Expert Insights

How Much Range Do EV Pickups Lose When Hauling?

Laurance Yap
June 22, 2023
EV pickups have awesome features and performance, but how much range do they lose when fully loaded? A recent study from the AAA finds out.
Ford F-150 Lightning towing an Airstream trailer along a mountain road

How Much Range Do EV Pickups Lose When Hauling?

EV pickups like the Rivian R1T, Ford F-150 Lightning, and the Chevrolet Silverado EV have captured a lot of attention, as they offer all the versatility and ruggedness American truck owners love with the advantages of reduced fuel costs and zero emissions. These trucks all have great features, impressive technology, and range that’s more than adequate for most day-to-day needs. But questions have arisen about how well they can cope with large and heavy loads. If you’re towing a trailer, for instance – especially one with a large front area – you can expect to see an EV pickup’s range drop significantly. But what about if you are carrying a heavy load in the pickup bed?

A recent study by the American Automobile Association (AAA) attempts to quantify just how much range you might lose if you fully load your electric pickup truck. The results aren’t surprising: when you load up an EV pickup with heavy cargo, the electric motors have to work harder, draining the battery faster and reducing the truck’s range. The same thing happens, after all, when you load up a gasoline pickup to capacity: MPG suffers, and you can’t go as far on a tank of gas.

The Effect of Weight on Range

Using the popular Ford F-150 Lightning, the electric version of the best-selling American pickup truck (and the best-selling vehicle for 46 years), the AAA found its range dropped about 24.5 percent when loaded almost to capacity. When it was filled with 1,400 pounds of sandbags – about 110 pounds shy of its limit – the Lightning’s range dropped from 278 miles to 210 miles. On the one hand, that’s a significant drop; on the other hand, maximum payload would affect the range and energy consumption of any vehicle. Most buyers will rarely maximize their vehicle’s load capacity – which would mean a much smaller reduction in range.

In general, heavier payloads will reduce the range of any vehicle, especially an EV. Load up your passenger car with five people instead of one, and you won’t be able to go as far on a tank of gas or on a full charge. The extra weight of passengers or cargo simply requires more energy to move. For EV pickups used for work, permanent loads, such as equipment racks, tool boxes, and other items, might reduce the range even without any cargo.

One nuance specific to EVs is that highway driving, which typically involves higher speeds, with very little braking, will further reduce range. Electric cars and pickups use regenerative braking to help charge the battery when slowing the car down, so long distance cruising is actually less efficient – the opposite of a gasoline vehicle.

chart comparing Unloaded Range and MPGe vs Loaded Range

EV Pickup Range: The Future

The AAA points out that battery technology is still in its infancy, and will continue to improve over time, which will also result in improved range in all electric vehicles. And it also mentions that even with current technology, EVs like the F-150 Lightning are still more energy-efficient than gasoline-powered vehicles when it comes to total energy consumption. It’s just that re-filling an electric vehicle still takes longer than re-filling a gasoline vehicle.

That said, buyers who really want to haul heavy loads over long distances should probably consider a hybrid or gasoline-powered pickup truck. Ford and Toyota both offer hybrid options, for instance, that could get up to 500 miles per tank when unloaded.