Ford F-150 Lightning revealed: an electric truck for the masses

Images: Ford

The most popular vehicle in the United States is going electric. Ford has revealed the F-150 Lightning, an all-electric version of its popular pickup truck due out in 2022, and it’s aggressively priced for an EV. The base model with 230 miles of range starts at $39,974, while the extended range version starts in the mid-$50,000s and can go about 300 miles.

That puts it right on par, price-wise, with Tesla’s Cybertruck and far below more luxury-minded options like Rivian’s R1T or General Motors’ exorbitant GMC Hummer pickup. And since Ford’s vehicles are still eligible for the full $7,500 federal tax credit, that price tag can essentially come down even more for early buyers. It’s especially stunning, though, because all variants of the F-150 Lightning are built with Ford’s four-door “SuperCrew” cab, the gas version of which starts at $36,650. The base model Lightning is even slightly cheaper than its comparable hybrid F-150 counterpart. Most electric vehicles to date have cost more than their gas counterparts, but Ford is the closest to bucking that trend. Ford has already started taking reservations for $100.

There are a few sacrifices in that base model aside from range, but nothing that seems terribly prohibitive. And while sticker price isn’t everything when it comes to electric vehicles, it is a big barrier for many buyers. The F-150 Lightning’s price goes up with added features and extra range, but from what Ford revealed Wednesday night, the company looks ready to convince a wide swathe of customers to consider electric when they go to buy their next F-150, with little regard to what price point they’re shopping at.

Those willing to make the jump will find a truck overflowing with utility features, including a lot of ideas that Ford has already offered on the gas-powered model (like a fold-out center console work surface) and the hybrid version (like the onboard charger). It has a few unique tricks that may make buyers who are skittish about range or price think twice, too. And it all comes wrapped in an exterior design that is almost indistinguishable from its internal combustion counterparts, save for a new grille with a striking continuous light bar.

In fact, the F-150 Lightning is by far the most familiar-looking of the electric pickups announced to date. And Ford is betting big that this unchallenging boxy design — which Elon Musk poked fun at during the Cybertruck announcement in 2019 — will pay off.

“There’s plenty of space for everybody. What matters is we’re all true to ourselves,” Darren Palmer, the head of Ford’s EV division, told The Verge in an interview. “I think there’s enough to tempt people to look at [buying the electric version], and a good percent already were — we saw that in our research. But I think it’s going to tempt people who weren’t even looking.”

Or as Ford CEO Jim Farley said on The Verge’s Decoder podcast, which comes out Thursday morning: “There are lots of flavors of soda, but there’s only one Coke, and there’ll be lots of electric pickup trucks, [but] there’s only one F-150.”

Image: Ford

Power play

The F-150 Lightning comes in two battery configurations. The company says the standard range battery should get around 230 miles of range, while the extended range battery should be good for 300 miles (though neither spec has been officially rated by the Environmental Protection Agency yet).

Either of those configurations should be good for most daily driving scenarios, though many people will want to do typical truck things with the F-150 Lightning that are naturally more energy-intensive, like towing, hauling, or off-roading. To put those potential owners’ minds at ease, Ford says the truck’s software can provide real-time range estimates, something it’s already been working on in the Mustang Mach-E. This software factors in not just weather and traffic conditions, but it also uses an onboard scale to measure the weight of any payload or towing weight.

Ford announced last month that it was bringing this onboard scale technology to all F-150s, though it seems particularly useful for the Lightning — especially since Ford hasn’t compromised a ton on towing or payload capacity with its first serious electric truck. (Hi, Ford Ranger EV.)

The extended range Lightning is able to tow up to 10,000 pounds, which is more than what most affordable gas-powered F-150s are capable of, though it’s a few thousand pounds shy of what the F-150 hybrid or the diesel version can tow. The standard range F-150 Lightning, meanwhile, maxes out at 7,700 pounds.

