YOU MIGHT NEED to grab hold of something. You are about to read a rave review of
first full-size electric pickup, the 2022 F-150 Lightning, which I drove at a press event in San Antonio earlier this month. My positivity may not be suitable for all audiences.
And if you already put down a bunch of money on a posh
R1T electric pickup, before seeing the Lightning? Oh man, you should warn your eyes. After all the hype over Rivian last year, the Ford is the stump-humping electro-truck to want.
Can I be real with you? I was moved by Ford’s presentation. I got misty, like that bloke Keith on “The Great Pottery Throw Down.” The Lightning represents an American manufacturing triumph, a brand resurrection, a win for working people, a vehicle segment stepping out of the darkness into the light. I can’t believe they got all those smart people to move to Michigan.
But then, it really needed to be good. Ford’s F-Series has been the best selling family of vehicles in the US for 45 years (726,004 sales in 2021, including fleet sales). It’s not overstating to say the electric pickup initiative represents an existential stress test for management.
“This electric pickup is an existential stress test for Ford.”
The basics: The Lightning—with dual-motor four-wheel drive and choice of a standard-range battery (230 miles) or extended-range (up to 320 miles)—is assembled in the new Rouge Electric Vehicle Center in Dearborn, Mich ., adjacent to existing F-150 production. The painted aluminum-panel bodies go in and finished pickups come out.
Being about the same size, shape and height as any Crew Cab 4×4 with a short cargo box, the Lightning will look comfortably familiar to Americans. That’s strategy. Yew
Cybertruck is an angular modernist home hanging off the cliff of public acceptance, the Lightning is prairie revival.
Likewise, the cabin décor, digital UX, switches and displays are almost all regular business in current models. Ford’s plan is a kind of production mainstreaming, whereby the electric trucks get knocked together, shipped and sold pretty much like other F-150s.
The common silhouette belies the change under the hood, where there is…nothing. The drive components—the fore and aft e-motors, battery pack and power electrics—all fit nicely between the boxed-steel frame rails. In the space where an IC engine might dwell there is instead the Mega Power Frunk: a 14.1-cubic-foot cargo box with a 400-pound capacity, sufficient to hold eight 50-pound sacks of cement. I trust by now there is a bar band in Dearborn by that name.
Here’s where things start to look different. Unlike other auto makers dipping their toes in electrification, Ford says it will not prioritize building profitable, high-spec units to the exclusion of its steady commercial clientele.
Which brings us to the disruptively priced, entry-level Lightning Pro SR. With the available $7,500 federal tax credit included, the Pro SR tally starts at $32,474. That nets a fully credentialed, generously equipped Ford pickup with boxed-steel frame, four-wheel drive, 775 lb-ft of torque, locking rear differential, plus fun vinyl seats and floors. When fitted with the optional towing and trailering packages ($2,775 combined for Pro models), this donkey can tow 10,000 pounds and haul 2,235 pounds. And you are still out the door for less than 40 grand.
May I say, finally. An EV that isn’t a soft-handed, overpriced toy for white-collar commuters. Something I can use. Actually, the Pro SR looks like a pickup-based business owner’s best friend, the tradesman truck to launch a thousand sole proprietorships, thanks to its beautiful circuitry. Get this: Equipped with the optional Pro Power Onboard system, the Lightning can supply 9.6 kW of AC power to 11 outlets, including one 240V socket in the cargo bed. No generator, no noise, no smell, all day.
OMG, 9.6kW and 240V? You know what people can do with that kind of portable power? You could run a farrier’s electric forge, or a stick welder, a job site compressor the size of an elephant, or a mobile sailmaking shop, or a shortwave radio station playing Swedish folk music they can hear in Sweden. I leave it to America’s entrepreneurial imagination to explore the possibilities.
All the while the Lightning would be helping the bottom line. For starters, scheduled maintenance is 40% lower compared with a gas-powered F-150. When working America gets a load of these babies they’ll never go back. That’s strategic, too.
Ok, Trucker McTruckster, I know you have questions. Can the Lightning trailer a large and heavy powerboat up and down a hilly two-lane at Texas speeds? Dude, yeah, literally like it wasn’t even there. That’s 775 pound-feet of seamless torque at the end of your toe. The Lightning is a land locomotive. I really like the optional onboard scales feature, which measures the load and tongue weight and helps calibrate brake bias for truck and trailer, baking in both regen and friction-braking force.
What about range? Hey, it’s enough. Yes, you can expect to draw down the battery faster when towing/hauling, depending on the burden. You can expect a comparable hit to efficiency in a gas-powered truck, too.
Charging? At a DC fast charger (150 kW) the Lightning can pack up to 54 miles of electro-range in 10 minutes. Homeowners with the optional Ford Charge Station Pro on their garage walls can fully recharge the ER battery in 8 hours—overnight, like a cellphone.
What if the power goes out? Ford says exactly. The Lightning supports vehicle-to-load charging. Paired with the Charge Station Pro, the available Ford Intelligent Backup Power—contained in a second wall-mounted device—monitors home electrical service and, if there is an interruption, automatically switches to the Lightning’s onboard battery, much like a Tesla Powerwall. Fully charged, the 131-kWh battery could keep the average house in the US running three days at its usual rate, and up to 10 days with some power rationing.
That should do the job.
2022 Ford F-150 Lightning
MSRP: $39,974 to $90,874
Price, as tested: $93,509 (Platinum)
Propulsion: Battery electric, with front/rear transverse mounted AC synchronous, permanent-magnet motors, single-speed automatic transmission, locking rear differential and full-time four-wheel drive; 131.1-kWh liquid-cooled battery pack; 17.6 kW onboard load.
Power/torque: 580 hp/775 lb-ft
Length/wheelbase/width/height: 232.7/145.5/96.0/78.3 inches
Curbweight: 6,590 pounds
Maximum swing/payload: 8,500/1,656 pounds (Platinum)
Estimated charge time: 41 minutes at 150 kW DC fast charge (ER battery)
Estimated range between charges: 300 miles
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