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Ford F-150 Lightning pickup truck could be game-changer for EV adoption

A closer look at the new electric Ford F-150 truck
A closer look at the new electric Ford F-150 truck 05:16

SAN FRANCISCO -- As the countdown begins to California's ban on the sale of new gas-powered vehicles, electric vehicle offerings are revving up.

Ford has begun shipping an all-electric version of the F-150, dubbed the "Lightning," with plans to ramp up deliveries sharply in 2023.

The gasoline version has been the nation's best-selling vehicle for more than 40 years, prompting observers like University of San Francisco professor Billy Riggs to describe the new truck as a "Tesla killer."

"This is like a gateway to pivoting off fossil fuels," said Riggs. "This vehicle will appeal to a lot of people who've never thought about an electric vehicle."

According to data from Motor Intelligence, Lightning sales totaled 6,842 units from the start of shipments in June through the end of August. In the month of August alone, Ford sold 2,373 Lightnings; it is on track to outpace Rivian's expected 25,000 deliveries of its R1T electric truck by year's end.

Ford also says it plans to reach 150,000 Lightning deliveries by summer 2023. By contrast, electric trucks from Chevy, GM, Toyota, Nissan and Tesla are months, if not years away from rolling off assembly lines.

Ford retained much of the original body styling, in an effort to speed up production, and maintain a low-key design that would appeal to contractors and fleet managers across the country.

In May, President Biden drew national attention to the Lightning. Following a test drive of an early prototype, the president quipped "This sucker's quick!"

"This is a vehicle that is very America. If they can reach their production targets, which we know Ford is great at manufacturing, great at supply chain, this could be something where they can really out-compete a lot of the startups. Whether or not it's Tesla or Rivian,," said Riggs. "So I think it's a big deal, and it's a huge deal. 200,000 orders already. So they can do what they've done for over a century."

On a recent weeklong test drive, KPIX 5 tested the Lightning's performance and features. Most notably, 0-60mph clocked in at 4.3 seconds. The truck's 131kWh battery with 300 mile range, has been marketed as an alternate, backup power source. Ford has placed 120V outlets throughout, including a 240V 40A in the rear cargo area. According to tests by KPIX 5, the truck successfully powered a variety of devices including an arc welder, grinder, vacuum cleaner, pressure cooker, blender, toaster, and induction stove.

Ford claims the Lightning can power a single-family home for up to 3 to 4 days, using a specially installed $1500 inverter, that draws electricity from the truck and diverts it back into the home. The company did not have a demonstration available at the time of publication.

Gary Ashford, manager at Bear Creek Stables located in the Santa Cruz mountains, assisted KPIX 5 in testing the truck's towing capacity, listed at 10,000 pounds. Towing a 5,200-pound fully loaded horse trailer, reduced the Lightning's range by 50%. Normally, the truck travels 2.8 miles per kWh; towing the horse trailer reduced the range to 1.4 miles per kWh.

Charging the electric trucks while hitched to a load remains a challenge since most charging stations are designed for passenger vehicles. So-called "pull-through" sites are steadily being added along busy corridors.

Electrify America, one of the nation's largest providers of third-party charging stations, said in a statement:

"Electrify America has approximately 100 charging stations with pull-through charging which can allow for trailers. With several all-new EV pickup trucks with towing capability hitting the market in the past year, Electrify America is working to further expand the number of stations that allow for pull-through trailering. The company is focused on the customer and looking at all options as we plan our expansion to 1,800 charging stations in the U.S. and Canada by 2026."

Ashford was "convinced", and believes the truck will appeal to contractors, especially those who require gas-powered generators to power work tools.

"For most guys at the job site, doing 50 miles to the job, putting the tools in there, and being able to jump in there and go home and not have to worry about anything, not stopping at the gas station, great!" said Ashford. "It's not super flashy, and most people who want trucks, they're not into the bling. You know, they want a work vehicle that can have enough styling behind it, without being gaudy."

Ashford, who requires a truck with a 20,000-pound towing capacity, does not believe electric trucks can completely replace gas-powered versions.

"I think it will be a blend. I don't think this type of vehicle would solve all the issues, there's gonna have to be a blend," said Ashford. 

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