Best of Trucks, Van Life and SUVs from 2021


Here are three things that have had a big impact on the design of trucks, vans, and SUVs this year: electrics, advertised as a greener alternative; Size concerns leading to an increase in micro-trucks; and the pandemic, which has sparked a new interest in living / working in one’s own vehicle.

During the Texas ice storm and blackout in 2021, Ford received free advertising when news outlets reported that F-150 hybrid owners were able to power their homes with their trucks.

Unsurprisingly, when Ford later announced the upcoming all-electric F-150 Lightning, Ford attracted a lot of interest.

The startup Canoo has also unveiled its upcoming electric pickup truck, which has many great and some questionable design features.

GMC has unveiled its crazy high-tech SUV version of its Hummer EV.

Don’t you like the look of these newfangled EV trucks? You can always build your own; Ford announced they would start selling E-Crate engines and upgraded a 1978 F-100 as a proof-of-concept.

Another thing that is going electric is delivery vans. We’ve discussed some of the design elements of the upcoming Arrival model.

Speaking of vans, the USPS finally unveiled their next-generation mail-truck design (they still decide whether or not it will be electric). It looks totally silly – and I love it for a postbus design.

As for some unusual and non-electric vans, Japan’s Hino, a subsidiary of Toyota, is modifying their massive trucks for the Dakar Rally!

These aren’t exactly delivery vans, but we stumbled upon an Italian maker of wickedly no-nonsense food trucks.

A vehicle that is both large and electric are the self-driving car shuttles from the British company Aurrigo. One thing they are not is easy on the eyes. I wrote that they look like they were designed as a CAD tutorial.

Dropping on minivans for a second, the Porsche designers happened to answer the question: What would a Porsche minivan look like?

While trucks and SUVs have been growing in size for some time, there is also an inverse reaction where people are shrinking them. EV startup Alpha has presented its upcoming single cabin model with a short wheelbase.

Meanwhile, Opel presented the opposite of an SUV, its tiny SUM (Sustainable Urban Mobility) vehicle. And yes, this is how the doors work.

Similarly, Hyundai unveiled its Casper, a sub-$ 12,000 micro SUV for the Asian market.

GM has also developed this tiny $ 9,000 pickup for the Asian market, especially China.

For a smaller truck you can get in the U.S., Ford announced its Maverick, a $ 20,000 compact hybrid pickup truck that gets 40 MPG. The pre-orders went crazy.

Then there is this curious mini-truck: Honda converted one of its Japanese front-wheel drive work trucks into an autonomous model and removed the cab. The headless truck is being tested on a major construction site in New Mexico.

Let’s talk briefly about UI / UX. I raved about the fantastic UX design in the Ford Bronco’s doors, which are removable. The designers really thought out every little detail.

Then I wrote a casual post chatting about the terrible UX of the fuel gauge in the Volkswagen Atlas – and you wouldn’t believe how much traffic it made. I hate to be reminded that people love negativity these days.

Probably not a great UX, trying to get in and out of the 1967 Dodge Deora concept.

Hypercar designer Frederik Steve Kristensen has embarked on a redesign of the Dodge Deora 2022. Entrance and exit look a bit more manageable.

Another weird vintage pickup we discovered was this rare 1961 Chevy pickup with a side loading ramp.

The pandemic has helped spark people’s fantasies of hiking in vehicles. Nissan’s concept van Mobile Office Pod was a huge hit and promised a platform for working from anywhere.

And when van life began, the van-to-home conversions business for the design / build firm Chewy Design Co. was booming.

Then there is the van life for the 1%: take a look at this badass German luxury motorhome.

Some people sleep in their trucks because it’s part of their job. We looked at truck driver sleeper interiors to see what the designers did to make them livable.

Finally, this year we encountered the terrible story of a truck that drove over a bridge and was only held in place by the safety chain attached to its trailer. Incredibly, the four inmates – two people and two dogs – were safely rescued.

Drive safe folks!


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