But because of the weight difference in the battery packs, the standard range Lightning wins out on payload capacity, as it can carry up to 2,000 pounds versus the extended range’s 1,800-pound max. Still, these figures fall roughly in the middle of what you can find across the full range of F-150s. (Larger F-Series trucks, of course, can pull and haul more — no word on when those might get electrified just yet.)

All versions of the F-150 Lightning will put their battery power down via two electric motors — one up front and one in back — meaning every buyer gets an all-wheel drive setup. The extended range version sounds like it could easily knock the wind out of you, with 420kW of total power (563 horsepower) and 775 pound-feet of torque. That’s good enough to make it the quickest F-150 ever made, with the ability to go from 0 to 60 miles per hour in the mid-4 second range. The standard range Lightning isn’t much worse off, with 318kW of power (426 horsepower) and the same amount of torque.

That all sounds fun (and also a little bit ludicrous for a big truck), but all this power is only so good as long as you can easily charge the electric F-150 back up. Charging is still a sore spot for most EVs, and it’s what sapped some of the fun out of my time with the Mustang Mach-E. The truth is, unless Ford invests in building out its own dedicated network, there’s only so much the company can do between now and when the Lightning hits the road to make the public charging experience better.

In the meantime, Ford’s band-aid solution is that it has coalesced a handful of disparate independent public charging networks into what it calls the FordPass Charging Network. All of these chargers show up in the FordPass smartphone app as if they are one large network, and Ford is even working with some so that owners don’t need to create new accounts or download other apps to start charging. It’s a great idea in theory, but it needs more work — hopefully progress can be made by the time the F-150 Lightning hits the road.

The quickest option to recharge the F-150 Lightning is at a 150kW DC fast charging station. At one of these plugs, the F-150 Lightning with the extended range battery can take on about 54 miles of range in 10 minutes and can charge from 15 percent to 80 percent in 41 minutes. The standard range battery will take longer, though: it can take on 41 miles of range in 10 minutes at a 150kW charging station, and it takes 44 minutes to charge from 15 to 80 percent.

At home, a 120-volt outlet will trickle 3 miles per hour into the battery, while a 240-volt outlet can add around 14 miles per hour. The real standout charging feature is exclusive to the versions of the F-150 Lightning powered by the extended range battery: Ford is including a new 80-amp home charging station that not only fully charges the F-150 Lightning in eight hours but allows owners to easily power their entire home for around three days in the event of an electricity outage.

The ability to draw power from the battery pack isn’t limited to these extreme scenarios, though. All of the base trims of the F-150 Lightning can put out 2.4kW of onboard power, and the more expensive Lariat and Platinum trims offer a total of 9.6kW of onboard power. The more expensive F-150 Lightnings also have 11 built-in power sockets — seven in the cab and bed, including a 240V outlet, and four in the front trunk — plus a handful of USB ports. Ford began playing with this idea of turning a vehicle into a mobile generator of sorts with the F-150 hybrid, but the higher trims of the F-150 Lightning will offer even more onboard power, and they won’t use gas to generate it. That’s not only a great feature for anyone who needs power on the go, but it could be a huge benefit for fleet operators or small businesses looking to go green.

“We think this is going to be really popular,” Palmer says. “People like to be self-reliant. And this makes you completely self-reliant.”

Electric utility, future tech

Speaking of that front trunk, it’s huge. Ford says it can fit two sets of golf clubs or a large suitcase and two carry-on-sized bags. It has a total volume of 14.1 cubic feet (400 liters) and can carry up to 400 pounds of stuff. Like the front trunk on the Mustang Mach-E, it’s water resistant and has a drain for easy cleaning. Ford calls it — seriously — the Mega Power Frunk.

The F-150 Lightning’s front trunk is not only large, but the hood takes the truck’s grille with it when it opens, meaning you won’t have to reach up and over to access what’s inside. It’s a considerate touch from Ford, but it’s not terribly surprising considering the myriad utility features the company has built into recent F-150s — many of which carry over to the Lightning.

