President Donald Trump surprised electric vehicle insiders when he announced General Motors will sell its Lordstown, Ohio, plant to Workhorse Group Inc. to produce electric pickup trucks in a Tweet on Wednesday.
GREAT NEWS FOR OHIO! Just spoke to Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors, who informed me that, subject to a UAW agreement etc., GM will be selling their beautiful Lordstown Plant to Workhorse, where they plan to build Electric Trucks. GM will also be spending $700,000,000 in Ohio…
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 8, 2019
Workhorse builds electric commercial vehicles such as trucks, delivery vans and even drones. However, the company has failed to bring a fully electric vehicle to market. And its W-15 pickup is still in development several years after its public debut.
Trucks.com drove an early prototype of the electric W-15 truck in 2017 at the Advanced Clean Transportation Expo in Long Beach, Calif. Here’s what we learned:
- Electric power: The Workhorse W-15 is powered by lithium-ion batteries made by Panasonic that are mounted to the floor of the truck, lending it a low center of gravity. The batteries power dual electric motors that give the W-15 about 450 horsepower and 80 miles of all-electric range.
- One fast truck: The electric motors make the W-15 accelerate like a freight train, quickly building momentum in near silence. Since it doesn’t need to change gears, the truck rushes forward without interruptions. It goes from 0 to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds.
- Range extender: A small 1.5-liter three-cylinder BMW gasoline engine provides extra driving range in case the batteries run out of charge. The engine generates power to operate the electric motors – it does not drive the wheels on its own.
- Work site toughness: Though the W-15 is meant primarily as a statement piece for construction foremen, it’s engineered for strength. The truck has a maximum payload capacity of 2,200 pounds and maximum towing capacity of 5,000 pounds.
- Braking issues: While the electric powertrain provides more than enough muscle, the W-15 needs brakes more suited to the task. The W-15 is not tuned to automatically brake when the gas pedal lets off, as many automakers’ electric vehicles do. Workhorse may make regenerative braking more aggressive for production.
- Carbon fiber body: The prototype Trucks.com tested used body panels made of lightweight carbon fiber to make the vehicle rigid yet light. The material helped the W-15 offset the hefty weight of the batteries. Production versions will use more cost-effective composite plastic.
- Unfinished model: Workhorse planned to make changes to the W-15 driven in 2017. Its body panels were creaky, and some fit and finish could be improved, especially on the interior.
- 2018 changes: The company revealed a slight redesign in 2018 that featured a modified chassis and new bumpers. It also had a longer cabin, a 6.5-foot bed and an optional roof-mounted light bar. Standard safety features include automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning and blind-spot monitoring.
- Unknown future: Workhorse accepted thousands of deposits for consumer and commercial versions of the W-15 pickup truck. But the company has released few updates since the 2018 redesign. In March, executives announced Workhorse would hold off on the W-15 and focus on electric vans due to financial setbacks.