Few vehicles are more popular than the Ford F-150, which is why the recent introduction of the all-electric F-150 Lightning is such a big deal. Over 800,000 F-150 pickups were sold in 2020, and that represented a ‘down’ year. If even a small fraction of those yearly sales are all-electric, it would be a big deal for the automaker and North American regulations seeking to reduce greenhouse gases and carbon footprints.
We had a closer look at the new Lightning EV and learned as much as we could about the electric truck without driving it. Unfortunately, this model was just a prototype (apparently, just one of two), so Ford wasn’t risking it on the open road, so we had to be content with poking, prodding, and crawling all over the truck. We came away thinking that it may be the most high-tech truck so far, but others are popping up on the horizon to claim that title for themselves.
The Truck Stuff
First off, there are two battery options. The standard range model arrives with 426 horsepower and 775 lb-ft of torque and is rated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to travel 230 miles on a single charge. The extended range model includes a more powerful powertrain, with an output of 563 horsepower and 775 lb-ft torque, and a range of 300 miles. It’s worth pointing out that this range was calculated with a 1,000 lb payload, so the everyday driving distance of the truck may exceed those expectations.
The F-150’s transition to electron-powered rather than combustion doesn’t significantly impact its capabilities, as it can haul up to 2,000 lbs of payload and tow between 5,000 and 10,000 lbs when properly equipped.
The bed even has a built-in scale to weigh your load, and the vehicle considers that weight when calculating its remaining range.
When not hauling anything, the F-150 is expected to be quick thanks to that high output powertrain. It can hit highway speeds from a standstill in just about four seconds!
High Tech Energy
While that sounds like the truck will satiate EV-interested truck buyers, it’s worth pointing out that there’s quite a bit to appeal to tech enthusiasts as well.
For starters, it’s loaded with power ports and outlets. There are 11 outlets found throughout the vehicle, letting users charge their various devices, or even power tools while on a worksite or appliances at a campsite. Like the gas-powered and hybrid versions of the F-150, the lightning also offers Ford’s ProPower Onboard feature, which is basically a generator.
Like other pure EVs with this much range, recharging the F-150 Lightning will take some time: The standard range battery will take 44 minutes to charge between 15-80 percent using a 150 kW Level 3 charger, while a 50 kW charger will take 91 minutes. A Level 2 charger will charge the standard range battery in 10 hours. The extended range battery recharges in 41 minutes using a 150 kW Level 3 Charger, 122 minutes using the 50 kW charger. A Level 2 Charger recharges an extended battery-equipped truck in 13 hours.
One cool trick with the truck is that, when properly equipped, it can return power to the grid, or charge your house in an emergency. Depending on the energy requirements of the household, Ford suggests it can power a dwelling for 3 to 10 days.
Before you even get in the vehicle and check out the tech it has on tap, Ford is boasting a phone-as-a-key feature, allowing owners to lock, unlock, and start their truck without taking their phone out of their pocket or using a key fob.
Other automakers using Apple’s Digital Key platform like BMW, still require you to take the phone out of your pocket or to use a smartwatch to operate, so this is an interesting next step for the technology.
Inside the cabin, there are a few new tech tricks, but most notably it features a giant 15-inch touch-screen infotainment system. This uses the Sync 4A interface, similar to the Mustang Mach-E and not the upcoming Android Automotive OS. It has goofy apps like a sketchpad, which may be useful when you’re sitting around waiting for a charge to complete. It's also clever. For example, using the system to map a route, Sync 4A will consider the path’s topography to offer the most range-friendly navigation.
The F-150 Lightning will also offer the Blue Cruise hands-free driving system, in addition to the suite of safety and driver aids commonly found on new vehicles, including pedestrian detection, forward collision warning, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping, automatic high beam headlamps, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, traffic sign recognition, and parking assist.
Models with tow packages even have a tow assist feature, to make maneuvering with a trailer easier. The automaker is suggesting that the truck can get upgrades to its technology through over-the-air updates called Power-Ups.
More Tech Trucks to Come?
What helps build more anticipation for the new Lightning EV is pricing.
The base trim model is known as the Pro, and costs $39,974 in the US, while the XLT model will start at $52,974. The Lariat model has an asking price of $67,474, while the top-of-the-line Platinum model will set customers back $89,874. While the lower-trim models seem approachable, the fancier trucks seem a bit expensive.
But fortunately for tech-truck enthusiasts, there are more electric and innovative pickup trucks on the way. Cross-town rivals General Motors are making a truck-like variant of its Hummer EV, though that will really only appeal to those with deep pockets, with an asking price that exceeds $110,000 in the US.
The Hummer EV is also a tech powerhouse, with enough batteries to provide 350 miles of range, and electric motors with 1,000 horsepower. While the truck can rocket to 60 MPH in just 3 seconds, it’s also packed with features like an Unreal Engine-powered infotainment system, and Crab Walk, which will allow all four tires to point in the same direction for greater maneuverability.
Newcomers with Experience
But newcomers to the industry are also vying for attention in the same segment. Many are expecting Tesla's wild-looking Cybertruck to begin production in 2021, though the automaker does have an issue with meeting its promises. Regardless, whenever it does arrive, the Cybertruck will bring a whole new aura to the pickup truck market.
It also has the pretty robust Tesla Supercharger network to help it navigate long zero-emission road trips. Like the Ford F-150 Lightning EV, the Cybertruck will be available in several different trim levels and configurations, with the most affordable models expected to start at $39,900. There are also models with more power, capability, and performance sure to come. Expect models to arrive with anywhere between 250 to 500 miles of range.
In addition to the Cybertruck, a new all-electric automaker known as Rivian is set to deliver its R1T pickup truck very soon, anywhere between this summer and early 2022. This sleek pickup will feature a higher price tag of $67,500 and feature at least 300 miles of range. It can even perform a sleek 'tank turn' by spinning wheels in opposite directions. It's the variety of accessories and options that caught our attention with the R1T, including a rechargeable flashlight, a Bluetooth speaker, and a 30-piece kitchen set, with a coffee pot, a coffee grinder, titanium serving plates. It even throws in a kitchen sink and a four-gallon water tank.
While the F-150 Lightning looks to appeal to truck buyers primarily, its advanced powertrain and high-tech features could see it gaining a few new fans. And if that doesn’t fit the bill for tech enthusiasts, the variety of other EV pickup trucks just might.