Beyond the frunk and the outlets and onboard power, there’s also the fold-out workstation in the center console, which has enough space for a laptop, a pad of paper, or your lunch. For people who spend a lot of time in their trucks — while charging, perhaps — the two front seats can fold back pretty much totally flat. And for people who do a lot of towing, the truck has Ford’s new smart hitch assist feature that can pretty much automatically hook a trailer up for you.

In fact, the Lightning shares so much with other F-150s that it’s using the same cab and the same size bed, meaning it should work with previously compatible accessories and add-ons like a slide-in camper.

One of the biggest differences is that it has a 15.5-inch portrait touchscreen in the more expensive trims. It’s essentially the same as what’s in the Mustang Mach-E, except it doesn’t float over the dashboard. It’s embedded and surrounded by some physical buttons and a few outlets, which Ford says truck customers still rely on.

That screen is running Ford’s Sync 4A, which is the latest version of the automaker’s infotainment system that debuted in the Mustang Mach-E. It pretty much operates in a two-pane layout, with the top half often dedicated to navigation or media controls and the bottom half for climate and other vehicle functions. But it also features wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto if you’d rather just work with the apps on your phone, or Amazon Alexa if you like to let out the occasional lonely shout.

The driver display is bigger than the one on the Mustang Mach-E — 12 inches versus 10 inches — and will feature more detailed information about energy usage. This whole system will also be updatable over the air, as Ford recently detailed how it is embracing remote software updates in a big way.

But if you want that 15.5-inch screen, you have to pay for either the Lariat or Platinum trim. The base model Lightning comes with a less flashy landscape-oriented 12-inch capacitive touchscreen that runs the standard version of Sync 4. This version of the truck will still get over-the-air updates, works with CarPlay and Android Auto, and has onboard LTE hotspot capability, so it’s not missing much in the dashboard tech department. In fact, some buyers might prefer the simpler setup.

The higher trims of the new F-150 Lightning will also have Ford’s hands-free driver assistance system, which it calls BlueCruise, as an option. BlueCruise is slated to launch on equipped 2021 F-150s and Mustang Mach-Es later this year and allows for hands-free driving on more than 100,000 miles of divided highways. Like GM’s Super Cruise system, it uses an infrared camera to track the driver’s eyes to make sure they’re paying attention to the road and are ready to retake control at any moment. That’s a good feature to have on any vehicle that offers advanced driver assistance, but especially one of this size.

Who’s buying?

Ford appears to have checked a lot of boxes with the F-150 Lightning, and you could probably argue that it drew a few extra boxes and checked those, too. Range will be a big question, as it always is with new EVs. But it won’t be the only question.

In fact, when I asked Cox Automotive executive analyst Michelle Krebs about the F-150 Lightning, her first instinct was to rattle off a bunch of questions that couldn’t possibly be answered Wednesday night or really until next year:

Is there a market? We think there is, as when we survey people, there is some interest. But how many of those people are there? Are these traditional truck buyers who are willing to go electric, or are these people who maybe haven’t purchased a truck before but are interested in a truck now that electric is an option? Who are the buyers? We know that EV buyers, generally, are younger than the general car-buying public and far more affluent – among the most affluent of car buyers. Who will these EV truck buyers purchase from – a traditional truck maker, like Ford, with decades of expertise in truck making, or an upstart like Tesla, Rivian, etc.? What will they use their EV trucks for? Our studies show full-size truck buyers tend to use their trucks for work; buyers of smaller trucks use them more for leisure and recreation.

Those are all great questions. We just won’t know the answers until the F-150 Lightning actually goes on sale in 2022, despite Ford finally showing off what the truck is capable of.

Still, it clearly has the potential to be a very big deal. The Mustang Mach-E is already drawing a ton of new customers into Ford, and that’s a far more polarizing vehicle than what Ford unveiled Wednesday night. Ford’s gas-guzzling F-Series trucks are already supremely popular. So if Americans are ever going to consider switching to electric vehicles en masse, an electric F-150 seems as good a bet as any other option — maybe better.

