgeoning industry can be a key to future growth.

A SEMA Education Seminar, "The Electric Truck—Tap Into New Opportunities," featured a panel of EV industry experts representing a range of market segments who shared their professional experiences for companies looking for insights on the latest EV trends. What follows is a summation of their insights, edited for clarity and length.

Lordstown Motors' Endurance pickup first went on sale last November. The truck utilizes a four-motor setup—one at each wheel—to deliver true four-wheel drive. Total horsepower is in the 440 range. Courtesy Lordstown Motors

The Light-Duty Truck Manufacturer

Edward Hightower, President and CEO
Lordstown Motors

Founded in 2018, Lordstown Motors is a startup OE manufacturer with facilities at the former GM assembly plant in Lordstown, Ohio. Its Endurance EV pickup truck, released in 2022, was a finalist for the North American Truck of the Year award.

One of the challenges we face in the short term is building additional awareness and just getting people to try out the truck. As an example, we had about 33 journalists test-drive the Endurance as part of the 2023 North American Truck of the Year competition a few months ago. And most people, once they drive an EV, they're hooked. They get into the truck, and they feel the benefits and the handling. There's less body roll in the vehicle, and the ability to control torque at each wheel makes the vehicle incredibly responsive on all road surfaces, on-road, off-road, snow, ice.

So, as consumer awareness grows, we think demand is going to continue to grow and we'll be in a position where demand is going to exceed supply. I think that's going to be the biggest challenge for the near term.

The exciting part about most EVs—our truck included—is that they will give our commercial fleet customers a lower total cost of ownership. You're not paying for gasoline, and you're not paying for oil changes, and you're not paying for air filters. Our maintenance intervals are significantly longer than what you would see for an internal-combustion engine (ICE) vehicle. Our first maintenance is approximately 30,000 mi., so you're not bringing it in at 5,000 or 10,000 mi. as with ICE vehicles.

Capability, handling and responsiveness are also big benefits of EVs, but in addition, many companies and many commercial fleets are looking at their ESG (environmental, social and governance) objectives. Many of them are looking to 'green up' their fleets. Many of them are looking for ways they can meet their sustainability objectives. And we feel our product is a significant step in the right direction for that.

›››Florida-based Electrified Garage is currently the only EV conversion company in the United States with multiple locations. Full conversions start at $50,000.

The Repairer/Installer

Chris Salvo, CEO
Electrified Garage

Electrified Garage is a full-service repair and customization shop that also provides complete electric-vehicle conversions. The company currently operates three locations in the state of Florida.

Everybody knows Tesla isn't the best at service, so we kind of saw a void in the market. We provide service, maintenance and repair, but we also do a lot of customization stuff. We do anything from wheels and tires to suspension upgrades, performance upgrades and electric conversions as well. We'll take a gasoline vehicle and put an electric motor in it—or we can put a V8 in a Tesla instead.

The biggest thing affecting the aftermarket is that the market hasn't quite caught up with everything that's already out there. For instance, we had to develop from scratch a plow frame setup for a Model Y because a customer owns a bunch of property up in New Hampshire and wanted to be able to plow his property. So we sat down and made a plow frame and got it all hooked up and working.

But there are other issues for this kind of a crossover vehicle. It needs additional ride height. It needs to have the suspension balanced from front to back with all that additional weight up front, so we had to put air suspension in it as well.

On the subject, suspension is going to be a big growth market. Everybody wants to lift or lower their truck. They want to put bigger wheels and tires on it. But also, from a conversion standpoint, there are opportunities. We took an old '72 K10 pickup that was owned by Robert Downey Jr. and we took a Tesla drive unit and spun it sideways—made it a transfer case, basically—and then put an 85kW pack in it.

People kind of want the old stuff in addition to the new stuff. There's nostalgia with the old models, but you also want to have the car set up so that it turns on every day. You don't have to worry about a carburetor and everything else.

