The Ford F-150 is the bestselling vehicle in the U.S., which is why the new electric F-150 Lightning that debuted Wednesday night is so significant. Not only will it help normal American drivers transition to zero-emissions transportation, but in the event of a Texas-style infrastructure collapse, the Lightning can power a home for up to ten days.
And I do mean normal American. Ford’s F-150 has been the most popular vehicle in the U.S. for the past 44 years. Equipped with a crew cab, a 5.5-foot-long bed, and four-wheel drive, the internal-combustion F-150 starts at $42,500. The electric Lightning will only come in that body style, with 4WD. It starts at $41,669. This figure includes the mandatory $1,695 destination charge but not any federal or state electric-vehicle incentives.
Ford representatives refer to that base model as “commercial oriented,” indicating that it’ll be targeted at contractors and operators of large-vehicle fleets, but individuals will still be able to purchase it. The truck will have one electric motor on each axle, making for a total of 426 horsepower and 775 pound-feet of torque. According to Ford, it should have a range of 230 miles in real-world conditions.
Most drivers who buy this truck for themselves will opt for the plusher XLT trim level, which will bring the Lightning’s price up to $54,669, about $8,500 more than a comparable internal-combustion F-150. Again, that’s with destination but without any federal or state tax incentives.
Right now, electric vehicles sold by automakers that have produced 200,000 or fewer EVs qualify for a $7,500 federal tax credit. The Biden administration is proposing an extension to those credits in its American Jobs Plan, as part of a $174 billion investment designed “to win the EV market.” Ford has not yet sold 200,000 electric vehicles, so that tax credit will apply to initial sales of the F-150 Lightning, whether or not Biden’s plan is signed into law. It will bring the cost of the commercial-grade Lightning down to $34,169 and the XLT model to $47,169.
President Biden visited the Ford factory in Dearborn, Michigan, that will produce the Lightning on Tuesday to promote his jobs plan. After taking the electric truck for a spin, he exclaimed, “This sucker’s quick” to news cameras.
The Lightning will also be available with an extended-range battery, good for 300 miles in normal driving conditions. Extended-range trucks will also feature more powerful motors, resulting in a total of 563 horsepower. All Lightning trucks will have the same 775 pound-feet of torque—the most ever packed into an F-150.
Extended-range Lightnings will also be the quickest F-150’s made, accelerating from zero to 60 miles per hour in just 4.4 seconds. In comparison, the less powerful F-150 Raptor takes 5.2 seconds to reach that speed.
Plugged into a home charger, the Lightning will automatically detect if your house loses electric power and begin providing electricity to your appliances. Assuming an average consumption of 30 kilowatt-hours per day, the extended-range model will be able to fully power your home for three days. Ford says that number can be increased to up to ten days if you ration power to only essential items, like your refrigerator.
Day to day, the F-150 Lightning will also help you reduce your home energy prices. Plugged into that home charger, it can function as a big home battery, charging itself overnight (when energy prices are lowest), then providing power to your house throughout the day during peak hours (when energy is more expensive). The Lightning is capable of providing up to 9.6 kilowatts of electricity.
Other novel features on the electric truck include independent rear suspension. In combination with the under-floor battery pack, which lowers the truck’s center of gravity, that suspension will improve ride and handling. The battery pack is waterproof and heavily armored. There’s also a large storage area under the truck’s hood fitted with multiple waterproof power outlets and a drain plug. This lockable “frunk” can handle up to 400 pounds of cargo, extending the Lightning’s utility.
The Lightning will also come with a scale on each axle, measuring the amount of weight you’re towing or hauling. The truck will factor those numbers into its range calculations and help you plot a route between charging stations accordingly. Ford’s charging-station network is the largest available, currently counting 63,000 plugs nationwide, a number that will continue to grow.
At 6,500 pounds, the Lightning weighs about 1,000 pounds more than equivalent internal-combustion F-150’s. This does take a bite out of how much weight you can tow or haul. Maximum payload shrinks from 2,238 pounds on the gas truck down to 2,000 pounds on the Lightning. Towing capacity is decreased from an optional 11,300 pounds on the regular F-150 to 10,000 pounds on all extended-range Lightnings. The Lightning will introduce a new autonomous hitch-connecting mode to the F-150 range—the truck will automatically reverse into alignment with the trailer. All you’ll need to do is hop out and connect the ball and receiver, chains, and wiring harness.
Off-road, the Lightning should have no trouble keeping up with internal-combustion trucks. All-terrain tires and a locking rear differential will be available, and all versions of the Lightning will include four-wheel drive. It’s currently unclear how power will be apportioned between the front and rear motors, or how electronic traction-management solutions will function. But Ford pioneered electronic off-road-traction technology on internal-combustion vehicles, so there’s no reason to expect the Lightning won’t continue that innovation.
Lightning sales will begin in May 2022, and Ford is now accepting $100 deposits for the new vehicle. The F-150 Lightning’s price significantly undercuts that of the $112,500 GMC Hummer EV, which will enter production this fall. The Ford’s price is comparable to the claimed $40,000 starting price of the Tesla Cybertruck, which Elon Musk says will enter production by the end of this year. The Lightning will also be significantly cheaper than the Rivian R1T, which the company says will start at around $70,000 and could reach the first customers as early as next month.
Compared to those other upcoming electric pickups, the Lightning offers one more unique feature: aside from smoother aerodynamics and some fancy LED headlights, it looks just like a normal F-150, which is to say a normal pickup truck. And that’s significant, because this will be the product that makes electric vehicles a normal part of American life.