Either way, the F-150 Lightning feels like a strange, almost cosmic course correction, as Ford made mass-market combustion-engine automobiles possible way back in the early 20th century, and crushed the earliest efforts at electric vehicles in the process. Perhaps now, with this new electric truck, it can help tip the balance in the other direction.

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Comments

The price to range ratio is fantastic. If they have the battery supply, this could rival the Model 3 for bestselling American EV.

Agreed they’re literally going for mass market with this (I’m stunned) and with super thoughtful updates in the design.

I think their problem (assuming they deliver a good product) is going to be making enough. They’re taking $100 reservations now.

They are not gonna be able to make enough of these

230 miles for 40K? There are other EVs that get better ratio.

I don’t think any of those would have the size or 4WD like the lightning though. That’s a LOT of EV for 40 large.

Name any that are comparable, that I can use for ranch duty as a pickup. Something with a practical design (not Cybertruck, the bed is useless "out here").

I am really happy to see Ford bringing this to market.

One comment about range, though. For anyone with a serious load in the bed or pulling a trailer, the range numbers get cut by as much as 50% (just like ICE vehicles, maybe worse). So for these people, the base model just isn’t going to cut it and they’ll be buying the 300 mile long-range model, which isn’t really that long of a range either. People with trailers are often traveling on the highway. I realize that people with trailers is a relatively small market, but I don’t think they’ll be buying this vehicle.

The three-motor Cyber truck has a 500+ mile range. Which is a real advantage, especially given that Tesla has the charging network as an additional huge advantage. I’d hate to have this Lightning and have to figure out how to charge on a road trip while towing a trailer. That’s a nightmare.

How many F-150 owners actually haul or tow stuff, though? Around where I live, pickup trucks have replaced minivans as soccer taxis and grocery getters.

Did you actually read my comment? Here, I’ll quote myself:

I realize that people with trailers is a relatively small market, but I don’t think they’ll be buying this vehicle.

I don’t know the proportion of people who haul loads, which is why I made the comment. But they sure seem to be an important subset of the market because the companies design their trucks around numbers like payload and towing capacity. Look at this article – after the top picture of hauling a motorcycle in the woods, then a full-frontal road pic, the next three are of hauling a load of lumber, towing an Airstream, then of a contractor on-site.

Anyway, my point stands. Today, the charging network out there for non-Tesla BEVs is a nightmare, there are a bunch of articles on the subject of how hard it is to find a high-capacity charging site, how often they don’t work or are inaccessible, etc. And if you’re hauling that Airstream, it’s going to be even harder as a lot of them are in parking garages.

The amount of time it takes to charge to capacity is going to be an issue on a long road trip, if your "range" is 300 miles, but it drops to 200 miles, that means you’re going to need to stop for an hour for every three hours of driving, at best. And, as I said, finding those chargers is going to be a bitch. This charging network issue isn’t going to be solved for a very long time. We don’t have standards, we don’t have government support, we’ve got various private companies without a ton of capital and few customers out there.

I’ve got two Cybertrucks reserved, and the charging network is the reason I’m not going to consider any other BEV trucks. I’m not a Tesla fanatic. Tesla started building its charging network 10 years ago, no one else is close today, and the Tesla network will just keep expanding capacity and locations.

Living in a rural area, mostly farms and ranches, most people I know, I commented on similar points in another article, I’ll attempt a shorter summary. Basic supplies/town with two stoplights, 60 mile round trip, no issue with that (and no chargers there yet). Walmart, 150 round (2 charging stations, opposite side of town from stores). Home Depot, Sam’s, etc. 180 (also, long way through town for 2 charging areas). Hospital, 30 miles, but people get moved to 220 miles if something serious (road trip, stopping for an amount of time is not possible, no chargers in between). Sometimes a move from there as well. Followup with specialists in another town, 360 mile round trip. Store stops aren’t 20 minutes most of the time for me, never, never, stop to eat or goof around in town for any amount of time. Many times it’s with a load in the bed and/or a trailer. Many days just running around the property, or hauling a fully loaded trailer back and forth to town all day. Half the year it’s cold, sometimes 40MPH wind gusts, and hills. -30 this past winter a few days. Will an EV work in all those conditions without being a hassle/wasting time for any one of those situations?

