No, we haven’t driven the F-150 Lightning yet, but yes, we’re going to call it one of the most important steps in America’s move to electrification nonetheless. The gas-guzzling F-150 is America’s favorite truck. It has been for more than four decades. The Lightning looks just like it, but promises better acceleration off the line, the option to keep your house powered in a blackout, and has all of the brand recognition and loyalty Tesla’s Cybertruck will need generations to accrue (assuming it does at all). Ford’s calling the F-150 Lightning “the truck of the future,” but what’s more exciting is it might turn out to be “the truck of the present” instead.
If you’re skeptical and think the traditional F-150 owner doesn’t care about the virtues of going electric, Ford is ready with rebuttals aplenty. All of the promotional materials accompanying the F-150 Lightning’s grand reveal focus on its ruggedness, its speediness, and its ability to serve as a workhorse — from the built-in ruler on the tailgate to the load bed's illumination, and the option to use its jumbo battery to run power tools, illuminate a job site (or campsite), or keep an electric cooler box juiced up in the ample frunk. Try doing any of that with the F-150s of yesteryear.
Tesla’s Cybertruck may be head-turning, but the F-150 is going to be wallet-opening, especially with a starting price of just under $40,000 (before any tax credits) for the base trim. Mark our words, it’s going to sell in droves. If you want one, you can put down $100 to reserve one right now. But you’ll have to wait until Spring 2022 to get it. Though, knowing Tesla’s penchant for missing deadlines, that’s still probably sooner than you can get a Cybertruck.
The vital stats — One of the key advantages of electric powertrains is that all the torque is available instantly, and there’s no need to worry about gearboxes or other physical challenges that affect power output. The F-150 promises 563 horsepower and 775 lb.-ft. of torque. That’s more than any F-150 powered by liquified dinosaur fossils. And as pre-production model test driver Joseph R. Biden guestimated, that means a 0-60 mph time around 4.5 seconds (variant- and load-dependent, of course).
That would be fast for a sedan. For a truck, it’s bordering on obscene. But no one buys an F-150 — electric or otherwise — for drag racing. They buy it because it’s big and spacious and potent. And it’s in terms of potency where all that nearly-instantly available torque matters. The standard trim F-150 Lightning can handle a 2,000 lb payload, and the mid- and high-spec models can tow up to 10,000 lbs.
It’s also a 4x4 with independent rear suspension as standard, making it one of the most versatile, maneuverable batteries on wheels out there. Ford says it can power most standard-sized family homes for three days (good news for Texans), or 10 if you ration yourselves. The entry-level model offers 2.4 kW of power, while the fancier trims provide a combined 9.6 kW (2.4 kW via the “frunk” and up to 7.2 kW courtesy of the bed and cab outlets.
Feeling kinda frunky — Ford is very enthusiastic about the frunk, and with good reason. Aside from including charging ports for coolers, laptops, phones, or whatever else you have that needs charging, it promises “400 liters of volume and 400 pounds of payload,” or in easier to imagine terms, “enough to stow two carry-on bags and one checked bag, or two sets of golf clubs.” We don’t play golf, but Ford has us reconsidering if only for the ability to retrieve our bag in the club parking lot while onlookers coo with envy.
Smarts and OTA updates — Like a Tesla, Ford’s new truck will get regular over-the-air updates, and like the current belle of the electrified ball, there are jumbo touch screens and extensive driver assistance features. Ford says its “BlueCruise” feature enables “true hands-free driving on more than 100,000 miles of pre-qualified divided highways in the U.S. and Canada” and that’ll be expanded in months to come.
The worry with EVs is always range, and Ford’s tried to address that, too. The F-150 Lightning offers two battery options, a standard-range version good for around 230 miles between charges, and an extended-range version that’ll offer nearer 300 miles. Because load can affect range, onboard scales will help provide a more detailed range breakdown. Sure, that’s not Tesla Model S range, but then, the Model S isn’t a huge-ass truck.
Users can of course refill the truck at night by plugging it into a wall outlet like they do their mobile phones, but they can also top up at 16,000 charging stations across the U.S. — a number Ford plans to grow significantly.
Getting hitched — Ford’s also included other smart tech like Pro Trailer Hitch Assist which does exactly what it sounds like, automating steering, throttling, and braking while hitching trailers.
Eventually, it says it’ll also offer something called “Ford Intelligent Power,” which will let owners use their truck to power their houses “during high-cost, peak-energy hours while taking advantage of low-cost overnight rates to charge the vehicle.”
Ford’s talking a big game, but considering its legacy, its plan to invest $22 billion in a move toward electrification, the Presidential endorsement it received this week, and its ability (and eagerness) to lean on its credentials as a patriotic American brand, we’re feeling bullish about its odds. It doesn’t exactly hurt that the F-150 Lightning, Mustang Mach-E, and forthcoming Bronco all look bad-ass, too.