SAN ANTONIO – Ford Motor’s new F-150 Lightning is an electric pickup. It may seem obvious considering that it looks like a truck and has electric motors and a battery pack instead of a motor, but it has to be said.
Why? Because a successful battery-powered pickup is a critical step in the EV transition, for Ford and the industry at large.
While industry leader Tesla has proven that consumers will buy electric cars and Rivian Automotive has shown that there is a demand for electric lifestyle vehicles, the F-150 is the most significant test to date for whether electric cars can go from compliant vehicles and niche trucks to a product which will attract more regular buyers.
The electric pickup market, although still largely untested, will be important for investors to watch in the coming years. Trucks traditionally have fat profit margins and account for about 20% of the vehicles sold in the United States, according to the car intelligence company Edmunds.
LMC Automotive expects the US electric pickup market to grow from about 25,000 vehicles this year to 1 million or so by 2030. There are five electric pickup models available on the market this year, and it is expected to jump to 21 in the next decade. .
Ford’s F-150 Lightning is the first traditional pickup to become electric. It’s not a GMC Hummer EV “super truck”. It’s not a Tesla “Cybertruck.” It’s not a Rivian R1T “adventure vehicle”. It’s a pickup, electrified.
The benefits of the F-150 Lightning are similar to the Hummer EV and Rivian R1T, but these electric pickups – the only ones currently sold in the US – are not created equal. The three drive differently and will appeal to different buyers when sales pass early users to more general, electric car-curious buyers.
Lightning lives up to the F-150 name in both function and form, and acts as a bridge between the traditional pickup that people know and a new EV. It shares many of its designs and shares with its traditional sibling, in addition to the powertrains, some design adjustments and an optional 15.5-inch control screen.
It is also priced like a traditional pickup, from about $ 40,000 to more than $ 90,000. This is similar to Ford’s current range of large four-door pickups and in line with average prices of around $ 61,000 for a full-size pickup, according to Cox Automotive.
An electric pickup for the masses is something Ford had a unique position to bring to market. Its F-Series, including the F-150, has been the best-selling vehicle in America for 40 years and the best truck in 45 years.
The company set out to make an electric version of the F-150 pickup, and it succeeded. The vehicle works like a full-size truck. But electrification provides additional benefits with essentially immediate torque, increased storage through a massive front trunk, or “frunk”, where an engine would traditionally be – and it removes the burden of having to top up with gas.
Lightning drives like an F-150, and that’s not a bad thing. Ford and other car manufacturers have increasingly transformed pickups from hard-driving work trucks to comfortable vehicles that can navigate smoothly on and off the road.
The vehicle’s large battery provides even better driving, as it keeps the vehicle more grounded and provides a closer 50-50 weight ratio for better balance. In addition, it provides a smooth towing experience because electric cars do not require shifting gears, which is especially noticeable when towing cargo.
Although Lightning can scale hills or even a bit of rough terrain, it does not match the Hummer or R1T in that respect – but it is designed. This is a truck intended for regular buyers, not a niche segment. Ford may one day offer such a more durable vehicle, but it’s not.
The F-150 Lightning can handle up to 580 horsepower and 775 foot-pounds of torque. Consumer models with their top battery of 131 kWh start at around $ 72,500 and have a range of up to 320 miles on a single charge. Its towing capacity is up to 10,000 pounds – between Hummer and R1T. Vehicles with smaller batteries and a range of 230 miles are cheaper but also provide less performance.
Electric Ford F-150 Lightning
Andrew Evers / CNBC
One of Lightning’s most unique advantages over the Hummer and R1T is its capacity for on-board power generation. Ford charged the vehicle with sockets and a bidirectional charging system that can power a workplace or home in the event of a power outage for up to 10 days, depending on energy usage.
Ford began delivering the F-150 Lightning earlier this month to select fleet buyers and more than 200,000 reservation holders. The company has not announced when it will reopen its order bank, as it plans to increase production to 150,000 vehicles by mid-2023.
The Rivian R1T has some of the first-hand advantages in the market for electric pickups; Production began in the autumn but is slowly increasing. The R1T is capable of both performance and off-road driving, driving 0-60 mph in about three seconds like a sports car, but it can scale rocks or large hills like a Jeep SUV.
Its interior and exterior styling, with vegan leather and real wood, is more Tesla-like chic than off-road brute. It’s also a much smaller vehicle – about 16 inches shorter, in fact – than the F-150 Lightning, making it more comparable to a Ford Ranger or Jeep Gladiator.
It talks about how Rivian positions its products as “adventure vehicles”. This is how Jeep has described its SUVs for several years, which makes the Rivian a more threat to the SUV brand Stellantis than the F-150.
At the moment, Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe agrees and told CNBC in a recent interview that the three pickups are each “quite different products.” Cross-shopping between the Rivian R1T, Hummer and F-150, he said, is extremely low: “It is clear that the goal and the goals are different.”
Edmunds reports that buyers are looking at the R1T, which usually compares the Ford Mustang Mach-E crossover and other electric cars, rather than other pickups.
However, Scaringe has referred to plans for a complete range of vehicles on the Rivian, which could theoretically include a larger truck.
Rivian R1T electric pickup
The starting price for the R1T ranges from $ 67,500 to $ 85,000. Currently available vehicles have a range of up to 314 miles on a single charge with a 128.9 kWh “large” battery. Four-engine performance versions together produce 835 horsepower and 908 foot-pounds of torque. The vehicle can tow up to 11,000 pounds – an important measure for many pickup owners.
There’s a reason GM revived Hummer, a brand that was notoriously popular in the 1990s and 2000s for its exaggerated, gas-guzzling vehicles. Whether you loved Hummers or hated them, you knew them. This means that GM had brand awareness embedded as long as the new electric car remained true for the brand, and it does.
The Hummer EV pickup looks like a modernized version of its descendants. It is large, flamboyant and extremely capable.
Instead of sucking gas, it drains lots of energy. The electric Hummer is reportedly the least efficient electric truck of the three at 47 MPGe, a range for electric vehicles equivalent to miles per gallon. It can be compared to 70 MPGe for both R1T and F-150 Lightning. But again, this is Hummer, so what did you expect?
Hummer’s off-road capability also stands out compared to the other two pickups, which helps explain its lower efficiency and more than 9,000 pounds of weight.
This Hummer can easily get up in mountain climbing, while proving a smooth experience on the road and exceptional hands-free driving on the motorway with GM’s Super Cruise system. It also has roof panels for removal that can fit into the rear of the vehicle and many other special and hidden features, including a “crab walk” mode and faster charging than the other trucks.
GM threw everything it had and more into the Hummer when it comes to terrain and performance parts. Its $ 110,000 starting price is proof of that, ahead of cheaper variants expected in the coming years that could start at $ 79,995.
GMC Hummer EV Edition 1
Michael Wayland / CNBC
The current top-end Hummer, despite its weight, can reach 0-60 mph in about three seconds with its “Watts to Freedom” or “WTF” mode. It can handle up to 1,000 horsepower and 1,200 foot-pounds of engine torque. Its range on a single charge is up to 329 miles with a 212.7 kWh battery pack (of which 205 are useful, says GM). It can pull up to 7,500 pounds, the lowest lift of the three electric pickups.
Unlike the Rivian pickup, Edmunds reports some notable cross-shopping between the electric Hummer and its less robust competitors. Buyers interested in the Hummer look at the R1T and Lightning for comparison more than any other model.
However, that transition still represents only about 9% of truck applicants.