Dezeen Magazine

Telo pickup truck

Yves Behar designs electric pickup truck that's "the size of a Mini"

Swiss designer Yves Behar has created an electric vehicle called Telo, which fits the passenger and cargo capacity of a pickup truck within the length of a small city car.

Telo, which is the first vehicle being developed by a US company of the same name, has a four-door, five-seater cabin and a 60-inch (1.5-metre) truck bed in a vehicle that's just 152 inches (3.8 metres) long – the same length as a two-door Mini Cooper SE hatchback.

"Most EV [electric vehicle] cars out there are basically configured in the same way that gasoline-engine cars have been," Behar told Dezeen.

"And so the opportunity there was to say: 'Okay, how do we deliver a fully functional EV pickup truck with a full-size truck bed, with a large passenger cabin, but utilise a layout that will make it much more practical and much smaller in the urban environment?'"

Telo pickup truck
The Telo pickup truck was designed to be practical in cities (above) and for outdoor getaways (top)

Behar and his design studio Fuseproject achieved this by taking advantage of the space efficiencies that electric technology offers.

With two small electric motors powering the car instead of a large combustion engine in the front, the truck features a significantly shorter front end, with the driver and passengers sitting much further forward than in a traditional pickup truck.

"When you don't have a front engine, you're given all this extra space," said Behar.

"The size of it is extraordinary. We get these specs, which are basically the same interior space and truck-bed size as a Toyota Tacoma, but in the size, front-to-back, of a Mini."

Telo pickup truck
The pickup truck is the same length as a Mini Cooper SE

Telo, which is derived from the word for "purpose" in Ancient Greek, is the first product by a start-up co-founded by Jason Marks and Forrest North, a former Tesla engineer. Behar is head of design and is also an investor in the company.

The brand is aimed at what Behar calls "urban adventures", people who want a car that's practical to drive in the city where they live and work but can also be taken to the beach or into the country at weekends.

"It's very practical in urban and suburban environments – very functional there – but it's also a great truck to take on weekend adventures," Behar said.

Telo pickup truck
Telo can be reconfigured in a variety of different ways

The car, which Behar describes as "a workhorse", has been designed to be as flexible as possible for a variety of work and leisure uses.

The partition that separates the cabin from the truck bed can be folded down to expand the truck bed so that it can fit 4-foot by 8-foot (2.44-metre by 1.22-metre) sheets of plywood or a 9-foot (2.74-metre) surfboard with the tailgate up, something much larger vehicles would struggle to achieve.

A lockable roll-up tonneau cover ensures that items stored in the truck bed can be secured.

Alternatively, Telo can be specified with a cap to extend the cabin, turning the vehicle into a small minivan or camper van, with the truck bed replaced with either a third row of seats or space for sleeping.

The lack of a central driveshaft allows for a storage compartment behind the back seat that runs the full width of the vehicle and can be used to stow suitcases and other mid-sized items.

Telo pickup truck
Telo can be specified with a cap to turn it into a small camper van

This flexibility is achieved "without compromising performance", according to Behar.

The two electric motors will produce 500 brake horsepower (bhp), enabling Telo to hit 60 miles an hour in four seconds and reach a top speed of 125 miles an hour.

The truck will be powered by a newly developed 106  kilowatt hour (kwh) battery pack, which the company claims will be able to deliver up to 350 miles of range while taking up less space than current batteries on the market. This enabled Behar to maximise the cabin space.

"The battery system is much more compact in height, which gives us the ability to have headroom in the vehicle that is quite generous," he said.

Cooling for the batteries is provided by a single vent on the front of the car, with additional air intake coming from the wheel wells, which exits through side vents on the doors.

Telo pickup truck
Telo is aimed at "urban adventurers", according to its designer

According to Behar, the short nose of the car was a challenge to design, providing a much larger surface when viewed face-on than a traditional car with a longer, more gently sloping hood.

To create character, he added six slanted vertical headlights with a slim pill-shaped form, a motif that is repeated throughout the vehicle, including the door handles and air vents on the side of the car.

"The shortening of the front end was a big design constraint but also an opportunity to create a larger face with more identity," Behar said.

"The front signature was very important and I spent quite a bit of time sketching that. I think the six headlights are quite different, quite unique."

Telo pickup truck
Telo has been designed for both work and play

Overall, Behar strived to achieve a design that would appeal to a wider demographic than traditional pickup trucks.

"Clearly, the look of pickup trucks has traditionally been aggressive, oversized, with a very large front grille," he said. "A number of articles have come out about how dangerous that is, but it also really only speaks to one type of customer."

Telo is already taking reservations for the new car. It unveiled a full-size visual prototype this week, plans to have a driving prototype ready later this year and aims to have the truck on the road within three years.

The company plans to achieve this quick turnaround by using contract manufacturers. This has only recently become possible in the automotive space, partly due to technological developments and partly due to the relative mechanical simplicity of electric powertrains and the third-party components that they use. Behar believes it is a game-changer.

Telo pickup truck
The front of the car features six distinctive vertical headlights

"The Telo truck will be contract manufactured in the US, so it will be built locally, and this is the big change in car manufacturing," he said.

"In the past, it would have cost between $2 and $3 billion dollars to build a car factory from the ground up. But now we have contract manufacturers that allow smaller EV companies to launch and build their cars much faster."

"What this means is that, like we saw with consumer products over the last 30 years, we will hopefully see more new concepts, new types of vehicles, which don't require the very large and very expensive infrastructure of the past."

Telo pickup truck
Telo unveiled a full-size visual prototype of the pickup truck this week

Telo will initially launch in the US, where pickup trucks are an extremely popular vehicle choice. But Behar hopes to expand into the European market too, which is less fond of the traditionally bulky vehicles.

"Pickup trucks are the best-selling vehicle type in the United States and they would probably be better selling in Europe if they were designed differently," Behar said.

"If you're in a city like London or Lisbon, or really anywhere in Europe, anywhere in an older city, large vehicles are really a terrible burden," he added.

"So the ability to do so much in such a small size means that we see a lot of opportunity to launch it in Europe as well."

More images

Telo pickup truck
Telo pickup truck
Telo pickup truck
Telo pickup truck