2022 Ford F-150 Lightning electric pickup is a huge deal for EVs
Ford's take on an all-electric truck will be shockingly affordable, priced from around $40,000 before incentives. Can it change the EV game?
Craig ColeFormer reviews editor
Craig brought 15 years of automotive journalism experience to the Cars team. A lifelong resident of Michigan, he's as happy with a wrench or welding gun in hand as he is in front of the camera or behind a keyboard. When not hosting videos or cranking out features and reviews, he's probably out in the garage working on one of his project cars. He's fully restored a 1936 Ford V8 sedan and then turned to resurrecting another flathead-powered relic, a '51 Ford Crestliner. Craig has been a proud member of the Automotive Press Association (APA) and the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA).
The 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning seen in these photos is a segment-defining all-electric pickup truck. In fact, it's the single most consequential new vehicle in development from the Blue Oval right now. Yes, that includes the reborn Ford Bronco SUV that set the internet on fire when it debuted last year. In fact, I'm here to argue that it's not even close. I've had a look in and around this battery-powered behemoth -- heck, I've even had an early ride-along -- and I'm here to tell you why this F-Series is such a big deal.
When Ford's F-150 Lightning goes on sale next year, this EV could single-handedly revolutionize not only the nascent all-electric pickup segment, it might just upend a significant portion of America's truck market. That sounds hyperbolic, but here's how: The Lightning promises loads of innovative features, impressive performance both on road and off, plus more capability than you'd probably ever expect from an EV. Just as importantly, it wraps it all in an inoffensive, decidedly familiar-looking package at a shockingly low price.
In the end, the F-150 Lightning's specs and performance will prove whether I'm right, but it's the model's bargain-basement MSRP that could put it on the map for many truck buyers who would never have otherwise considered an EV. This truck starts at just $39,974, not including a still-unknown destination charge, which makes it more affordable than a similarly equipped F-150 XL -- the gas model's entry-level trim. The jaw-dropper is that that price is before any applicable state or federal incentives -- that includes the $7,500 federal tax credit that the vehicle will be eligible for. All of this is a rather miraculous accomplishment given that EVs have, up until now, always been costlier than their gas equivalents -- often significantly so.
Even though the Lightning features a futuristic electric powertrain, it's still an F-150, right down to its stout, ladder-style frame. Not only that, Ford claims this truck was subjected to the same rigorous durability testing as other gas and diesel F-Series pickups, so theoretically at least, it should be just as rugged. The Lightning also shares the same aluminum cab and bed with combustion-powered F-150s, which means almost any accessories offered for conventional models should fit without issue.
A few visual tweaks separate this rig from its fossil-fuel-burning mainstream linemates. The Lightning features a solid grille insert rather than one designed to flow air through a radiator, and the truck also features an illuminated bar that runs from headlamp to headlamp. A charging door on the driver's side front fender is another cue that this Lightning is a little different, and these aerodynamic-looking wheels are telltales, too. But really, that's about it for visual changes; the vehicle looks like an F-150 because it is an F-150. Accordingly, it's handsome and unlike other upcoming electric trucks from companies like Bollinger, Hummer or Tesla, its design seems far more likely to appeal to traditional utility-first pickup customers.
The F-150 Lightning will be offered in four trim levels: an as-yet-unnamed commercial-oriented base model (that will also be offered to regular customers), mainstream XLT, Lariat and ritzy Platinum. Keeping things simple, just one body style will be offered, at least at launch. You'll be able to get a Lightning with a four-door SuperCrew cab (that's the big one) and a 5.5-foot bed. Why so little choice? Well, this combo represents the overwhelming majority of internal combustion engine F-150 models sold, meaning Ford is going right for the heart of the market.
Inside, the Lightning looks pretty much like any other F-150, though there is one thing that's sure to grab your attention on premium trims. Higher-end models can be had with a massive 15.5-inch touchscreen running Ford's Sync 4A infotainment system, just like the setup in the Mustang Mach-E electric crossover SUV. This flavor of Sync supports wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as well as Amazon Alexa voice commands and over-the-air software updates that can be completed in two minutes or less. Down the road, this OTA tech should help provide even better performance and new features. Since that huge display is such a nicely integrated part of the dashboard, you've got to imagine it will be coming to other F-150 models sooner rather than later. Augmenting that screen, a 12-inch all-digital instrument cluster is available, too.
