Maxus T90EV

maxus t90 ev 2023 001 cornering front
MG’s commercial sibling brand is the first to offer an electric pick-up truck in the UK

You don’t have to be first when launching a new product, but it can help. Pioneering also presents many challenges, though, and those faced by the Maxus T90EV pick-up have led rival firms to shy away from the sector for now. It’s the usual story of battery weight versus kerb weight, but where any heavy EV is a problem for efficiency, a heavy pick-up truck can also bother HMRC – or rather potential buyers who will have cough up the 20% VAT for any vehicle not capable of reaching the magical 1000kg payload threshold needed for commercial vehicle qualification. Then there’s the important matter of pick-ups being four-wheel-drive machines and therefore requiring two motors, which naturally adds more weight. Then consider packaging the batteries within a narrow ladder-frame chassis and you will begin to see why there were until now no electric pick-ups on sale in the UK. It’s little wonder, then, that the T90EV is rear-wheel drive only; has a ground clearance of just 187mm, compared with at least 220mm for diesel rivals; and has slightly reduced approach and departure angles, at 27deg and 24deg – all of which makes it at best a compromised off-roader.The rear-axle-mounted electric motor isn’t short of power, with 201bhp – the top end of diesel performance in this sector. There’s regenerative braking that’s firm and either on or off, as well as Eco, Normal and Power modes that do little to alter the power levels, adjust the 78mph top speed or affect the 220-mile range.It’s becoming an EV cliché that the lower centre of gravity (due to the floor mounting of the batteries) improves the handling. On paper, it’s simple physics. But in reality, it doesn’t always ring true, and the T90EV is a case in point. It feels well planted on the road, with tight body control through bends, but doesn’t exactly feel like it could do itself justice on a free-flowing country road. It has a firm ride while feeling light at the front and wayward at the back. In swapping a heavy diesel engine for far lighter electrical components in the nose, the T90 has lost its bite at the front wheels, and the more even weight distribution of batteries across the length of the chassis does little to help the handling when you bury the throttle pedal and more weight is transferred to the rear. At motorway speeds, the T90EV’s rear wags like the tail of an excited spaniel, and you have to constantly move the wheel to correct this, because there’s no neutral point in the steering for travelling in a straight line.Adding weight is usually the solution to commercial vehicle handling mishaps (very few spend their lives empty, after all), but loading the T90EV’s 1485x1510mm bed with heavy bags of animal feed or aggregate is only likely to exacerbate the problem. By virtue of being able to carry 1000kg in the rear, the T90EV is at least a proper pick-up, and one on which businesses can reclaim VAT. The interior is typical to any modern pick-up, with a central 10in touchscreen (capable of smartphone mirroring through Apple CarPlay and Android Auto) dominating the cabin. The plastics are more early Mitsubishi than modern Volkswagen and the steering wheel could do with being reach adjustable rather than just up and down.Nevertheless, it’s a comfortable cab, with respectable storage provision, faux leather upholstery, air conditioning and generous space for two rear passengers. It just needs a few tweaks, not a major overhaul. Automatic wipers and headlights, 17in alloy wheels and a reversing camera are standard – which you would expect on a pick-up that costs similar money to top-spec diesel Ford Rangers and the Volkswagen Amarok, at virtually £50,000.Going first is always daunting, and we’re unlikely to see an electric pick-up from market leader Ford or more natural Maxus rival Isuzu for at least a couple of years. But many pick-ups live purely on the road, so there’s clearly some potential here. And the promise of a 4×4 version by the end of next year is a welcome ray of hope that the T90EV will improve with age. George Barrow
Source: Autocar

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