›››In business for 77 years, Battle Motors manufactures a range of electric medium- and heavy-duty vehicles for both the commercial and public-utility sectors. Courtesy Battle Motors

The Commercial Manufacturer

Kelleigh Ash, CEO
Battle Motors

In business since 1946, Battle Motors (formerly Crane Carrier Co.) is a manufacturer of medium- and heavy-duty trucks that includes a full line of all-electric commercial and utility vehicles.

The top priorities for us are safety, sustainability and innovation. A lot of us are looking to decrease our carbon footprint, no matter what type of business we operate in, whether that's manufacturing or restyling. The light-duty space is very different than the commercial space as far as the standards that exist, as well as the level of technology that's going into the trucks. The great thing about what we're doing is we're making the innovations both on the powertrain side—the components that are going into the

We're also partnering with aftermarket companies to make it easier, safer and more efficient to install. We partnered with a company called Mobileye to install collision-avoidance ADAS features into our trucks. A lot of OEMs are creating these technologies themselves in-house for speed-to-market, but we partnered with Mobileye to be able to provide these features in commercial vehicles.

The hard part about EV conversions with commercial vehicles is weight distribution—and when you're talking about commercial vehicles that have a GCWR of up to 100,000 lbs. in the agricultural space, it becomes even more of a problem. When you're talking about putting that EV powertrain into a powerboat or speedboat, that's very different. Being able to calibrate collision avoidance or lane centering to account for the body roll of an 80,000-lb. truck versus an 8,000-lb. F-Series is very, very different.

So, making sure those calibrations are completed so the aftermarket doesn't have to figure it out is something that we are working on, but we're also making sure that the calibrations are clear and easy to do. For the aftermarket, our partnerships with both Mobileye Connect and T-Mobile have allowed us to push through over-the-air updates into our software and in real time, but also to provide shops with installation instructions. They can order parts directly from our tablets—and being able to do that all remotely over T-Mobile's network has been a really great partnership.

The Journalist

Jerome Andre, Editor in Chief
EV Builders Guide

Based in the United Kingdom and published by Engaged Media, EV Builders Guide launched in 2022 with an emphasis on the growing EV conversion and retrofit markets.

We all love to modify our cars and our trucks, so I don't think the drivetrain is going to make any difference. If we were driving steam-engine trucks, we would still want to modify them. I think it's going to bring more innovation, more interest and a younger audience. I can only see the world of EV cars and trucks really taking off, and we're seeing a significant growth in both OEMs and specialists fully embracing OE modification.

But the retrofit industry has been just exploding—not only in the United States but in Australia, in Europe and in the United Kingdom in particular. This is now a global phenomenon, so be ready for [the 2023] SEMA Show—you're going to discover even more EVs and modified EVs than you've already seen.

The new EV truck buyer has no prior experience in the truck, so our book helps them with entry-level enthusiast upgrades and modifications that they're looking for, or for particular parts that they want to buy for their own personal truck upgrades. We're aimed at newcomers to the EV world who can discover new OE vehicles and the new modifications you can bring to them.

I, for one, was really surprised when the F-150 Lightning came out. So many shops were already bringing suspension kits and wheels and tires for the vehicle, so the whole industry is embracing the EV world. And to be fair, if you work in the ICE world, you can probably embrace the EV world, too.

The Educator

Tim Cachelin, Design Engineer
Legacy EV

Founded in 2019, Legacy EV says it can provide complete EV conversion kits for virtually any light-duty car or truck, up to and including Ford Model Ts. The company also provides a complete EV technician certification program.

At the 2021 SEMA Show, we rolled out our education course that was virtual, self-paced and designed for a first-time builder who had some mechanical skills. Even if that individual or institution decides to move into OEM EV work as well, they will still have a foundational understanding of what a DC converter does and what a battery management system is and how that works and how to calculate power in an EV.

At this point, we've taken vehicles to visit 10 major cities to bring that education out to people. Beyond that, we're also developing curriculum packages for trade schools, junior colleges and high school auto shops. There's been a ton of money and investment in infrastructure, particularly from a governmental standpoint, so now is a good time to roll this out.

