Ford's F-150 Lightning starts under $40K, has up to 300 miles of range

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News
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Dearborn — Ford Motor Co. unveiled the electric F-150 Lightning via a livestreamed event from Ford World Headquarters Wednesday night — a milestone both for the Blue Oval's push toward electrification and for the auto industry as a whole as America's best-selling vehicle goes electric.

Simulated lightning bolts flashed across giant screens on the front of the blue-lit Glass House in the moments before the truck was revealed on stage, with Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford, United Auto Workers Vice President Gerald Kariem, F-150 Lightning Chief Engineer Linda Zhang and Ford CEO Jim Farley on hand to introduce the truck.

"There's no doubt that this truck is powerful, but it's also a showcase of what's to come from Ford," said Bill Ford. "As America's favorite vehicle is now electrified, this is a defining moment for our country, a watershed moment  for our industry, and on a personal note, it's really gratifying for me."

Major moment

From Ford executives to industry analysts to policymakers, all agree the electrification of F-150 is a significant moment for the auto industry as a whole, 

Ford reveals the F-150 Lightning electric pickup projected on the side of Ford World Headquarters in Dearborn, Mich. on May 19, 2021.

Currently, EV sales make up less than 2% of new-vehicle sales in the U.S. But an electric F-150 could represent a major opening in the segment, given that it's the most popular truck in America.

Last year, Ford sold some 800,000 F-Series trucks and, according to data from Edmunds.com, an estimated 556,000 F-150s. Ford says the truck lineup on its own generates annual revenue of more than $42 billion — more than some of the largest companies in the U.S.

Another factor that could help the electric truck gain momentum: a relatively accessible price point. The base level of F-150 Lightning will start at $39,974, not counting destination fees or tax incentives available to EV buyers. The price tag goes up to $90,000 depending on the trim level and optional features.

By comparison, the base price of the gasoline-powered 2021 F-150 is $28,940.

"A lot of people would think with all of that, all of the features, all that capability, all that technology, that this would be a six-figure trophy truck," Farley said, announcing the starting price to cheers from the audience.

The F-150 Lightning Platinum, Lariat and XLT

The significance of F-150's electrification was underscored this week by President Joe Biden's visit to the Rouge Electric Vehicle Center, where the truck will be built by UAW members. 

Biden cast F-150 Lightning as a model for electrification: “Everything that these workers, this historic complex and this state represent, is something that I hope gets modeled around the country."

And in a move that garnered attention across social media and national news outlets, the president also got a chance to drive the F-150 Lightning during an unscheduled stop at a testing track: "This sucker's quick," he told reporters.

The truck is part of Ford's initial portfolio of electric vehicles that also includes the Mustang Mach-E, which launched late last year, and the forthcoming electric version of the Transit van.

Production on F-150 Lightning will start next spring, with the trucks slated to go on sale in mid-2022. The electric version will be built at the brand-new Rouge Electric Vehicle Center in the historic Rouge complex in Dearborn. The facility is next to Dearborn Truck Plant, where gasoline-powered and hybrid versions of the truck are assembled.

Though the UAW has expressed concerns about how the transition to electric vehicles will affect its members, the union has expressed support for Ford's approach to electrifying the F-150. 

"Our members are so proud to be the workers whose hard work and dedication will build this vehicle of the future," Kariem said Wednesday. "Today's investment is not just an investment of technology and money. It is far more than that. It is an investment in the future of UAW Ford workers and their families."

Lightning design, specs

Ford has cast the electric truck as a distinct vehicle, but one that is rooted in the qualities F-150 customers value.

"The F-150 Lightning is a great example of how we're doing business at Ford today, using electrification to make our vehicles even better," said Kumar Galhotra, Ford's president of Americas and International Markets Group, in a briefing ahead of the reveal.

Ford has touted the F-150 Lightning's digital and technological features. It will come equipped with a modem enabling wireless software updates that Ford says will improve the vehicle over time.

"This is not simply about putting an electric powertrain in a vehicle," Galhotra said. "It's about unlocking technologies and features that our customers didn't even know they needed, and it's about providing an ecosystem of EV services to ensure the transition from gas to electric is as seamless as possible."

Ford says it developed the truck based on years of studying how F-150 owners use their vehicles. Designers and engineers came away from the research understanding that customers wanted a reliable, work-capable truck.

"Anything that we did, we maintained that goal of, 'It needs to be a truck first, and then we're using electrification to amplify the drive experience and capabilities," said Jasen Turnbull, marketing manager for F-150 Lightning.

Farley, highlighting the truck's capabilities, said it "hauls ass and tows like a beast. Metaphorically, it might as well have a Superman cape and a Captain America shield."

Farley — a noted car enthusiast who races in his spare time — said he and Bill Ford recently drove a prototype and were wowed by the experience: "I was completely blown away. It's like no pickup truck I have ever driven. The driving experience is a complete thrill."

