In 2019, Tesla blew up the internet when it revealed the Cybertruck. But it was just a prototype that polarized people with its dystopian design. Ford, at the time, was actually selling trucks — a lot of them. The bestselling truck for the past five years has been Ford’s F-150.
Now Ford is going electric, too. The F-150 Lightning is the company’s first electric truck.
In only a few days, 45,000 people reserved the F-150 Lightning. (Tesla reportedly has for the Cybertruck, which hasn’t started production.) In 2020, during the pandemic, Ford sold 556,145 gas-powered F-150 trucks, according to auto data firm Edmunds. So it definitely seems like Ford is poised to sell a lot of Lightnings.
The Ford F-150 Lightning will be made at Ford’s Rouge Electric Vehicle Center in Michigan. The first trucks are scheduled to be delivered next year. The base version with 230 miles of range starts at $39,974, while the 300-mile version begins at $90,000.
This is an “essential step” in getting America to adopt electric vehicles, said Ben Prochazka, executive director of EV advocacy group Electrification Coalition. That’s because it “normalizes that EVs are for everyone.”
It also shows that EVs don’t have to be small, expensive cars for people in urban areas.
In 2019, the average sticker price for a new EV was $20,000 more than the price of a new gas car. Meanwhile, the electric F-150 is only a little more than $11,000 more expensive than the gas version. And driving an EV can save a driver up to $14,000 in fuel costs over 15 years, according to the NRDC.
And even though most charging happens at home, truck owners need to know there will be charging stations nearby.
That’s why Ford developed the Ford Pass charging network, combining established networks from other companies under one digital “pass.” That’ll provide 63,000 charging points across the U.S.
But the EV industry still has some work to do.
“Automakers will need to figure out how [charging] will work for more rural areas,” said Jessica Caldwell, executive director of insights at Edmunds.
There are plenty of “charging deserts” where easy access to a plug is rare. That has prompted projects like the West Coast Electric Highway, a multi-state effort to have fast charging available every 25 to 50 miles along a western corridor. Similar projects are forming in other regions.
Tesla’s Supercharger network, exclusive to Tesla drivers, is most available on the coasts. But it’s expanding in less populated parts of the country.
“If any vehicle is going to push the agenda of setting up rural infrastructure, it’s going to be the F-150 Lightning,” Caldwell said.
In September of last year, 39 percent of Ford truck owners surveyed by auto shopping site CarGurus said they will “probably/definitely” own an electric truck in the next 10 years, and 28 percent in the next five years.
This indicates a large chunk of Ford customers are at least interested in owning an EV, even if not right away. And this was before details about the Lightning were revealed.
Younger potential truck buyers “are at the forefront of adopting the latest tech,” said Lightning marketing manager Jasen Turnball during a press briefing.
These are more price- and environmentally conscious buyers who want a truck that’s “smart,” with features like Ford’s hands-free driving system BlueCruise, over-the-air updates, and Alexa voice assistance built into the infotainment system.
“We redesigned [the F-150] to be friendly to first-time battery electric vehicle owners,” said Darren Palmer, Ford’s battery electric vehicle general manager for North America.
Features like accurate range forecasting (based on weight of the payload or tow trailer, terrain, and even weather) and trip planning in the navigation system are meant to help drivers know the limits of the truck’s battery.
Meanwhile, Tesla’s Cybertruck is pretty much an inside joke for loyal, longtime Tesla fanatics and early EV adopters.