Ford has a thing for reusing old nameplates, as models like the Bronco demonstrate, and the automaker will bring back the old “Lightning” badge for the all-electric version of the F-150 pickup coming to market in just a little more than a year from now, according to a new report.
The Lightning name, originally used back in the 1990s on a high-performance version of the F-150, seems an appropriate pick for an electric pickup. There is a bit of irony to the apparent choice, however. Much as with General Motors revival of the name, “Hummer,” for its all-electric GMC pickup, the Ford SVT F-150 Lightning was anything but environmentally friendly, its big V-8 making gobs of power but sucking down lots of fuel in the process.
Ford representatives declined to comment on “speculation” about the upcoming F-150 electric model’s name, which was first reported by Car & Driver.
The automaker has released some interesting information already, however.
Expectations for new EV pickup
Ford introduced a first-ever hybrid version of the F-150 for the 2021 model year. The all-electric version will be badged as a 2023 model and reach showrooms in the middle of next year.
The automaker showed off a prototype pulling a 1 million-pound load of railroad car carriers last year as part of a promotional stunt. 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.
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-electric 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 F-150 Lightning will be is a matter of debate, with only 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, 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.
It’s possible Ford will opt out of using the Lightning name by the time the F-150 electric hits the road but the name had a good reputation in its day, never mind the obvious link to something running on battery power. The original Lightning debuted in 1993 and was kept in the mix through 2005. In its second incarnation it made 450 horsepower and could launch from 0-60 in just 5.2 seconds, a real breakthrough for its day.
More EVs coming
As for Ford’s battery-car plans, the company has been ramping up its investments, especially since Jim Farley became CEO last year.
“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 in response to a question from TheDetroitBureau.com during a conference call last week.
The event was called to discuss the $185 million Ford will invest to open up a new battery development center, a critical step in what was already a $22 billion electrification effort.
The order bank for Ford’s next all-electric model, the EV version of the Transit van opened today.