While we’ll have to wait until next week to get the first official look at Ford’s all-electric F-150 the automaker confirmed that the battery-powered truck will be known as the F-150 Lightning.
There’s a bit of an irony to the choice, as the Lightning badge originally was used for a fuel-swigging muscle truck, rather than a zero-emission vehicle. Set to go into production in spring 2022, the F-150 Lightning will enter an entirely new segment but is expected to face significant competition by mid-decade, with an assortment of all-electric pickups coming to market.
“Every so often, a new vehicle comes along that disrupts the status quo and changes the game … Model T, Mustang, Prius, Model 3. Now comes the F-150 Lightning,” Ford President and CEO Jim Farley said in a statement. “America’s favorite vehicle for nearly half a century is going digital and fully electric. F-150 Lightning can power your home during an outage; it’s even quicker than the original F-150 Lightning performance truck; and it will constantly improve through over-the-air updates.”
Ford ramps up its EV efforts
Ford is ramping up the pace at which it plans to electrify its line-up. The 2021 model year saw it launch its first long-range battery-electric vehicle, the Mustang Mach-E, as well as a hybrid version of the F-150 pickup.
The company last year nearly doubled planned spending to $22 billion. And it is increasing the number of battery-electric vehicles that will include.
“We’re much more bullish and aggressive on how fast we think this transition (to battery-electric vehicles) is going to play out,” than in the recent past, Hau Thai-Tang, the automaker’s chief product platform and operations officer, said late last month during a media roundtable.
Plenty of hints, few details
Ford also is expanding the breadth of the market those BEVs will cover. The new e-Transit van will target the rapidly expanding market for commercial delivery vans. The F-150 Lightning, meanwhile, will allow Ford to target both fleet and retail customers, much like the traditional, gas and diesel versions of the pickup.
Ford has been dropping hints about Lightning for more than a year. The automaker showed off a prototype pulling a 1 million-pound load of railroad car carriers as part of a promotional stunt last year. In production, the F-150 Lightning is expected to be offered in several different configurations — much like the GMC Hummer EV. At the upper end industry insiders expect it to match, and likely exceed the output of the most powerful gas- and diesel versions of today’s F-150.
That will include different drive arrangements, likely with two or three motors and different battery packs offering various amounts of range. Whether Ford will match the 1,000 horsepower of the Hummer pickup is uncertain but, in a segment where numbers matter, it’s not expected to surrender bragging rights without a fight.
Range extender could be coming
The GMC truck will offer as much as 200 kilowatt-hours worth of lithium-ion batteries, another big number, but necessary to deliver reasonable range while hauling a heavy load. The Ford F-150 Lightning likely won’t be far behind.
While the Ford battery-powered truck will have the ability to plug into both 120- and 240-volt outlets, DC fast charging will be essential for buyers who need to keep running with minimal interruption.
One matter of speculation concerns the possibility of Ford offering a gas-powered range extender option. A patent the automaker filed last September showed a drop-in range extender that could be mounted in the bed of the upcoming F-150 Lightning where the locking toolbox option normally would go. The approach would use the generator solely to provide current to keep the truck going when its batteries run down, not to provide direct torque to the wheels.
How much different the design of the Lightning will be from the conventional F-150 is a matter of debate, with only today’s teaser image and a few heavily camouflaged prototypes being spotted so far. Expect a very high-tech interior that maintains many of the appealing features of the latest-generation pickup, however, including lie-flat front seats. Like the Mustang Mach-E, the instrumentation and infotainment system will add specific functions for an EV, including the ability to plot out a route that includes charging stations, if necessary.
Plenty of competition coming, as well
As for the Lightning name, the first version of the F-150 to wear that badge debuted in 1993 and was kept in the mix through 2005. In its second incarnation the Lightning made 450 horsepower and could launch from 0-60 in just 5.2 seconds, a real breakthrough for its day.
If Ford hopes to have the new F-150 Lightning set a benchmark it will need to cut that launch time nearly in half.
What’s clear is that by the time the truck launches production at the new Ford Rouge Electric Vehicle Center it already will face competition from the GMC Hummer and the Tesla Cybertruck – if the California automaker holds to its latest schedule.
But there will be plenty more competition coming from both established brands and start-up automakers. General Motors’ biggest brand, Chevrolet, has its own BEV pickup in the works, with Stellantis believed working on one for its Ram brand. There will also be offerings from new marques such as Lordstown Motors, Rivian, Atlas and Bollinger. All told, as many as a dozen different battery-powered pickups could be on the market by mid-decade.