Tesla dealer, 400 miles one way. Ford, 30 miles one way. Cybertruck, better with range, but the bed is not practical. Actually, I need a long bed (as in need, not want, and 8’), and don’t need a full crew, so it looks like neither Ford or Tesla will be options for now.

No one vehicle model is right for everyone, no question about that. We’ve all got our needs, and we figure out the vehicle that works best or those needs.

The only thing you said that I question is where you say the bed on the Cybertruck is not practical. Clearly if you need an 8’ bed it’s not going to work, but I don’t think that’s what you were referring to when you wrote "not practical". If you’re talking about being able to reach into the bed I’m not sure if you are aware that the Cybertruck has a "kneeling" mode where the air springs drop down to allow easy access to the bed.

Also, the trucks I see driving around, even though the bed has a level height, are up so high you can’t reach into them in any case.

You can get into the bed if it’s too high with side steps/running boards. I’ll quote a few of my initial thoughts from another of my posts. My main issue is the sides that are permanently on, not everything goes in/out the back, they are an obstacle throwing things in and out. Lowering is good to know, though.

""How is a 6.5 feet bed impractical"
The way it’s designed? How do I put in a diesel transfer tank in the front, and be able to get to the nozzle/hose to fill tractors in the field (practical/affordable electric tractors are years away, I don’t see them doing the 20 hour+ days we do in the summer, affordably, unless I’m missing something?)? It might be addressed (really haven’t looked into a cybertruck, don’t know anyone interested in one), but what happens to that built in cover when there’s ice? Is it heated/will it open if frozen? How about if it’s dented/damaged, is it a major repair, or can I just buy a new cover without going to the dealer? Can a person put on a topper/cap? How about bed racks? Driving next to a dock to load bags? Access to the side with a bed step? Loading atvs from the sides? Tree cleanup/throwing debris in from the sides? Is the bed fully removable to put on a flatbed or service body? Etc., etc."

Forgot, doesn’t look like you can even put in mounted toolboxes in the front (or along the sides). Those are very common.

I am sure there will be either Tesla toolbox options, third-party, or both. Also, there is a frunk in the Cybertruck, and you can use it for tool storage. In total, the Cybertruck has 100 cubic feet of lockable, exterior storage between the frunk, under-bed, and sail pillars. That’s quite a bit and it doesn’t count the interior or bed, and so you probably don’t need a toolbox with the CT. Why would you get one with all that storage?

Actually, a tractor is a great application for a BEV. Low speed with nearly 100% torque available from the moment you start moving, low daily mileage so charging is not a problem, lower operating and maintenance costs, etc.

…what happens to that built in cover when there’s ice?

The entire Cybertruck, including what’s called the "vault", which everyone else calls the bed, will be pre-heated via your phone app to remove all snow & ice from the whole vehicle. Existing Tesla’s already have this feature. There are videos on YouTube.

How about if it’s dented/damaged, is it a major repair, or can I just buy a new cover without going to the dealer?

Great question. From what I’ve read it’s pretty dang robust, you can walk on it no problem. I know you can get a Tesla fix, but I’m not sure how easily replaceable it will be. You can always just leave it open most of the time if you want, and just lock it when you need to. The cover is made of the same steel as the body – you didn’t ask, but the body of the Cybertruck is made out of a custom-recipe "30X", cold-rolled, 3mm stainless steel, and will be very robust. It is the same stainless SpaceX is using for the StarShips currently being made near Boca Chica TX (I think they are up to number 15). While not "dent proof", it’s going to take a lot to dent it – it’s bullet proof up to a regular (not armor piercing) 9mm round.

Also, this is a good place to mention that all versions of the Cybertruck have a load rating of 3,500 pounds for the bed, and towing capacity is over 14,000 pounds. Thank you, exoskeleton and stainless steel.

Can a person put on a topper/cap?

Yes.

How about bed racks? Access to the side with a bed step?