One of the problems with EV conversions is sourcing parts. You have to source from maybe 20 different places and know how to put everything together. And then, if something's not working and you need support, you need to start calling. So you call the battery guy, and the battery guy says, "it sounds like a battery management thing to me." So now you call the battery management guy, and he says "that's a charger thing for sure." So now you're just going around in circles. So, what we've decided is, let's be the one-stop shop. Let's be the place where they can get education, support, parts, kits, everything. And so, with our kits, what we've done is we've pulled together all these different components from different manufacturers that previously you'd have to run down on your own.

We've also built an authorized installer network where people will call us and say, "Hey, can you convert my vehicle?" We'll say, "No, but where are you located? There's a couple of authorized installers in your area who might be able to help you." And so, to become a part of that program, it typically starts with a phone call.

›››Faraday Motors' FF91 luxury crossover has a claimed cruising range of 380 miles and a 0–60-mph acceleration time of 2.7 sec. Courtesy Faraday Future

The Luxury Manufacturer

Brent Dreher, NVH/Durability Manager
Faraday Future

Founded in 2014, Faraday Future is the manufacturer of the FF91, a 1,050hp luxury crossover SUV. The company has also competed at Pikes Peak and on the Formula E circuit.

Think about your normal day. You're very well connected and entertained by the world through the internet. Whether you're at home with your smart TV or at work with your workstation, you've got connection, you're connected to the world. But it's a little bit more of a dead zone when you're in your car because the car is more a box on wheels than a smartphone on wheels today.

You have home and you have the office where you're well connected. We call those internet living spaces. Our vision is to basically turn the vehicle into the third internet living space. We want the car to be alive, awake, a living thing that you are interacting with rather than just getting you from point A to point B. To do that, you need a very good cell network signal. Our particular vehicle has a multi-modem where we can connect to multiple cell networks at the same time and fuse that data connectivity, that bandwidth, into one strong signal no matter where you are in the country.

You want a strong Wi-Fi hotspot in the car? You'll also need voice control as well as artificial intelligence. So, you take all these new technologies, put them all together using a heck of a lot of computing power and make it all work. That's what people want, and that's where we're headed.

Voice control works better than having buttons on your dash. You don't have a button that says, 'navigate me to the nearest five-star restaurant.' That button doesn't exist. Instead, you tell the system what you want, and it dynamically and intelligently responds to that.

Now, you can imagine if you're in a super-noisy diesel truck, that voice control is not going to work so well. So here is where EV propulsion really helps maximize the benefit and capability of these advanced infotainment systems—because you're getting a quiet driving experience in the cabin, your voice control systems suddenly work. Your artificial intelligence can do its thing. So, this is really where we see a fusion of electric propulsion and these advanced infotainment systems coming together and making something that's mind-blowing.

Legacy EV Technician Certification Program at the 2023 SEMA Show

›››Legacy EV, which made its first SEMA Show appearance in 2021, will host a day-long EV Certification course for industry professionals at the 2023 SEMA Show.Courtesy Electrified Garage

For industry technicians looking to expand their customer-service base to include owners of electric vehicles, battery EV conversion company Legacy EV is hosting a day-long EV certification program at the 2023 SEMA Show. The program, featuring both lectures and lab work, will provide a brand-agnostic, hands-on training opportunity for automotive techs to upskill themselves with a new understanding of EV powertrains.

The one-day training course will focus on the fundamental functions of EV powertrains and will explore key high-voltage safety practices. Trainees who complete this course will receive an EV101 certification from Legacy EV. During training, attendees will get to work with real EV powertrains and tooling on Legacy EV training benches. Subjects to be covered include EV tooling and specifications, EV safety, zero voltage verification, block diagrams, verifying functionality, and vehicle data and design.

This EV 101 Certification is a gateway to full EV certification; it's an entry-level course that represents approximately 10% of the required course competencies to become fully EV-certified. Total cost of the program is $600, which can be applied towards a full Legacy EV Certified Technician course. The program is on Monday, October 30, 9:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m. in North Hall at the Las Vegas Convention Center. For further information about Legacy EV's education programs, visit www.SEMAshow.com.