SAN ANTONIO – Ford Motor’s new F-150 Lightning is an electric pickup. It may seem obvious as 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 as a whole.
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 move from compliant vehicles and niche trucks to a product that will entice more ordinary buyers.
The electric pickup market, although still largely unproven, will be important for investors to see 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 car intelligence firm Edmunds.
LMC Automotive expects the U.S. 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 over the next. decade.
Ford’s F-150 Lightning is the first traditional electric pickup truck. It’s not a GMC Hummer EV “supertruck”. It’s not a Tesla “Cybertruck”. It’s not a Rivian R1T “adventure vehicle”. It’s a pickup truck, 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 run differently and will appeal to different buyers as sales go past early adopters to more general, EV-curious buyers.
Lightning lives up to the F-150 name in both function and form and acts as a bridge between the traditional pickup people know, and a new EV. It shares many of its designs and parts with its traditional siblings, apart from the powertrains, some design adjustments and an optional 15.5-inch control screen.
It is also priced like a traditional pickup, ranging from around $ 40,000 to more than $ 90,000. That equates 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 was in 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 for 45 years.
The company set out to make an electric version of the F-150 pickup truck, and it succeeded. The vehicle acts as a full-size truck. But the electrification brings additional benefits with essentially instant torque, increased storage through a massive front trunk or “frunk” where an engine would traditionally be – and it removes the burden of having to fill gas.
Lightning runs like an F-150 shell, and that’s not a bad thing. Ford and other automakers have increasingly transformed pickups from hard-working work trucks to comfortable vehicles capable of navigating smoothly on and off road.
The vehicle’s large battery provides an even better ride as it keeps the vehicle more grounded and provides a closer weight ratio of 50-50 for better balance. On top of that, it provides a smooth towing experience because electric cars do not require gear changes, which is particularly noticeable when towing loads.
Although Lightning is capable of scaling hills or even slightly uneven terrain, it does not match the Hummer or R1T in that respect – but it is designed. This is a truck intended for ordinary buyers, not a niche segment. Ford may at some point offer such a tougher vehicle, but it is not.
The F-150 Lightning is capable of up to 580 horsepower and a torque of 775 foot-pounds. Consumer models with its top-end 131-kWh battery 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 the Hummer and R1T. Vehicles with smaller batteries and a range of 230 miles are cheaper, but also offer less performance.
Electric Ford F-150 Lightning
Andrew Evers / CNBC
One of Lightning’s most unique advantages over the Hummer and R1T is its capabilities for built-in power generation. Ford filled the vehicle with electrical outlets and a two-way charging system that can operate a workplace or a home in the event of a power failure for up to 10 days, depending on energy consumption.
Ford began shipping 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 a bit of a first-mover advantage in the electric pickup market; Production began last fall, but is rising slowly. The R1T is capable of both performance and off-roading and drives 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 style, with vegan leather and real wood, is more Tesla-like smart than off-road brute. It’s also a much smaller vehicle – actually about 16 inches shorter – 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 been describing its SUVs for years, making the Rivian more of a threat to the Stellantis SUV brand than the F-150.
For now, Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe agrees, telling CNBC in a recent interview that the three pickups are each “pretty different products.” Cross-shopping between the Rivian R1T, Lobster and F-150, he said, is extremely low: “Obviously, the target and the targets are different.”
Edmunds reports that customers who most often look at the R1T compare the Ford Mustang Mach-E crossover and other electric cars instead of other pickups.
However, Scaringe has hinted at plans for a complete range of vehicles at Rivian, which could theoretically include a larger truck.
Rivian R1T electric pickup truck
Starting prices for R1T range from $ 67,500 to $ 85,000. Vehicles currently available have up to 314 miles range on a single charge with a 128.9 kWh “large” battery. Four-engine performance versions produce a total of 835 horsepower and 908 foot-pounds of torque. The vehicle can pull up to 11,000 pounds – an important measure for many pickup owners.
There’s a reason GM revived the 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 knowledge of the brand as long as the new EV remained faithful to the brand, and it does.
The Hummer EV pickup looks like a modernized version of its descendants. It is large, flamboyant and extremely skilled.
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 scale mountain climbs, while showing a smooth road experience and unique hands-free motorway driving with GM’s Super Cruise system. It also has removable roof panels that can fit into the front 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 Lobster in terms of terrain and performance parts. Its starting price of $ 110,000 is a testament to that, ahead of lower price variants expected in the coming years, which 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 is capable of 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 can be used, 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 by comparison more than any other model.
However, that crossover still represents only about 9% of these truck seekers.