There are all sorts of electronic gizmos and doo-dads one could talk about with the new electric Ford F-150, the Lightning. Plenty of sophisticated engineering details, capabilities, power generation, colors, size, all of that. And we will. But the first thing one notices when considering whether this is a viable truck is the price. The F-150 Lightning starts at $39,974. With tax incentives, that price gets down to the low $30k range, depending on where you live. The Rivian, long-expected to be the benchmark electric truck when it goes on sale next year, starts in the $60k range. The GMC Hummer EV is about $100k.
That the Lightning is less than $40k is extraordinary.
It’s not terribly more expensive than the standard gas-burning F-150, maybe a few thousand dollars more. We recently wrote about how many F-150s are sold in this country and it’s astonishing—figure nearly a million F-150s sold each year. That’s four times the amount of EVs sold in 2020. If even a third of those F-150 sales are converted to EV F-150 sales, suddenly, Ford wouldn’t just be selling the most popular EV, it would be selling more electric F-150s than all other EVs put together. Automakers have long dreamed of being able to price EVs at about the same price as their gas counterparts. Ford just did.
Elon Musk and Tesla get lots of credit for decarbonizing vehicle travel by making the first successful electric car. But Ford producing and selling hundreds of thousands of electric trucks is a gamechanger at least as important, if not more. This might be the vehicle that converts the electric averse. When these start showing up at work sites in the reddest counties in the reddest states, it’ll be evidence that electric vehicles truly are the future, regardless of where you live, with the corresponding decline in carbon emissions right behind.
Now then, let’s get to those gizmos and capabilities.
Automakers have long dreamed of being able to price EVs at about the same price as their gas counterparts. Ford just did.
For the adventurer, there are a few things you’ll want to know right off the bat. First, the range. The base model gets about 230 miles on a charge, the higher trim levels can travel 300 miles. That’s not ideal, but it’s not terribly far off other EVs right now. Ford promises that the truck can provide real-time range estimates, based in part on payload weight, driving characteristics, etc., which could reduce range anxiety, at least somewhat.
The standard range Lightning can tow 7,700 pounds and has a payload capacity of 2,000 pounds. The extended range higher trim models can tow 10,000 pounds, but because of their larger, heavier battery packs, have a payload max of about 1,800 pounds.
All F-150 Lightnings will have all-wheel-drive, courtesy of two electric motors, one in the front, and one driving the rear wheels. We don’t know yet if there will be fancy off-road modes or dirt-specific features as part of the driving experience. But the torque will be there to get you to where you need to go. Both standard and extended range options produce more than 775 pound-feet of torque.
Charging times remain a sore spot if you aren’t used to an EV, however.
At a 150kW DC fast charging station, the extended range F-150 can go from 15-80% charge in about 40 minutes. Your standard wall charger at home, a 120V, will slowly add 3 miles per hour of charge, so you’d want to upgrade that capability if charging in your garage. Interestingly, Ford adds an 80 amp home charger with the extended range model that can charge the batteries in eight hours. You can also use it to power your entire home for a few days, if necessary.
Speaking of charging things other than the truck, Ford has prioritized using the big onboard batteries to turn these trucks into rolling power stations. The truck alone can power your home lights for a week, if need be. The frunk, the empty space under the hood where the gas engine would normally be, is a power frunk in the Lightning, festooned with ports for charging all manner of appliances, as is the 5.5-foot bed.
The benefits of this at a job site are obvious, but if using the Lightning as a mobile camping base, you’d be able to charge electric bicycles, electric motorcycles, power multiple electric fridges if need be.
Ford is also offering something called the FordPass charging network, which is basically an agreement with a ton of different charging networks already out there, so a Ford owner can access an app on their phone showing them all nearby charging options within the network, and base navigation options depending on what’s available.
Charging locations will continue to be an issue for drivers who want an EV for adventuring, but a truck like this can pave the way for the eventual extension of charging options. With President Biden’s plan to radically upgrade the nation’s infrastructure and to make EVs an increasingly big part of the nation’s work fleet, surely a massive ramping up of charging stations is around the corner.
For now, that price is the real head turner. The F-150 makes a pretty good if massively thirsty gas-burning platform for camping and exploration. If the electric version can be had for the same price, well, that’s a compelling argument for chancing it when it comes to range and charging times.
Maybe you like Fords and maybe you don’t, but we’re about to find out what happens when the most popular vehicle on the road gets the electric treatment.