Full of thoughtful features, rapid for a three tonne truck, affordable
300 mile range merely adequate for Americans… and it’s US only
What is it?
This is the brand-new Ford F150 Lightning, and it’s a pick-up truck that can fit an entire adult under the bonnet. Any guesses why that might be?
Ding, ding, ding! Correct! This is an all-electric version of America’s best-selling truck for the last 45 years and it has a Mega Power Frunk instead of pistons under the hood. In a good year Ford sells close to a million of its F-Series trucks and turns over around $40bn in the process. It is an absolute titan and crucial not just to Ford’s balance sheet, but the US economy as a whole. All of which means messing with the formula like this, is kind of a big deal…
What is it about electric pick-up trucks at the moment?
True, there are suddenly quite a few about, like the new Hummer EV, Chevy Silverado EV and Rivian R1T, as well as Elon’s stainless-steel wedge, the Cybertruck. What makes the Ford unique is it looks (by and large), like any other F-150, it’s affordable (prices start from under $40,000) and it’s ready. Rivian, by all accounts, is having difficulty ramping up production, the four-tonne Hummer is $100k+ and the Chevy doesn’t arrive until next year. Ford had to turn the tap off at 200,000 reservations, over a year’s worth of production, because it didn’t want things spiralling out of control and customers having to wait years for delivery.
Problem is, dazzling Silicon Valley types tired of waiting for their non-existent Cybertruck to be delivered is the easy part… tempting its core audience over to an EV is going to be trickier. Darren Palmer, VP Electric Vehicle Programs (aka the Brit heading up Ford’s $50bn bid to upend Tesla as the biggest EV maker in the world) tells a lovely story about asking some grizzled Texan truck lovers what kind of animal would an electric truck be? “A Chihuahua.” OK, what drink would it be? “Pink champagne.” He then proceeds to distract them by talking about the new F-150 Raptor before rattling off the specs of one more exciting future model. They get even more amped, then he tells them that’s the EV. “Cue half an hour of shouting, no way, you’re lying, disbelief.”
So the challenge is clear – this is a car with a shot at changing opinions on EVs across America. If it does, the floodgates could open, for Ford and other manufacturers of electric vehicles. Ford is calling this the most important car it’s launched since the Model T. They might be right.
Give us those ‘unbelievable’ specs then?
There are two models to choose from, the entry-level version with a 98kWh battery, 446bhp and a 230-mile range. Or the extended range model we drove with a mammoth 131kWh battery (removable from below with just eight bolts), 572bhp and a 320-mile range, except on the blingy top-spec Platinum model where the range drops to 300-miles because of all the kit, an abattoir’s worth of leather and less slippery 22-inch wheels.
Both models produce 775lb ft of torque, and the faster one will do 0-60mph in 4.3 seconds. That’s just bonkers, sports car pace from something the size of a small planet. Make no mistake, this is an enormous vehicle – the length of a long wheelbase Mercedes S-Class… plus another 60cm, and it weighs the best part of three tonnes. Driving one of these in the UK would feel like a double decker bus, but in Texas, where everything is supersized, it just fits.
Find a non-Tesla rapid charger (we discovered most Walmarts had a bank of 350kW Electrify America chargers installed) and while charging speeds are capped at 150kW, that’s enough for 15 to 100 per cent in 41 mins. Get Ford’s Charge Station Pro installed at your house and it’ll charge up the extended battery version in about eight hours, it’ll also turn your truck into a power station in the event of a black out - a regular occurrence in parts of the US - feeding energy back into your house to keep the lights and all your other electrics on for up to three days, or 10 days if you ration the power. All hail the apocalypse-proof car.
What's the verdict?
Is America ready for the electric car? Yes. And no. The public charging infrastructure in the US, as in the UK, needs a lot of attention especially given the bigger distances between towns, but if you can home charge that’s half the battle won. What we discovered was for every EV sceptic there was someone whose head was turned by how relatively cheap (amid spiralling ‘gas’ prices) the Lightning was to charge, or how useful it is, or the performance figures. If ever there’s an EV capable of shifting American attitudes, it’s this one right here.
It looks familiar, it goes like a muscle car when you stomp on it and it’s full of brilliant practical touches and features that will either solve a problem in your life, or at least give you something interesting to talk about over the garden fence. All things considered, it’s a better truck than the standard F-150 and hats off to Ford for getting the price down to near parity with the combustion model. The mission was to remove all the excuses for an F-150 customer not to buy the electric one, and they’ve done a remarkable job.
If you can get your head around the 300-mile range, America – we’d make the switch. And the early signs are good with the first year and a half of production sold out and reservations on hold to give them a chance to fulfil existing orders. Over to you, Tesla.