Fantastical Thundertruck EV rocks fold-out solar awnings and a snap-on 6WD caboose
This all-electric 4x4 off-road concept has a monster battery pack, a brutally angular and military look that borrows heavily from the Cybertruck, and pop-out solar panels for off-grid charging. Oh, and if you need extra range, you can snap two extra wheels and a battery onto the back of it with a self-balancing caboose that makes it a six-wheel-drive.
First things first: Thundertruck is the brainchild of a Los Angeles "creative consultancy," conceived mainly as a way to keep the team busy during the first wave of COVID lockdowns. "Instead of baking bread or making puzzles," says the Wolfgang L.A. team, "we decided to make a new state-of-the-art EV truck."
So while Wolfgang says it "has the ability to support an entire product development program, from research and strategy to initial sketches and first prototypes, all the way to advertising launch campaigns and content creation," it's fair to say it's unlikely we'll be seeing the Thundertruck out bush-bashing or crushing hillclimbs any day soon.
Still, it looks pretty badass – and so would I, if equally liberated from the constraints of harsh reality. It's a cross between some sort of military stealth vehicle, a jacked-up sports pickup and some of the more evil-looking side-by-sides we've seen in recent times.
And the Cybertruck, of course; any off-roader with sharp angles from now on will be seen as an homage to Tesla's low-poly bare-metal beast – although there probably won't be a ton of things hitting the road with these future-flat windscreens, once people get a good look at how comically cumbersome the wipers need to be.
The fantasy spec sheet gives it a whopping 180 kWh battery pack and a 400-mile (644 km) range, with a dual-motor 4x4 powertrain laying down 800 horsepower and 800 pound-feet (1,085 Nm). Enough, apparently, to give this 6,120-pound (2,776 kg) beast a 3.5-second sprint time from 0-60 mph (0-96 km/h).
But there's more, in the form of a "TT Range Extender." This is not, as you might think, a gasoline generator. Oh no siree. It's an extra set of wheels, motors and a 30 kWh battery pack you can stick on the back of the Thundertruck to turn it into a 940-horsepower 6X6 with an alleged 560-mile (900 km+) range. We expect that's a typo – adding one-sixth more battery should only increase the range by one-sixth to 460 miles (740 km), and that's assuming the extra two wheels and 1,440 pounds (653 kg) don't give it a nasty kick in the ol' miles per gallon equivalent. Which they clearly would.
Still, while we're enjoying a flight of fancy, check this out: Wolfgang says the range extender add-on "utilizes self-balancing tech for an easy coupling/uncoupling process," presumably wobbling around your garage like a Segway that's lost its mall cop. In some ways, I guess it makes sense; you've already got the wheels and motors, a gyro and balancing system isn't that much to add. In other ways, the idea of a whole detachable chunk of car makes me very nervous, especially on a tough off-roader.
Thundertruck's also got a set of collapsible, roof-mounted "bat wing" awnings you can fold out for a little shade, and to recharge the battery, since they're made of flexible solar panels. Great idea, right? Well, maybe. Let's do some back-of-the-envelope maths on that, being overly generous with our figures.
Let's assume the total exposed area of solar awning is about the same as the footprint of the truck, at 207 x 87 inches. That's 11.6 square meters (125 square feet) of PV panel. Let's also assume that these flexible solar panels are as efficient as, say, the pretty decent 2020 models on top of my house, ignoring the fact that the very latest flexible cells are about 25 percent down on efficiency from the very latest flat ones, as well as probably not flexible enough to work in the kind of roll-up awning we're looking at here.
Let's also assume absolutely ideal solar conditions equal to the best day's power generation I can find flipping through my rooftop solar data. On that blessed (baking hot) day, each of my twenty-one 1.7 square meter (18.3 sq ft) panels pulled in a mighty 2.2 kWh of energy. So under the perfect conditions, with extremely friendly assumptions, the Thundertruck's solar awning might be expected to deliver about 15 kWh of energy back to the battery in a day – enough to drive about 33 miles.
That's better than I'd have expected, frankly, and a useful amount. Even dropping back to an average day's solar generation in my part of the world would give you about 7.9 kWh, or about 17.5 miles of range, provided you left the car in one place all day with the awnings out. It's not nothing, and it'd add up over time, but these are still pretty generous estimates and a good illustration of why solar charging in the rooftops of electric vehicles is still vanishingly rare.
Viewed as a design project, Thundertruck deserves kudos on a sweet-looking shape that would certainly turn heads. We'd be surprised if it went much further than the render stage, but we've been surprised before, and while there's some totally wacky stuff in here, it's not what we'd call a complete clustertruck. The final word on this machine should go to the Wolfgang team, and they don't disappoint. "Thundertruck is not your grandfather’s truck," says the website. "In fact, it’s nobody’s truck just yet."
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The more things change, the more they stay the same.
As for the extension with the additional two wheels, not sure how this is better than a trailer with a couple of additional batteries and/or a diesel power generator for emergencies. Certainly I don't need 940 horsepower, but there may be people who do need that much power.