F-150 Lightning prices: Electric power to the people
Just like its body, the Lightning's powertrain is basically a one-and-done. Every example will feature a dual-motor setup that provides standard full-time four-wheel drive. For those keeping score at home, that means that a base Lightning's equivalent gas F-150 would be a 3.3-liter V6-powered XL SuperCrew 4x4 with a 5.5-foot bed.
While the base model will be sold to retail customers as well, it's primarily designed to appeal to commercial customers. Ergo, an apples-to-apples comparison with a midrange XLT trim is likely a smart point of comparison for most shoppers. In that case, a 3.3-liter V6-powered XLT SuperCrew 4x4 currently prices out at $44,510 (before a hefty $1,695 delivery fee). According to Ford's new reservation microsite, a Lightning XLT's base price is $52,974. That's an $8,437 price delta, but factoring in the $7,500 federal tax credit, the cost difference shrinks to under $1,000.
Ford will also roll out Lariat and Limited premium trims for upscale truck buyers with thicker wallets, and the company says that the F-150 Lightning's model ladder will top out at an eye-watering $90,474 before options. Even presuming that's for the long-range-battery Limited, that's quite a price jump from an equivalent top-shelf 3.5-liter EcoBoost Limited, which presently checks in at $70,825 plus delivery. Undoubtedly the Lightning Limited will come with a ton of new features not offered in its gas equivalent, but that's still a big ask.
Ford tells Roadshow that the 2022 F-150 Lightning's delivery fee will be announced closer to launch. Considering how much heavier this new truck is likely to be than today's gas models, if anything, the EV's destination charge is likely to be the same or higher than the automaker's already expensive delivery fee.
2022 Ford F-150 Lightning electrifies America's best-selling truck
The 2022 F-150 Lightning is fitted with the largest lithium-ion battery Ford has ever offered. The pack features pouch-style cells and a chemistry that Ford says uses dramatically less cobalt than previous formulations. The automaker hasn't said how big these packs are, but based on announced range estimates and the efficiency of the E-Transit commercial van, which is also a big vehicle, we're guesstimating the smaller pack clocks in at around 110 kilowatt-hours and the larger one is likely around 150 kWh. For protection, the pack is mounted between those massive frame rails and it's shielded by extensive skid plates, so off-roading shouldn't be a problem.
As hinted at above, two flavors of battery will be offered. The standard-range version provides an estimated 230 miles of range, and the larger pack should be able to propel the Lightning 300 miles between charges. You'll note that those numbers are pretty (read: small) compared to some of the figures floated by Tesla and others, but in fairness, there's a huge pricing delta. Furthermore, we at Roadshow have had significantly better luck getting as-advertised range figures out of Blue Oval EVs like the Mustang Mach-E versus models from Elon Musk and Co.
That digression aside, the aforementioned powertrain combo with the base battery gets you an impressive 426 horsepower -- more than the F-150's nonhybrid 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 provides -- while the larger pack endows the Lightning with an impressive 563 hp. It's not the horsepower that really matters, rather, it's the mountains of immediate torque EVs provide, and judging by that measure, this Ford should not disappoint. Both powertrains are endowed with the same 775 pound-feet of twist, the most in F-150 history.
That's enough kibbles and bits to get the Lightning from 0 to 60 mph in the mid-4-second range. The truck's terminal velocity is set at 105 mph. Those performance metrics are impressive, but this is a truck, not a drag racer, so it's got to be able to tow and haul. If Ford is to be believed, the Lightning will have no trouble in this department. According to the company, this electrified F-150 can carry up to 2,000 pounds and drag up to 10,000 pounds. Importantly, however, the automaker isn't saying how towing affects driving range, probably because there are too many variables or because there are no industry-accepted standardized EV towing and hauling tests yet. Driving range while performing towing or hauling work will likely be a key determinant in the Lightning's success, and we're likely not going to know more about this aspect of the model's performance for a while.
