Pickup Trucks Have 40% More Horsepower Than All Other Cars

Trucks / Comments

Supercars excluded, that is.

The EPA Automotive Trends report came out on Friday, focusing on fuel economy, greenhouse emissions and other movements, from 1975 to today. All of it is interesting and some of it is heartening - miles per gallon up, CO2 down - but one thing surprised us the more than the rest.

Pickup trucks have the most horsepower, on average, compared the rest of the segments, by a wide margin. Today's average truck puts down 341 horsepower, and something like the Ram 1500 TRX lays down more tdouble that. The average of all vehicles is 252 hp, which is also surprising, but without trucks in the mix, cars are even lower, averaging 214 hp. Minivans, going more efficient are down from a few years ago to 231 hp.

EPA Trends Report

From the 1970s to the early 2000s, pickup trucks hovered around the top of the market, but still close to the average. For instance, in 2000 the average hp of all vehicles was 181. In that same year pickup trucks averaged 202 hp. In 2005 the average was 209 hp for all vehicles and 259 hp for pickups. And now they're a full 38% higher than passenger cars.

The footprint of these trucks has stayed relatively the same over the past decade or so, but the weight has gone way up starting around the same time (and batteries don't seem to help). Manufacturers had to add more power to keep the motive force up, which should make these extra-large vehicles even less efficient. But they've battled back.

In the '80s, trucks almost hit an average of 20 mpg. It dipped down into the 15-mpg range in the early 2000s, and then when power started skyrocketing, fuel mileage also went up. In 2000 it was 16.6 mpg and is now back up to 19.4. That makes us want to thank our local engineers.

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"The steep rise in average horsepower for trucks is really a clear indicator of just how much powertrain technology has improved over the years," says AutoPacific industry analyst Robby DeGraff. "Credit for this tidal wave of power increase is due in part to turbocharged engines like Ford's EcoBoost six-cylinder that debuted for the 2009 F-150. This was really the first installation of turbos for the masses in a pickup truck, generating V8 levels of power and torque sans any of the poor fuel economy of a V8. GM's also explored this path too."

"Given that here in the United States trucks are the king moneymakers for automakers and these horsepower/torque wars are only getting fiercer by the model year, I predict that average horsepower number will soon rise from its existing plateau- especially with the advent of electrification on the way. We're only a matter of days away from a 1,000+ horsepower GMC Hummer electric pickup truck," said DeGraff.

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Other industry folks added that the jump in towing capacities had something to do with it, and the fact that trucks really started becoming daily drivers for buyers around that time. They got more creature comforts in the cabin to feel more like an SUV or luxury sedan and also received more power, which was better to imitate the acceleration of those smaller vehicles they came out of. On the towing side, from 2000 to now the HD Chevy Silverado's capacity went from 10,500 pounds to 14,500 pounds. The regular-duty F-150 jumped from 8,800 to 11,300 pounds.

We're guessing it's a little bit of all of those things. People were glad to get the heated seats, Bluetooth, and eventually tech for reversing a trailer, in addition to the bragging rights over their buddies with more capacity and more efficiency. We do seem to be at peak truck now, though. Regular trucks can be had with 700 hp and HDs are making over 1,000 lb-ft of torque. We'll soon hit the limits of the graph, if not science itself.

2022 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Front Angle View Chevrolet
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