American auto mainstay Ford has unveiled its long-awaited electric Ford F-150, dubbed Lightning, in an online event that represents its response to Tesla’s Cybertruck, and its first go at delivering a myth-busting, full-featured electric ute.
Executive chairman Bill Ford, the great-grandson of Henry Ford, introduced the launch from the automaker’s Dearborn factory in Michigan, describing the F-150 electric Lightning as the “smartest, cleanest F-150 ever” and just a “showcase of what’s to come from Ford”.
The launch made clear that this is a vehicle that is clearly aimed at tradespeople, and busting myths that electric vehicles are not suitable for anything but a short ride to the shops and back. If it were made in Australia it would be a clear dig at the misinformation perpetrated by the Morrison government, in particular Michaelia Cash’s comments in 2019 that being forced to buy electric vehicles would leave tradespeople without suitable transport.
In fact, it would seem that electric vehicles like the Ford F-150, which can supply power to devices (vehicle-to-load, or V2L) and homes (vehicle-to-home, or V2H) are even better suited to tradespeople.
The Ford F-150 “can help you build your house and if need be power that house,” said Ford during the launch.
And it won’t be a “six figure trophy truck” Ford CEO Jim Harley said in the launch today., but will compete directly with the Tesla Cybertruck with a starting price of under $US40,000, before US tax credits are applied.
However, what Farley didn’t mention is that this is for the as-yet-unveiled, stripped-down commercial version which will not be available until 2024. A “mid-series” model will cost from $US52,900 with a standard-range battery, and up to $US90,474 for the extended range model.
Specifications include a driving range of 370km for the base level F-150 Lightning, and 480km for the extended range option. Ford was coy about the battery capacity but indicated that the extended range battery is big enough to power a home for three days, based on 30kWh usage per day.
Always running on 4×4 and delivering a targeted 318kW power for the standard-range variant and 420kW for the extended-range, the Ford F-150 will have the fastest acceleration of any F-150 – 0-96.5km/hr in around 4.5 seconds. It will come with four selectable drive modes – normal, sport off-road and tow-haul.
With a considerable 1050 maximum torque, Ford says it will be able to tow up to 4.5 tonnes (3.5 tonnes for the standard-range model), and features like “smart hitch”, “hitch-assist” and “trailer reverse assist” will make towing a one person job, Ford CEO Jim Farley said during the launch: “It hauls ass and tows like a beast.”
Countering its massive pulling power and 900kg (816kg for the extended range) payload capability and with the inevitable drain on battery, the F-150 Lightning has on-board scales. It combines this data with factors such as weather, traffic, and towing to calculate the remaining driving range.
Powerhouse on wheels
Bidirectional charging capabilities will mean that the F-150 can “power an entire worksite” using up to 9.6kW of power at a time accessible through numerous outlets (enough to power an entire worksite, says Ford”.
These include eight 120-volt outlets (two in the cab, two in the bed and four in the “frunk”) on a 2.4kW “pro power” system for the standard-range variants. Upgrade to the extended-range variants and the top rate is upped to 9.6kW and a 240-volt outlet in the bed is thrown in.
This is complimented with V2H capabilities, hooking into memories of recent ice storms and lengthy power outages, able to power a home for three days.
The F-150 Lightning’s on-board charger has various options. Standard is the 11.3kW AC on-board charger that can recharge the battery in around 10 hours. The extended-range charges faster at a top rate of 19.2kW, topping up the battery to 100% from 15% in around 8 hours.
At a DC fast-charger the Lightning can charge at a maximum rate of 150kW from 15-80% in less than 45 minutes.
Inside, there is “plenty of room for five”, and connected intelligent features including zone lighting (including the ability to “light up your campsite”).
A 12-inch digital cluster and 15.5″ centre vertical screen allow access to various functions including the ability to map routes to chargers.
Let’s not forget the fact this is Ford’s first electric vehicle to feature “Bluecruise”, the carmaker’s semi-autonomous “hands-free” that can operate on pre-programmed 160,000km of US highways.
The Ford F-150 won’t be the only electric ute to bring high-end, off-road and tow-ready electric, but it may be the first to truly reach out to ute owners who aren’t disposed to make a leap to the more mould-breaking Cybertruck.
Now, if only it would make it to Australia (a spokesperson for Ford has confirmed there no plans as yet to bring it here). And if only our ministers could drive one, as President Biden did. See: “This sucker’s quick: Biden test-drives electric Ford ute, fleshes out EV plan
Bridie Schmidt is associate editor for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She has been writing about electric vehicles since 2018, and has a keen interest in the role that zero-emissions transport has to play in sustainability. She has participated in podcasts such as Download This Show with Marc Fennell and Shirtloads of Science with Karl Kruszelnicki and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum. Bridie also owns a Tesla Model 3 and has it available for hire on evee.com.au.