Among the highlights is the "frunk," or front trunk, which Ford is billing as the largest in the industry. EVs often add storage space in place of where the engine would be in a conventional vehicle.

Lightning's bumper-height frunk boasts 400 pounds of payload capability, a 400-liter volume and 2.4 kilowatts of power. It features a drain so that users can hose it down if needed, as well as an underfloor bin. It's equipped with four electrical outlets and two USB chargers.

The truck features dual electric motors and, in a first for F-Series, an independent rear suspension system.

In terms of performance, Ford touts the vehicle's ability to go zero-to-60 mph in the mid-four-second range and offers targeted 775 pound-feet of nearly instantaneous torque — the most of any F-150 ever. The vehicle, when equipped with the extended-range battery, targets 563 horsepower.

"It reacts to your command in a fraction of a second, and with no gear changes and low center of gravity, it's a super smooth and engaging drive experience," said Darren Palmer, Ford's general manager of battery electric vehicles in North America.

BlueCruise, Ford's hands-free driving system for certain highways in the U.S. and Canada, will be available on F-150 Lightning.

Meanwhile, the truck comes with a large lithium-ion battery pack featuring a liquid cooling system. Customers will have two battery pack options: a standard package that targets an estimated EPA range of about 230 miles, and an extended range package targeting 300 miles.

Another highlight is the truck's potential use as a power generator. There is an option for 9.6 kilowatts of "intelligent backup power" that can be used to power a home in the event of an outage. If the truck is plugged in when an outage occurs, the backup power would automatically turn on. Ford claims the truck can provide full home power for up to three days if the truck's battery is fully charged.

Lightning also enhances F-150's Pro Power Onboard mobile generator capability. Standard on base trims is 2.4 kilowatts of power with the option for more, while Lariat and Platinum series come standard with 9.6 kilowatts of power, 2.4 available through the frunk and up to 7.2 through outlets in the cab and bed.

And in a nod to the battery range anxiety that some would-be EV buyers face, it comes equipped with a feature that will notify the owner via their FordPass mobile app if the truck's battery falls below one-third of its range.

Customers will be able to see the vehicle's battery level updated in real-time using an intelligent range feature that takes into account factors such as weather, traffic, payload and towing. 

F-150 Lightning drivers will have access to a network of more than 63,000 charging plugs across the U.S. On a 150-kilowatt DC fast charger, the extended-range version of the truck is targeted to get up to 54 miles of range in 10 minutes.

The higher trim levels of the truck will introduce the latest version of Ford's SYNC 4 infotainment system, called SYNC 4A, supported by a 15.5-inch touchscreen. The system uses natural voice control and features cloud-connection navigation and wireless access to Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, integrated Amazon Alexa and SYNC AppLink apps.

The truck also features a 12-inch instrument cluster with a customizable interface.

Horizontal LED light bars that extend across the front and rear are available. And the truck will come with three new grille designs aimed at giving the vehicle a bolder look.

Lightning has the same cab and bed dimensions as the gas-powered F-150, and it shares some of the features already available on F-150, such as a center console that flips over to become a makeshift work station.

"It has many of the familiar features: the roomy interior, standard-size rear bed primed for hundreds of ready-to-go accessories, great visibility and plenty of legroom for five passengers," said Kenny Moore, exterior design manager for the truck.

The truck will be built on a high-strength steel frame and feature the F-150's signature aluminum body and bed.

F-150 Lightning can carry up to 2,000 pounds of payload in the standard-range model and tow up to 10,000 pounds on XLT and Lariat trucks with the extended-range battery and an available tow package.

It comes with a terrain management system with four available drive modes: normal, sport, off-road and tow/haul.

An "Onboard Scales" feature uses the truck's sensors to estimate payload. The feature interacts with the intelligent range tool to help estimate how far drivers can haul on their trucks' charge. The truck also debuts a trailer hitch assist feature that automatically controls steering, throttle and brake inputs.

Another tool being introduced on the truck is a feature that, when activated, allows customers to lock, unlock and start their truck without taking their phone out of their pocket or using a key fob. 

The Lightning will be available in four series and sold at more than 2,300 EV-certified Ford dealers across the country.

Reservations open Wednesday night at www.ford.com/trucks/f150/f150-lightning/2022. Customers can put down a $100 deposit to reserve a truck.

Crowded field

F-150 Lightning enters a rapidly-crowding EV truck space. It will go head-to-head with offerings from several EV startups, as well as with the GMC Hummer slated to launch later this year.

But Ford's long-running dominance in the truck market could give it a leg-up on some of its competitors, experts say. 

"The F-150 Lightning probably won't make up a big piece of F-Series sales at first, but the vehicle is an important step for Ford," said Jessica Caldwell, executive director of insights for Edmunds.com, in a statement ahead of the unveiling. "This is a strategic long-term move that will help Ford maintain its sales dominance in the truck space, which has evolved rapidly in a short period of time."

jgrzelewski@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @JGrzelewski

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