There will be Tesla options here for racks, and also likely third party. I’m not sure about bed steps but I would not be surprised. Time will tell.

Driving next to a dock to load bags? Loading atvs from the sides? Tree cleanup/throwing debris in from the sides?

Sure, why couldn’t you? Again, the air springs will drop the whole vehicle down for easier access from the sides, or you can raise it up if you’re on a loading dock and need it higher. Also, there is a tailgate ramp built in as standard equipment that allows loading an ATV. From the back.

Is the bed fully removable to put on a flatbed or service body?

No. The Cybertruck is a new kind of construction for any vehicle. It’s an "exoskeleton" design, not a body & frame construction of most trucks, or chassis for regular cars. Unique. So the bed is integral to the structure of the vehicle and not removable. This is also why the Cybertruck has the shape it does, it’s not for aesthetics to look "cool", it’s structural and an engineering choice. Obviously therefore, you can’t make it into a flatbed, they would need to design a new vehicle from the ground up. It’s extremely rigid, which brings certain other advantages for other applications, such as towing.

Not trying to sell you on the Cybertruck. Just saying. I know the answer to these questions because I’ve been a member of a Cybertruck owners forum since shortly after Tesla announced the vehicle. These kinds of questions come up there.

Tractor-what amount of battery capacity would be needed to spend say ~16 hours pulling around ~13 tons (plus tractor weight of about 6-7 tons, not very much weight, just one thing I do)? And a lot of the time that is not a rolling load (stop/go/drag in dirt/mud). Or, more than that with heavier machinery and bigger tractor (yes, battery one would be different weight, but that weight is needed for traction). Just thinking out loud, I could actually calculate it. I know they are thinking about it, here’s an article with a very tiny tractor example. https://modernfarmer.com/2020/03/going-green-can-electric-tractors-override-diesel/
--
I guess I’d have to see one in person. I see pictures, one with loading an atv, and I see the back must be lowered because it almost touches the tire (but doesn’t in another picture), and a person standing next to it. From that, I still have my thought about that side. My point is throwing things in/out of the bed with an obstacle to go around/over isn’t too handy. Say 40, 50lb bags, it’s easier to throw them in from the side, hard to explain, I don’t articulate my thoughts well, if you haven’t worked with things like that I guess. I, having done that, would likely have an issue (even from a dock you kind of swing them in). It looks like having a partial bed extension installed.

A lot of people reuse their toolboxes, or make homemade ones. Google "bed side toolbox" or similar (not the best examples, but some), and then images, things are along the bed sides, and longer things fit, things can be …"displayed" if that’s the right word, nothing to pull out or dig through. Walk to the side, open door, it’s all on display. And also Google "ranch pickup flatbed toolbox", things like that, common. Different compartments, spread out, makes things handier. Plus, throw in things like welders/air compressors. And, like I said, fuel tank, with a hose/nozzle, in the front of the bed. Yes, CT could have options made, just saying things could be handier if not for the sides….

"How many" is not that important. Some of us do, and we do important things that contribute to making your lives/lifestyle possible. Most people I know "use" them, hard.

Take any tool/device, and then people who don’t really need that tool start buying it "just because". Doesn’t change the fact that people need that tool, and that things need done with that tool. Their use can’t be ignored in the design process. Or, another new tool would need to be offered in order to meet needed uses.

That 500 miles is presumably going with Teslas famously inflated numbers. The real world difference probably won’t be as much as it is on paper.

Yeah, it’s a minimum of 500 miles, so we’ll see what the actual figures work out to.

I’ll just point out that regardless of the differences between testing and actual, 500+ is a whole heck of a lot more range than 300 for the F150 "long range".

I garantee people are going to say "Nah" before they hear of the $7500.

Once they hear that, they’re going to customize it faster than a Monster Factory episode.

This is barely more expensive than F-150s normally are. The federal tax credit basically makes it a wash

I wouldn’t agree considering the average cost of F-150s and how many they sale already. It won’t be hard to move these

These will probably be selling above sticker from dealers for awhile.

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