I Drive an All-Electric Heavy-Duty Pickup Truck – Here Is Your Glimpse Into the Future Of HD Trucks!

What!? 0-60 MPH in 4.6 seconds...

2023 gmc sierra hd magna ebeam ev electric pickup truck 2500

The GMC Sierra HD you see here is a demo truck that is built (not by GMC) but by the advanced engineering team at Magna. This is a glimpse into the future of heavy-duty pickup trucks. I get to drive this prototype truck on the snowy and icy proving grounds in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula near Brimley, MI. Here is what it is and how it drives!

This truck demonstrates Magna’s new all-electric eBeam rear axle and the eDS Mid+ front drive unit. They call it the EtelligentForce. It’s a fully integrated system with Magna’s latest software to make it all work together and enable all-wheel-drive capability, eLocker in the rear, and its own version of stability control. Oh yea, did I mention that this pickup has a combined 547 horsepower and a 0-60 MPH acceleration in 4.6 seconds (according to Magna)? Yea! This is the quickest accelerating heavy-duty pickup truck that I have ever driven.

magna gmc sierra hd ev etelligence force

Here is how it’s built. The team at Magna took a 2020 GMC Sierra HD 2500 AT4 and stripped out all of its internal combustion powertrain and driveline. It used to have a 6.6-liter gas V8 (401 hp and 464 lb-ft of torque) with a 6-speed 6L90 automatic transmission. The active AWD transfer case (made by Magna), driveshafts, and a standard rear axle were also removed. 

The beautiful part of these new electric components is that they are a direct drop-in replacement. The rear eBeam motor & gear set are about the same height as the rear differential “pumpkin” that was there before. The new eBeam uses the same suspension components and Rancho shocks that were there on the stock truck before. The weight of the axle assembly and the inverter is slightly more than the traditional axle they replace. Magna says the eBeam axle is about 40 lbs heavier than a standard rear HD axle. The inverter is mounted remotely (not on the axle) and the inverter adds another 10 lbs to the equation.

The idea here is to give the truck more electric power and torque, but keep its payload and towing capacities practically unchanged. Magna states that the prototype truck is rated to tow up to a 14,500 lbs trailer. We will talk about the driving range and the battery pack a little later.

Here are the specs on the rear eBeam axle.

  • Rated up to 335 horsepower & 7,375 lb-ft of axle torque
  • eLocker is available
  • Gross Rear Weight Rating (GRWR) is 7,495 lbs.

The front eDS Mid+ motor/inverter/gearset. The “Mid+” term refers to how this motor fits into Magna’s portfolio of powertrain products (from Low to High). 

  • Rated up to 228 horsepower & 2,780 lb-ft of output torque.
  • Decoupling capability of under 200 ms. 

What about the driving range and the battery. The prototype you see here has an 83 kWh battery that is located between the frame rails about midship and partially where the gas tank used to be. Magna says that they are working on battery enclosures for various manufacturers for battery sizes of up to 180 kWh. The company gave no driving range estimates for this prototype truck. Driving range and re-charge speed will be two obstacles HD truck manufacturers will have to overcome. It may be possible to get about 300-350 miles of range from a 180 kWh battery, but recharge speed has not been stated.

How does it compare to a gasoline-powered GMC Sierra HD 2500? Well, the crew cab 4×4 gas V8 production truck is equipped with a 36-gallon fuel tank. EPA states that a gallon of gasoline is equivalent to 33.7 kWh. Using this conversion, the gas V8 truck has approximately 1,213 kWh of energy in a full fuel tank. Compared to a 180 kWh battery, this is a huge difference. On the other hand, electric motors are about twice more energy efficient as internal combustion engines.

The team at Magna nailed the electric motor integration into this 3/4-ton pickup truck. I was unable to verify the 4.6-second acceleration time during my relatively short driving time, but I did a launch on a clear section of pavement and this truck simply puts you back in the seat. That acceleration claim is believable. The prototype truck can be driven in RWD or AWD modes. I tried both on snowy trails at the proving grounds and the difference is drastic. Even with the rear locker engaged, it’s very easy to get the unloaded pickup truck tail-happy. In standard AWD mode, it’s very stable and controllable. There is a gauge in the cluster that shows the front-to-rear power split. It can split the power 50/50 or ask for a bit more power from the rear or front electric motors.

In dynamic AWD mode, this truck turns into a sideways drifting fun mobile. It’s very easy to drive. The power delivery is very linear and predictable. There is a LOT of power available on tap. The cabin is oddly quiet without the V8 engine’s rumble, but you can still hear the electric motors under hard acceleration. 

I see an electrified HD truck like this as an addition to the existing portfolio of trucks. The eBeam electric axle is designed to fit a variety of midsize, full-size, heavy-duty, and large commercial vans. I don’t see the electrified solution replacing all HD trucks anytime soon, because the current batteries do not offer enough energy density. Although, I hope this electrified HD truck solution comes to production soon! It’s a good solution for some businesses and private owners. If you do not tow trailers long distances, then an electrified truck like this can be a good choice. 

How about the price?  Magna is a huge international component and systems manufacturer. They currently supply major components in vehicles you may not realize. For example, Magna supplies transfer cases in Jeep Wranglers and Grand Cherokees. The AWD/4WD transfer cases in your GM pickup trucks and large SUVs are also made by Magna. These guys are a large-scale components and systems company. As such, I would expect the pricing for the eBeam and eDS electric system to be competitive with current turbo-diesel HD trucks. The battery is one very expensive component that will make EV trucks expensive. 

We have a video of this truck coming very soon. Here is a Rivian R1T on the world’s toughest towing test – the Ike Gauntlet™.