Report: Nissan and Detroit startup Hercules could pair up for electric truck

Nissan is in talks with Detroit-based startup Hercules Electric Vehicles to develop an electric pickup truck, Bloomberg reported Thursday.

The automaker that helped popularize electric cars with the Leaf hatchback could buy an electric powertrain from Hercules for use in its Titan pickup and provides components for Hercules' own truck, according to the report, which cited anonymous sources familiar with the matter.

"The talks are still ongoing and could still fall apart before a deal is signed," the report said.

Founded in 2018, Hercules is currently taking reservations for the Alpha pickup, advertising a 1,000-horsepower 4-motor powertrain, 300-mile range, and 0-60 mph in 4.0 seconds. The startup is also expected to offer the Worksport solar tonneau cover as an option.

Worksport TerraVis solar tonneau charging system

Worksport TerraVis solar tonneau charging system

It's worth noting that the single image of the Alpha on Hercules' website looks like a current-generation Nissan Titan with a different grille, headlights, and front bumper.

That begs the question of whether this would be a true partnership, or whether Hercules is simply seeking Titan donor vehicles. Nissan has plenty of electric-vehicle experience after all, and shouldn't need the help of a small startup. However, Nissan has also been looking to cut costs amid slow sales, and may not want to invest too much in an electric vehicle that doesn't have much relevance outside the United States.  

Speaking of the Titan, it only comes with a big 5.6-liter V-8 for the 2021 model year, with EPA-rated fuel economy of 18 mpg combined (15 mpg city, 21 mpg highway). That lags behind most other full-size trucks, many of which have adopted diesels or smaller-displacement gasoline engines to improve fuel efficiency.

Hercules Alpha

Hercules Alpha

As trucks from Rivian and Tesla are due soon, major automakers are waking up to the potential of electric pickups.

That's led some automakers to establish partnerships with startups—similar to what Nissan and Hercules are reportedly considering.

In September, General Motors announced that it would manufacture the Nikola Badger electric truck, although that deal, and the truck's reveal, appear to be in limbo. Ford has invested in Rivian, and has a deal to use the firm's "skateboard" platform for some future vehicles.

As electric trucks become one of the auto industry's latest buzzwords, automakers appear split on how to position these trucks.

Ford is aiming for affordability, and more of a workhorse, with its F-150 Electric. GM is aiming for a macho lifestyle image first with its GMC Hummer EV, while Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) is likely to skip an electric truck altogether at first, and go for a plug-in hybrid instead.

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