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Become a MemberTrucks Will the Ford F-150 Lightning EV Live Up to the Reputation of Its Predecessor?

Automobiles Will the Ford F-150 Lightning EV Live Up to the Reputation of Its Predecessor?The F-150 Lightning is an all-electric version of Ford’s most popular truck — and it does not disappoint.

In late June 2020, Detroit Free Press automotive reporter Phoebe Wall Howard published a rather telling article about the value of Ford’s F-150 pickup line — including the off-road focused Raptor and workhorse F-Series Super Duty models F-250, F-350 and F-450 — placing the truck second only to the iPhone in annual branded consumer product sales, based on a economic analysis from 2019 numbers accumulated by Boston Consulting Group. 

According to the report, iPhone sales generated $55 billion in revenue for Apple compared to $42 billion for the F-Series for Ford in 2019. This means Ford’s beancounters let leadership know their F-Series alone generated more revenue than American ball and stick sports (National Football League, Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association and National Hockey League) combined, which was $40 billion.

In short, Ford’s F-Series full-size pickup truck line would make the list of Fortune 100 companies if it was a separate entity. That’s a lot of trucks, and quite a legacy.

Less than a year later, Ford revealed its F-150 Lightning, an all-electric version of its popular truck. Reports of more than 200,000 reservations forced the Blue Oval to stop accepting new deposits while it tooled up to satisfy demand. And a semiconductor chip shortage didn’t help Detroit as most automakers struggled to deliver complete vehicles over the past 18 months.

Change Is Coming

We live in unprecedented times, some might say. Climate change awareness began with Earth Day on April 22, 1970, followed by the first worldwide oil crisis three years later. By the end of the embargo in March, 1974, the price of oil had risen nearly 300%, from $3 to nearly $12 per barrel globally. Prices were significantly higher in the United States. The embargo caused an oil crisis, or “shock”; the second oil shock rocked the world in 1979. 

Both shocks were a result from military unrest in or near oil-producing countries, and the current Russian-Ukrainian conflict has wreaked similar havoc on the world’s human and economic condition. The solution, we’re told, is the complete electrification of vehicles to alleviate our dependence on fossil fuels while removing pollution from the air we breathe. Regardless of one’s political or personal beliefs, change is coming quickly and the mad dash is on from major automakers and eager start-ups.

Ford boasts of its Blue Oval charge network, which includes 75,000 charging stations nationwide. Lightning owners can receive up to 250 kWh of complimentary fast charging by enrolling in FordPass Rewards. 

Ramping Up

History and civics lessons aside, while the disruptors and start-ups grab headlines, major manufacturers like Ford, General Motors, Toyota, and Volkswagen are ramping up in a big way to change how they’ve engineered for the production of gas-powered vehicles for decades. The focus is on aerodynamics, range and battery life, with technology advancing and evolving with every EV launch.

Range anxiety is real, and our existing electric grid is woefully underprepared to handle an onslaught of EVs, especially in California. We routinely have brownouts, high winds, wildfires and other natural disasters — beyond the underlying threat of earthquakes — that shows how easily Mother Nature can flex her muscles to put our best-laid plans to waste.

I drove roughly 400 miles that week. There’s solar-powered parking at an elementary school around the corner from my house, and I ‘topped off’ using a PowerFlex charging station five times, spending approximately $6.90.

Getting Behind The Wheel of the F-150 Lightning

I’ve ridden several electric motorcycles since 2015. Two-wheeled EV technology evolution struggles to keep pace with its automotive brethren, mainly down to the amount of acceptable battery weight a manufacturer can add to two wheels compared to four. And motorcyclists are notoriously stingy with overpaying for a bike that limits their enjoyment and ability to go long without breaking their budget. I’m currently in that camp, with five gas-powered bikes in the garage that I paid no more than $6,000 for each. Shelling out two, three or four times that amount would be hard.

To brush aside some of my EV cynicism, I arranged to drive a new Ford F-150 Lightning for a week. I invited several truck-owning friends and co-workers along for rides to receive their feedback (I’m not a truck owner). 

All agreed that the handling characteristics of a vehicle weighing nearly 6,500 pounds (compared to the standard F-150’s approximate 4,400) was impressive. Unanimously, they all chimed in that if the Lightning wasn’t so whisper quiet, there are no outward signs of this being an EV. One co-worker told me it was weird that the turn signal and windshield wiper noise was louder than the vehicle! Sport mode provides a little artificial engine noise (Platinum edition only, of course) to let others know you’re coming. It’s not a neighborhood-shaking or macho growl, just a low rumble that makes this F-150-shaped EV sound like a truck.

Cost Of Going Green

I drove the Ford F-150 Lightning roughly 400 miles that week. There’s solar-powered parking at an elementary school around the corner from my house, and I ‘topped off’ using a PowerFlex charging station five times, spending approximately $6.90. Fortuitously, between 9 pm-12AM it’s free to charge. I averaged 51.32 kWh per charge. The Lightning’s Platinum trim fetches roughly $91,000 while providing about 325 miles on a single charge. At $6.39 per gallon for Premium 91 octane, the gas-powered F-150 equivalent with extended range (36 gallons) would cost $230.04. 

Ford boasts of its Blue Oval charge network, which includes 75,000 charging stations nationwide. Lightning owners can receive up to 250 kWh of complimentary fast charging by enrolling in FordPass Rewards. 

Passing Thoughts

Living in the heart of Silicon Valley, I’m surrounded by Teslas. Thousands of them, actually. What began as a ‘science experiment’ by electrifying a Lotus Elise in 2005 has become a worldwide phenomenon, and I’ve seen its evolution firsthand. 

Rivian and Lucid have engineering offices here, as does Toyota, Nio, Mercedes-Benz, and a smattering of EV software start-ups. Motorcycle EV companies Zero, Lightning, and Energica also have a large presence, with infrastructure company ChargePoint based in Campbell. The EV movement is big, inevitable, and unstoppable. Spending a week behind the wheel of a future vehicle from one of the world’s largest and storied manufacturers reset my cynicism somewhat.

But I’m only one person among almost 228.2 million licensed drivers in the United States, and one among around 27 million in California. In 2012 there were more than 248 million registered vehicles in the US; today there are nearly 290 million.

The numbers don’t lie, and Ford knows its numbers, chief among them how many F-150s they’ve sold over the years and how to maintain that success as we all move into the EV age.

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