In this Truck and Towing Trends column, we’ll look for the latest information about trucks and tow vehicles with insider stories and tips about tow vehicles of all sorts.
Trevor Milton, founder of electric truck company Nikola, is being charged with fraud as a grand jury indicted him. While there was lots of hoopla about Nikola’s pickup and semi truck, it turns out that they over-promised and reached for the sky.
If you saw the truck featured in the Super Bowl advert, it had to be plugged in at the unveiling. Then those fancy digital displays it had were basically tablet computers that were put there for show.
In order to get moving video of the truck, it wasn’t powered by some sophisticated electric or hydrogen power train, but gravity. Yep, they backed it up a hill and rolled it back down, according to information in the indictment.
While Rivian and Tesla do seem to have a legitimate new pickup on the horizon – though how far on the horizon remains a mystery – Nikola’s Badger truck was essentially a re-badged and customized Ford F-series truck.
Milton has resigned from the company. According to The New York Times, the allegations were brought about by short sellers who had interviewed people at the company. That is where these issues were found.
Can I tow with a Jeep?
I see more and more people in RV groups that I belong to on social media wishing to tow with a Jeep.
Can I tow with a Jeep? The bigger question is should you tow with a Jeep? And what about the new Ford Bronco, which is a direct competitor?
It’s not what you can tow
What a lot of people get hung up on is when the vehicle manufacturer states that a vehicle can tow a certain amount of weight. The way this is measured is with a flatbed trailer with weights on it, so there is absolutely no consideration taken for wind resistance.
Furthermore, all vehicles, including semis, have a measured amount they can carry. The designers of the vehicle are keenly aware of what those vehicles can carry weight-wise. This is almost more important than what a vehicle can tow behind it.
So to look at the Jeep Gladiator Sport, which is very popular in groups right now as a potential tow vehicle, the most it can tow is 4,000 pounds in the most ideal configuration.
Let’s take you, your co-pilot, your dog, and a few other things that you might bring camping. Like a cooler.
Since Jeep is sending out photos of the Gladiator towing an Airstream let’s take a look at the one I most recently wrote about, the Airstream Pottery Barn special edition.
Just out the gate, that trailer is significantly more than the Jeep is rated to tow at 6,600 pounds. In fact, even the lightest two-axle Airstream, the Flying Cloud, is 1,000 pounds heavier than what the Gladiator is rated to tow.
I’m a firm believer in leaving reserve capacity on things. I don’t like to load or tow more than about 70 percent of what my vehicle is capable of. So, with this in mind, the Gladiator is not a suitable tow vehicle for the Airstream Pottery Barn special edition. In fact, it’s not suitable to tow any two-axle Airstream even though there are pictures of it doing so distributed by Stellantis, which is what the Chrysler brand is now.
If you look at the press photos of the Gladiator towing an Airstream, you’ll notice that the rear suspension is pretty compressed. That means the headlights are significantly misaligned. That also means that the weight on the front wheels is not optimal either, and your handling is compromised.
More bad news
While you might be looking at the numbers being bandied about as “ideal,” know, also, that the vehicle that is the most capable is the Gladiator with a manual transmission. I’m not sure how many folks are opting for this, and I would. But you reduce towing capacity further with an automatic.
If you’re thinking the Bronco is a different story, it’s really not. The Bronco is specifically targeted at the Jeep Wrangler family and has very similar cargo-carrying capacity between 1,170 to 1,370 pounds.
Now the good news
The good news about both the Jeep Gladiator and the Ford Bronco is that they are great vehicles for those who wish to flat tow. Both vehicles are capable of being flat towed with the right options and packages. This is likely owing to the fact that you can put their transfer cases in neutral, essentially disconnecting the engine and transmission from the wheels altogether.
More Maverick news
In last week’s Truck and Towing Trends, I highlighted Ford’s new Maverick hybrid pickup. Ford is touting that the Maverick is the first pickup to be standard with a hybrid drivetrain.
Well, if you can get one.
Apparently Ford has stated that they’re prioritizing the more pricey two-liter four-cylinder version of the truck. According to sources, if you want the hybrid version, which is the more affordable model, you’re going to have to special order one. And wait. And wait.
The base Maverick made a lot of noise coming out of the gate with an MSRP of just $19,995 before shipping and taxes and all of that. What you’ll likely find at a Ford dealer is the $22,575 version or the $24,795 all-wheel-drive version.
Eventually, expectations are that Ford’s hybrid version will consist of up to 40 percent of production, so the news isn’t all bad.
Did Toyota hint at a diesel Tundra?
Toyota has a pretty popular YouTube channel where they explain technologies and tell other aspects of the Toyota story. But recently there was a video on the channel that talked about diesel power and was a pretty detailed explanation of how it works.
While Toyota sells a lot of diesel-powered trucks all over the world, they don’t sell those to us American customers. The thing is, the YouTube channel is from Toyota USA. So some have speculated that the company will start selling us diesel-powered trucks sooner rather than later.
This would make sense, as even Nissan offered diesel power in their full-sized trucks for a while. So will Toyota bring diesel to the Tundra just as other manufacturers are hedging their bets with larger gasoline engines in anticipation of stifling government regulations? We shall see.
The company does have a diesel that would work well here in the new 3.3-liter diesel announced along with the latest Land Cruiser. This engine delivers 304 hp, but, more importantly, 516 lb-ft of torque. That would be a great rival for the Chevy/GMC, Ford and Ram smaller diesel engines.
However, this engine would also be very well-suited to the Tacoma and 4Runner. This would be a great engine in either of those as well. Chevrolet/GMC has already set the precedent with the Colorado/Canyon diesel.
Electric Vehicle statement
I got this in my email on August 6 in regard to the Federal Government’s goal of increasing the number of “zero-emissions” vehicles. Take it for what it’s worth.
Today, Ford, GM and Stellantis announce their shared aspiration to achieve sales of 40-50% of annual U.S. volumes of electric vehicles (battery electric, fuel cell and plug-in hybrid vehicles) by 2030 in order to move the nation closer to a zero-emissions future consistent with Paris climate goals.
Our recent product, technology, and investment announcements highlight our collective commitment to be leaders in the U.S. transition to electric vehicles. This represents a dramatic shift from the U.S. market today that can be achieved only with the timely deployment of the full suite of electrification policies committed to by the Administration in the Build Back Better Plan, including purchase incentives, a comprehensive charging network of sufficient density to support the millions of vehicles these targets represent, investments in R&D, and incentives to expand the electric vehicle manufacturing and supply chains in the United States.
With the UAW at our side in transforming the workforce and partnering with us on this journey, we believe we can strengthen continued American leadership in clean transportation technology through electric vehicle innovation and manufacturing. We look forward to working with the Biden Administration, Congress and state and local governments to enact policies that will enable these ambitious objectives.
Tony comes to RVTravel having worked at an RV dealership and been a lifelong RV enthusiast. He also has written the syndicated Curbside column about cars. You can find his writing here and at StressLessCamping where he also has a podcast about the RV life with his wife.