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  • Writer's pictureFlow Australia

Ute-turn: electric, hybrid utes ready for Aussie launch

Electric and hybrid utes are queuing up to launch in Australia following policy changes, and experts say they offer benefits which could attract new fans.

Toyota's prototype electric ute, the HiLux BEV, at Melbourne Showgrounds. Image AAP

Australia's love affair with utes is as powerful as their towing capacity, accounting for more than one in every five new vehicles sold.

But our devotion to the large motors presents a sizeable challenge when it comes to reducing transport emissions.

Utes have stalled in the race to hybrid and electric transport, and experts say the arrival of more environmentally friendly models in Australia has been further delayed by a lack of regulation.

However the trend could finally be turning around with three electric and plug-in hybrid utes expected to launch in Australia this year, and another three low-emission models slated to arrive in 2025.

Environmental group Solar Citizens is confident there is demand for lower-emission utes.

Australian motorists bought almost 250,000 new utes in 2023, representing a fifth of all new vehicles sold, according to the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries.

But none of those purchases were hybrid vehicles and the only electric ute sold in Australia, the LDV eT60, attracted just 79 sales.

Solar Citizens acting chief executive Joel Pringle says the low sales figure did not reflect motorists' enthusiasm for low-emission utes, but simply showed the nation's first model did not suit all drivers.

The environmental group drove LDV's electric ute – a two-wheel drive model with a 350km range – on a roadshow through more than 20 regional towns between Ballarat and Brisbane in 2023.

Mr Pringle says reactions to the battery-powered utility were largely positive, although many who saw or tested it wanted a model with greater power or more options.

"The early ute we took to the regions didn't necessarily meet everyone's requirements," he said. 

"EV utes have been slower to develop, even internationally, because they're larger vehicles but we are seeing progress and it's exciting to see them coming to Australia."

Lower emission utes announced for an Australian launch include a plug-in hybrid version of the country's top-selling vehicle, the Ford Ranger, as well as hybrid utes from BYD, GWM, and LDV.

Isuzu also confirmed it would bring its electric ute to Australia, and a local distributor, AusEV, announced it would convert Ford's electric ute, the F-150 Lightning, to a right-hand drive model for sale in Australia this month.

RMIT University lecturer Liam Davies says the announcements show Australia's New Vehicle Efficiency Standard is "a policy success" even though it's not due to come into effect until 2025.

"Under the system that will end soon, vehicle sellers in Australia have had no requirement or incentive to sell efficient vehicles, whereas they do in other jurisdictions," he said.

"Manufacturers are responding to the efficiency standard exactly as the standard is designed."

Expressions of interest are being taken in Australia for the Ford F-150 Lightning electric ute.

Australia's vehicle standard will set emission caps on automobile fleets, with targets starting in 2025 that increase until 2029.

While limits on utes and other commercial vehicles were relaxed in the government's final proposal, they will mandate that new utes produce 50 per cent fewer emissions by 2029.

Mr Davies says the policy will help Australia catch up to nations with standards already in place, such as the US where Ford sells a ute that is 20 per cent more fuel-efficient than the model available in Australia.

"Europe has well over 100 electric vehicles available in their market and last year we had less than 50," he said.

"This change should make more vehicles available to consumers and that should see increased innovation and more electric vehicles designed and manufactured."

Australian Electric Vehicle Association national president Chris Jones says the new ute announcements show low-emission technology has been ready for the road, but a lack of regulation has been holding it back.

"Hybrid technology has been around for at least 20 years and compelling electric light commercial vehicles have been around for 12 years," he said.

"The technology is not lacking but there have been cultural and financial motivations for companies to drag their feet."

Dr Jones says some ute drivers are already keen to swap their diesel utes for an electric model, although he warns the transition will likely begin slowly with early adopters telling their friends about their experiences.

The features of some advanced electric utes could hasten the shift, particularly when manufacturers launch utes capable of powering tools from their battery or providing electricity during blackouts.

"An electric ute is not the same as a petrol ute," he said.

"There's new opportunities that come along with them."



* Ford Ranger PHEV: A plug-in hybrid version of one of Australia's most popular utes is scheduled to launch early in 2025. The 2.3-litre four-cylinder vehicle could deliver a modest electric range of 45km.

* GWM Cannon Alpha: Australian motorists will be offered a diesel or a plug-in hybrid version of this sizeable ute when it arrives in coming months.

* Isuzu D-Max Electric: Revealed at the Bangkok International Motor Show, Isuzu has confirmed its electric ute will be launched in Australia, though has yet to lock in a release date.

* BYD Shark: The plug-in hybrid ute, tipped to arrive in Australia late this year, has been spotted on roads in Mexico and Australia.

* Ford F-150 Lightning: The electric version of Ford's large pick-up truck is yet to get a local launch date but distributor AusEV is taking expressions of interest for converted right-hand drive models, with availability this month.

* JAC T9: The new Chinese brand will bring its T9 diesel ute to Australia this year but has announced plans to follow the launch with a plug-in hybrid version in 2025.

* LDV Maxus: The company that delivered the first electric ute to Australia says it will bring this follow-up electric model in early 2025. It will be a four-wheel drive, replacing its two-wheel offering.

* Toyota HiLux Revo: The popular brand tested this two-wheel drive hybrid ute in Australia to evaluate how it handled local conditions. Its release has yet to be confirmed.

* Hyundai Ioniq T10: The automaker recently trademarked the name of its electric ute in Australia, though it has yet to confirm details or launch plans.


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