Ford is going to sell a zillion F-150 Lightning electric pick-up trucks. This is probably not the bravest statement to make considering the F-150 is already the most popular vehicle in the U.S. and has been for 40 years. Still, after a decade of mass-market electric vehicle sales, the Lightning will be one of the first all-electric pick-ups on the market. And it will start at just $39,974, before any incentives, which means anyone who qualify for the $7,500 federal tax credit will start their configurator shopping with a price of $32,474. The mid-tier XLT model starts at $52,974 (or $45, 474 after the tax credit). Ford isn’t yet revealing other pricing details.
Still, the starting base price for the gas-powered 2021 F-150 is $28,940, so it’s not a tremendous step up to get into an electric model. And that’s one of the key messages that Ford is pushing as it launches its second high-profile EV (after the Mustang Mach-E): this is an EV that traditional Ford buyers will want to take a look at. The price is one signal, the relatively standard F-150 looks are another and there are plenty more to be found in the features list.
“[This is] the most innovative and smart and connected truck we’ve ever made,” said Darren Palmer, Ford’s general manager of battery electric vehicles. “It was developed for and in conjunction with our customers. [The features] are not gimmicks, they’re real.”
While there is just one powertrain in the Lightning, it’s mildly helpful to think of it as having two. The first powertrain, the kind we’re all familiar with, is 4×4 all the time with two motors that produce a total of 775 lb-ft of torque. There will be two battery options, a standard-range pack that offers 230 miles or range and an extended-range battery that should be good for 300 miles. While the standard pack version produces 426 horsepower, with the extended range battery, the single-speed Lighting offers 563 hp and a 0-60 mph time in the mid-4 seconds. The Lightning can tow a maximum of 10,000 pounds (extended battery) and it has a maximum payload of 2,000 pounds (standard battery). These specs are preliminary, but show what Ford is shooting for with the Lightning.
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The suite of infotainment and driver assist systems in the Lightning include the expected list of convenience features you can find in other Ford models, including Ford Co-Pilot360 with BlueCruise, Phone As A Key, SYNC 4 and standard Android Auto and Apple
One-pedal driving – a love-it-or-hate-it EV feature – is available on the F-150 Lightning through a toggle. There will also be four drive modes (Normal, Sport, Off-Road and Tow/Haul) and three trim levels: XLT, Lariat and Platinum. Not everything is an option, though. The Lightning will be available in just one body style, a SuperCrew four-door with a 5.5-foot bed.
The Lightning’s other “powertrain” is where we get into some of the EV-only features that Ford was able to offer in the Lightning that would not be possible in a fossil-fueled F-150. One of the biggest draws is likely to be the 9.6-kW Pro Power Onboard option that provides 9,600 watts of off-board power through three circuits in the front and back of the truck. Ford says that, if you have the extended battery pack, you will be able to drive the Lightning 40 miles to a work site, use tools for eight hours, then drive home – and do this three days in a row – before needing to recharge the battery.
Other EV-specific features in the Lightning include using Pro Power Reserve that will limit this off-board power if you need the range to get home (or to a charging station). The truck will come with an 80-amp home charging station as standard equipment, and if you have the correct home management system (which Ford can help install), the Lightning will also offer vehicle-to-home connectivity called Ford Intelligent Backup Power that, with a fully charged battery, can power an average home for up to three days.
As with the gas-powered F-150, the Lightning will have onboard scales to estimate cargo weight in real time, but in the EV, this information will feed into the truck’s built-in range estimates so that there won’t be any empty battery surprises when you’re towing.
Speaking of towing, the tow/haul mode on the Lightning will technically operate in a different way than in the gas-powered version (there’s no engine braking in an EV) but the idea behind the button is the same. Now, the regenerative brakes are used along with the physical brakes to stop the truck from running away on a downhill. F-150 Lightning chief engineer Linda Zhang worked on the gas-powered F-150 before tackling the Lightning, and said that putting all of these features into the EV, along with the standard EV benefits of a low center or gravity and instant torque, meant there was something special about this project.
“This is probably the funnest product I’ve worked on,” she said. “It’s hard to not enjoy 775 foot-pounds of torque and the 0-60 and passing times like we’ve got.”
One of the things Zhang and her team were able to build into the Lightning that would have been impossible in other F-150s is the lockable, water-resistance frunk that includes power outlets (two USB and four standard home outlets) and is large enough to hold 400 liters of volume and 400 pounds of payload. That means two sets of golf clubs or multiple pieces of luggage can ride up front. The frunk can also double as a mobile work desk when you’re working (there’s another potential desk between the front seats when the center console folds down) or a food and beverage holder when you’re tailgating, complete with a drainable floor. Finding room for the many components – HVAC systems, motor controllers, chargers, to name just three – that needed to be packed around the functional opening under the hood made the frunk a tremendous engineering challenge in and of itself, Palmer said.
Ford solved the frunk challenge – and many others – and that means the time has finally come for an electric pickup with the Blue Oval badge. The F-150 may be the first electric Ford pickup to go on sale, but the upcoming all-electric Silverado, the Tesla Cybertruck and options from other newcomers like the Rivian R1T mean the competition is already pretty fierce. Could Ford have built a plug-in F-150 five or ten years ago? Certainly. The automaker started making the Focus Electric in 2011, after all. But Palmer said it wasn’t until recently that the numbers make sense, so the ongoing improvements in battery technology and cost meant Ford could finally build an electric truck that offers enough power for both range and worksite (or tailgate) functionality at a cost that truck buyers have come to expect.
With so much riding on the Lightning’s debut – the President stopped by yesterday to check it out – It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Ford is just getting started with plug-in pick-ups. In fact, on May 24, the company will be revealing details on the commercial version of the Lightning, and we expect more to come down the road.