On the plus side, helping keep track of energy usage, particularly while laden, the Lightning features a new intelligent range monitor. It dynamically estimates how far you can go before needing a charge, taking into account things like weather conditions, payload, traffic and more. Whether you're dragging a couple of jet skis across the prairie or pulling 10 grand over the Rocky Mountains, this should make towing a lot less stressful and reduce the likelihood of running out of juice.
Further breaking with tradition, this all-electric truck is also fitted with an independent rear suspension, a first for an F-Series pickup. This arrangement should substantially improve the Lightning's ride and handling, but it will likewise be interesting to see if this architecture has any measurable negative effect on the vehicle's off-road ability or its durability.
Large and multiple ways to charge
When it's time to top off that big ol' battery pack, the Lightning can be replenished in several ways. The truck comes standard with a mobile charger that can be plugged into either a 120-volt, 12-amp household outlet or a more serious 240-volt, 32-amp socket. Hooked to the former, the Lightning can absorb about 3 miles of range every hour; plugged into the latter, the truck nets about 21 miles every 60 minutes.
Neither of those options are particularly quick, but Ford is generous enough to include an 80-amp at-home charging station as standard equipment. This allows the truck to gain about 30 miles of range per hour, or go from a 15% state of charge to full in about eight hours, all while safely sheltered in your garage or carport.
But that's still not quick enough for some. The ultimate solution is tracking down a public 150-kW DC fast charger. Shackled to one of these bad boys, the extended-range Lightning can add 54 miles of range in just 10 minutes or go from a 15% state of charge to 80% in roughly 41 minutes.
Mega Power Frunk, Intelligent Backup Power, Phone As A Key
When it comes to innovation, the Lightning is loaded with clever features. Since it has no engine, the space between the front fenders is wide open, so engineers turned it into a lockable, weather-tight storage space with loads of power points. This front trunk, or Mega Power Frunk in Ford parlance, can support a whopping 400 pounds and clocks in at 400 liters, about 14 cubic feet, which is roomier than the trunk of a
sedan. Accordingly, it's large enough to hold eight satchels of ready-mix concrete, two golf bags or plenty of other stuff. For added versatility, this frunk is also washable and has a range of power outlets, including four 120-volt plugs and two USB ports. It's easy to see this feature being a boon to families looking to keep their groceries out of the elements and away from their children's feet on the floor in the second row. Naturally, we've got a demo video and breakdown of this new feature that you can check out.
Intelligent Backup Power is another smart new feature available on the Lightning. Basically, it allows the truck to power your home during blackouts, all without extension cords or noisy and noxious generators. When plugged into the wall charger, this F-150 can automatically send up to 9.6 kW of juice directly to your home's electrical system. Ford says the Lightning's battery has enough juice to run things for three whole days, though if you're judicious about what you're powering, you can make it last for up to 10. The only downside? A power inverter is required to take the truck's DC current and turn it into AC household power.
One more thing: Phone As A Key is a nifty new feature that's been available in Lincolns and the Mach-E for some time, but now it's coming to the Lightning. As its name suggests, this feature allows you to access the all-electric truck using only your mobile device. Phone As A Key enables you to remotely lock or unlock the Lightning, start it and even drive without having to carry the fob around in your pocket or purse.
A game-changing truck for a rock-bottom price
With ample performance and plenty of clever amenities, the 2022 Lightning looks like it will define the electric pickup segment. But this truck's incredible base price of around $40,000 makes it all the more enticing.
So how was Ford able to deliver so much for so little? Supposedly, it all comes down to scale. The company cranks out hundreds of thousands of F-Series trucks every year, and many common components are used in the Lightning. Beyond that, the body and bed are basically identical to what you see on the combustion-powered F-150 and the cost of those expensive-to-develop electrical components like the power electronics and batteries has been spread out among other products, too, like the Mach-E and E-Transit.
Will Ford actually make money at these prices, or is the automaker willing to sacrifice profit margins on these models just to get them established? It's unclear, but at least for the moment, it looks like consumers will be the winners. The 2021 Ford F-150 Lightning will be bolted together in Dearborn, Michigan and sold in all 50 states plus Canada. Expect it to start arriving at dealerships next spring.
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