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Why Ford's electric F-150 Lightning is more important than you think

Even if you're not a truck buyer, this vehicle will help set the table for any electric vehicle you're interested in.

The Tesla Model S was a big bang, but the Ford F-150 Lightning electric pickup truck is an even bigger bang. Here's how I reached that conclusion, based on the F-150 Lightning's specs, price, and Roadshow's earliest impressions of it on the road

First, the Lightning almost can't help but define its segment. It's right at the intersection of America's best-selling vehicle and the future of propulsion. And it approaches that intersection with utter normalcy; you might not even know it's an electric model unless you're a car buff. That will do a lot to normalize electric trucks.

Ford F-150 Lightning Pro

The F-150 Lightning is shrewdly ordinary in its appearance. 

Ford

Electric trucks frankly make more sense than electric cars. If the idea behind electrification is to zero out fuel consumption and tailpipe emissions, trucks' higher fuel consumption and greater emissions make them the most important place to start.

Ford has a track record of getting truck buyers to do what truck buyers traditionally don't, including buying aluminum-bodied trucks or ones that have engines with fewer than eight cylinders or as small as 2.7 liters. Getting those buyers to go electric is an even bigger lift, but you can argue that nobody has disrupted the truck market lately as successfully as Ford.

The F-150 Lightning is shockingly affordableStarting at $40,000 before tax incentives, the same price as the average vehicle in the US. That's remarkable considering it's a truck and has a novel powertrain. Whatever other motivations there are to buy an electric vehicle, nothing will make them a broad success as much as superior overall cost compared to combustion-engined models.

And the F-150 Lightning is something to brag about, which matters to truck owners. Whether it's a sub-4-second 0-to-60-mph time, 775 pound-feet of torque, ability to power a home, or large and innovative front trunk space, F-150 Lightning buyers will be a vocal minority on the pickup truck market. 

2022 Ford F-150 Lightning Mega Power Frunk

Golf clubs are perhaps the least essential thing you could put in the F-150 Lightning's front trunk, but it's large enough to swallow two sets of them.

Nick Miotke/Nate Reed/Roadshow

There are plenty of other electric pickup trucks gunning for the F-150 Lightning but that's almost more of an endorsement than a threat. The electric F-150 is a bolt of lightning in automotive history.