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Maxus T90EV (2022 - )

Maxus beats Tesla to the punch, but the T90EV electric pickup is just too flawed for most.

Starting price:
£49,950 exc VAT

Why we love it:
  • Comfortable and spacious
  • Electric power makes for a relaxing drive
  • Running costs should be low
Where it could be better:
  • Low towing limits
  • No all-wheel-drive option
  • Cabin lacks flair

Introduction

Maxus T90EV

Forget the Tesla Cybertruck; it’s a Chinese pickup that’s the first electric truck on the UK market. Ahead of the ban on diesel power that’s currently slated for 2035, Maxus has stolen a march on all of its rivals with the T90EV, an all-electric pickup truck that could kickstart an LCV EV revolution.

We’d seen the new pickup at last year’s Commercial Vehicle Show, and nothing has changed now it’s officially arrived in the UK. The steering wheel is on the right side of the pickup, but everything else remains the same, which means there’s an imposing grille that leads a bold front end and a thoroughly conventional double-cab body behind it.

There are hints of SsangYong Musso in the styling, but it stands up in comparison to its mainstream diesel-powered rivals. There are even some nice touches missing from many pickups, like a handy step in the rear bumper to make access to the load box easier.

Living With the Maxus T90EV

That it’s a thoroughly sensible pickup shouldn’t come as a surprise, as it’s based on the existing T90 pickup. That’s not one we get in the UK, but it’s available in other territories, including China and the virtual global home of the pickup, Thailand.

Taking all of the dirty diesel bits out and replacing them with a 201hp electric motor and 88.5kWh battery pack hasn’t been without issue, though. For one, the four-wheel drive system has been sacrificed in the name of weight saving and to ensure the pickup can carry a tonne of cargo. Maxus assures us that an all-wheel drive model is coming in the future, though.

Step inside, and the Maxus feels like a throwback to the 90s, despite having a sizable 10.25-inch infotainment screen. However, the system doesn’t have a DAB radio, with Maxus assuming most users will plug a smartphone into one of the pair of USB sockets and use Android Auto or Apple CarPlay instead.

There are buttons on one side of the steering wheel to control the basics, but the other side is left covered with a blank plate, making it feel like you’ve picked the base model and are missing out on some extras. You’re not, as there’s just one trim level available.

You do get air conditioning, but you’ll be keen to avoid using it to save valuable battery power. Clicking on the system sees the available range drop significantly. You also get parking sensors and a reversing camera, so navigating tight situations becomes a breeze.

You’ll find plenty of space inside, with the faux-leather covered seats being comfortable and supportive, although finding a comfortable driving position is a little tricky as the steering wheel only adjusts for rake and not reach.

It’s all wrapped up in a cabin best described as robust rather than plush. There’s nothing in the way of plush trim and soft-touch plastics, with every surface being hard and mostly shiny. Still, it’s all wipe-clean and felt bolted together well. It’s definitely utilitarian, but then you wouldn’t be expecting Mercedes-Benz levels of luxury from a working vehicle.

Driving the T90EV is more relaxing than in any other pickup — perhaps with the exception of a Mercedes-Benz X-Class V6 — thanks to the electric powertrain. There’s an inevitable whine from the motor, but the lack of vibration and diesel clatter makes that easy to live with.

Performance off the line is brisk, as electric motors provide all of their torque straight away, and with just rear-wheel drive, you’ll undoubtedly get a few scrabbly moments pulling out of junctions. Still, it settles down quickly and provides enough pace to keep up with even dast motorway traffic.

There’s some bounce from the back of the pickup, as you’ll find on any of its rivals, but the battery pack’s weight seems to dampen any extreme movement. On a fast, flowing road, it’s as smooth as most cars, even when unloaded. Adding a few hundred kilos of cargo will make it even better.

Off-road abilities are hindered by the lack of a 4x4 mode, and ground clearance is 50mm lower than a Ford Ranger, so it’ll be limited to forest tracks and farm paths. A ‘power’ mode will help accelerate you up some steeper climbs, though.

Maxus T90EV

Space & Practicality

The Maxus T90EV weighs in at 2.3 tonnes when empty — just 100kg heavier than a Ford Ranger despite a large battery pack — which means it can carry a full one-tonne payload, making claiming back VAT a more straightforward affair.

The load box is conventionally shaped, if a little small. It measures 1,485mm by 1,510mm, which means it’s marginally smaller than the back of an Isuzu D-Max.

Understandably, towing limits are low, with a braked trailer limit of just 1,000kg in place to reduce strain on the battery and ensure sufficient range is available. The total train weight of 4,050kg also means you can’t carry the maximum payload while pulling the maximum trailer weight, so something has to give.

Ownership

Maxus T90EV

Running Costs

There’s a significant 88.5kWh battery pack mounted under the cab that promises a range of 205 miles, at least according to WLTP testing results. The reality will depend on your use of the pickup; fully loaded in the middle of winter, you’ll probably get around 100 miles, which is no use to those wanting to cover long distances but is fine for a day’s work around the farm.

We got 2,1 miles per kWh during our testing, which was carried out in freezing temperatures and involved a lot of motorway miles — the worst combination for electric vehicles — but the truck was empty. That translates to a real-world range of 185 miles, which is a very positive result.

Charging at home from empty to 100% will take 13 hours on a home charger and, at this writer’s current electricity rates, will cost £30. That’s likely to be the most convenient and cheapest option.

At a rapid charger, you’ll be able to recharge from 20% charge to 80% in around 45 minutes, thanks to the 80kW charging speed. However, with rates skyrocketing in places to as much as 70p per kWh, you’ll likely pay more than £40 for a top-up.

Verdict

Maxus T90EV

Maxus has to be congratulated for beating Ford, Ssangyong and even Tesla in getting an electric pickup on the market. It’s not even a slightly awkward proof-of-concept, as the T90EV is a capable, honest and complete proposition.

It’s not, however, as complete an option as the traditional diesel-powered models available from the usual suspects, and asking buyers to switch from trucks that can tow tonnes, drive for hours and have true off-road capability will be tough.

It also won’t be cheap, with the Maxus costing £49,950 plus VAT, making it around £17,000 more than a similarly specified Isuzu D-Max. Yes, there are going to be ownership savings to be made — electricity is still cheaper than diesel, and maintenance costs should be low — but that’s a lot to put down, even if spread across a lengthy lease or finance deal.

It leaves the Maxus T90EV as a niche product, for now, although one that might perfectly suit you and your business. It’s not for everyone, but don’t discount it just because it’s electric.

By Phil Huff
May 12, 2023

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