Ford’s F-150 Lightning — which is just hitting the market — is more than simply another pickup truck: It’s poised to open the floodgates for electric vehicle adoption in the U.S. by showing how much an EV can do.
Why it matters: While Tesla started the EV revolution, Ford will likely get credit for taking these vehicles mainstream. Priced just under $40,000, the F-150 Lightning is a versatile and affordable gateway product that can (sometimes) be charged in under an hour.
What’s happening: Ford is overhauling its F-Series pickup truck — America’s best-selling vehicle — by ripping out the engine and transmission and replacing it with an electric powertrain.
It’s a bet-the-company move that, if all goes as planned, will attract buyers who never considered an EV — or a pickup — before.
So far, it looks like a success: Ford has taken nearly 200,000 reservations and already bumped up production capacity twice, hoping to hit an annual rate of 150,000 by next year.
The big picture: Ford sells 900,000 gasoline-powered F-Series trucks per year, bringing in more than $40 million in annual revenue — more than companies like McDonalds, Nike and Coca-Cola.
There are 16.4 million of them in operation — 5.8% of all vehicles on the road.
Ford is not the first to deliver an electric truck; General Motors’ GMC Hummer and Rivian’s R1T beat them to market. But those are fun, expensive toys.
The Ford Lightning’s starting price is half of the Rivian and far less than the six-figure Hummer, putting it within reach for many.
Situational awareness: I flew to Texas, the truck capital of America, last week to be among the first to try the new electric F-150.
I drove from downtown San Antonio through suburban stop-and-go traffic, then north on I-10 to explore the rolling hills of central Texas and the Singing Water vineyards, where I went off-roading — pretty much every kind of driving scenario you can imagine.I even used the Lightning to tow a 24-foot electric speedboat — 8,600 pounds, including the trailer — in Hill Country and on the freeway.
Details: The Lightning comes with two battery choices — a 230-mile standard range and a 320-mile extended range — and four trim levels. I tried them all, from the $39,974 Lightning Pro work truck for fleet customers all the way up to the $90,874 Platinum edition.
Charging time ranges from 15 hours with a 240-volt wall outlet to about 40 minutes at a public 150-kW fast-charging station.
The “mega power frunk” — or front trunk — could be the Lightning’s biggest selling point:
All EVs have a front trunk where the engine is normally found, but Ford’s is massive: It’s got 14 cubic feet of space, with room for 400 pounds of cargo, plus a deep well with a drain that doubles as a cooler. Push the key fob and it opens wide like a lion’s mouth. It easily fits two sets of golf clubs, or valuable tools and equipment you don’t want to store in the bed.
It’s also a source of power, with up to 11 outlets onboard to power tools, camping gear — even your house or your neighbor’s EV in a pinch.
Yes, but: Towing a nearly 9,000-pound boat cut the truck’s 320-mile battery range to 157 miles.
The bottom line: The Ford F-150 Lightning is the most anticipated vehicle in decades — and, so far at least, lives up to the hype.