May 11, 2022 - Economy

Ford F-150 Lightning review: A watershed moment for electric vehicles

Image of a Ford F-150 Lightning electric pickup with a tent on the roof and the open frunk stuffed with gear.

Ford's F-150 Lightning's frunk stores gear in a secure, dry place. Photo courtesy of Ford

Ford's F-150 Lightning — which is just hitting the market — is more than simply another pickup truck: It's poised to open the floodgates for electric vehicle adoption in the U.S. by showing how much an EV can do.

Why it matters: While Tesla started the EV revolution, Ford will likely get credit for taking these vehicles mainstream. Priced just under $40,000, the F-150 Lightning is a versatile and affordable gateway product that can (sometimes) be charged in under an hour.

What's happening: Ford is overhauling its F-Series pickup truck — America's best-selling vehicle — by ripping out the engine and transmission and replacing it with an electric powertrain.

  • It's a bet-the-company move that, if all goes as planned, will attract buyers who never considered an EV — or a pickup — before.

So far, it looks like a success: Ford has taken nearly 200,000 reservations and already bumped up production capacity twice, hoping to hit an annual rate of 150,000 by next year.

The big picture: Ford sells 900,000 gasoline-powered F-Series trucks per year, bringing in more than $40 billion in annual revenue — more than companies like McDonalds, Nike and Coca-Cola.

  • There are 16.4 million of them in operation — 5.8% of all vehicles on the road.

Ford is not the first to deliver an electric truck; General Motors' GMC Hummer and Rivian's R1T beat them to market. But those are fun, expensive toys.

  • The Ford Lightning's starting price is half of the Rivian and far less than the six-figure Hummer, putting it within reach for many.

Situational awareness: I flew to Texas, the truck capital of America, last week to be among the first to try the new electric F-150.

  • I drove from downtown San Antonio through suburban stop-and-go traffic, then north on I-10 to explore the rolling hills of central Texas and the Singing Water vineyards, where I went off-roading — pretty much every kind of driving scenario you can imagine.
  • I even used the Lightning to tow a 24-foot electric speedboat — 8,600 pounds, including the trailer — in the Hill Country and on the freeway.

Details: The Lightning comes with two battery choices — a 230-mile standard range and a 320-mile extended range — and four trim levels. I tried them all, from the $39,974 Lightning Pro work truck for fleet customers all the way up to the $90,874 Platinum edition.

  • Charging time ranges from 15 hours with a 240-volt wall outlet to about 40 minutes at a public 150-kW fast-charging station.

The "mega power frunk" — or front trunk — could be the Lightning's biggest selling point:

  • All EVs have a front trunk where the engine is normally found, but Ford's is massive: It's got 14 cubic feet of space, with room for 400 pounds of cargo, plus a deep well with a drain that doubles as a cooler.
  • Push the key fob and it opens wide like a lion's mouth. It easily fits two sets of golf clubs, or valuable tools and equipment you don't want to store in the bed.

It's also a source of power, with up to 11 outlets onboard to power tools, camping gear — even your house or your neighbor's EV in a pinch.

Yes, but: Towing a nearly 9,000-pound boat cut the truck's 320-mile battery range to 157 miles.

The bottom line: The Ford F-150 Lightning is the most anticipated vehicle in decades — and, so far at least, lives up to the hype.

Editor’s note: The annual revenue figure that Ford derives from its F series trucks has been corrected: It is $40 billion, not $40 million.

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