Don't mess with Texas. It's a trite aphorism at this point — and it in no way reflects the present state of the Longhorn football program. But in the truck world, it's a golden rule. Texas is the epicenter of all things pickup — including menacing bumper stickers and unfortunate suspension lifts — and as it turns out, Ford sells about 20 percent of all its F-Series trucks there. For an electric F-150 to work, it had to work for Texans — who are, perhaps, the planet's most EV-skeptical audience.
Well, Ford built the electric truck that can do it.
The F-150 Lightning looks like the standard F-150. It's as tough as a standard F-150. It delivers performance — outstripping the F-150 Raptor on horsepower and torque — that cannot be scoffed at. The F-150 Lightning offers practical features that make it more versatile and useful for the people who use trucks. And — given how much prices have been rising — it does not cost much more than a conventional pickup.
The Blue Oval brought me to — you guessed it — Texas Hill Country to drive the all-new F-150 Lightning. I spent what amounted to an entire day driving the truck on-road, off-road and towing — and as we've come to expect with the F-150, Ford succeeded on all fronts. The F-150 Lightning is not a credible pickup despite being electric. It's the superior F-150 because it's electric. It's a value proposition that will attract truck buyers who never thought they would buy an EV — and EV buyers who never thought they would buy a truck.
Why the Ford F-150 Lightning matters
Historic may be the most overused word in media, but it applies to the F-150 Lightning. Yes, Tesla has been making outstanding EV powertrains for a decade, and one could call Ford's effort the least technically impressive electric truck currently available. But the F-150 Lightning can still be a — and perhaps even the — watershed moment for EVs in America.
The Ford F-150 has been America's best-selling vehicle for nearly 40 years. And that may understate its magnitude. The F-150 is perhaps the most important consumer product America builds; it generates tens of billions of dollars per year in revenue. Hundreds of thousands of American jobs depend on it, including every single one at the Ford Motor Company.
Suffice it to say, a compelling electric version of the F-150 has the potential to recast America's discussion about clean energy — even in Texas.
The F-150 Lightning looks like a normal F-150
The F-150 Lightning looks like a typical F-150, because it is one. The Silverado EV and Ram's electric pickup will be new vehicles based on company-wide EV platforms. But the F-150 Lightning is based on the 14th generation F-150. It uses a modified version of the same body-on-frame platform, and shares as many components as possible with the standard truck (one way Ford kept the cost down). And as such, it can use many of the same accessories as a gas-powered version.
Ford's approach has trade-offs. Chevy and Ram's efforts will debut with a longer range — 400 to 500 miles vs. 320 miles — and better raw performance; there's a reason Ford is working on a new EV truck platform. But unlike its competitors, Ford was able to get the F-150 Lightning into production now — and at prices well south of $100,000.
But the F-150 Lightning does not drive like a typical F-150
The F-150 Lightning's looks may be evolutionary, but the driving experience is revolutionary. You notice it from the first time you hit the "gas" pedal: instead of the customary long-travel throttle, you hit immediate resistance, and the truck takes off in a fashion unbefitting a traditional F-150. The Lightning accelerates from 0-60 in about 4.5 seconds with 775 lb-ft of immediate torque on tap. It feels rapid, whether you're going from 30-50, 50-70 or 70-OMG-I-should-probably-slow-down. And it does that smoothly and effortlessly.
The F-150 Lightning does not handle like a typical F-150 either; it's better. Unladen trucks are typically front-heavy, with a massive engine. But with no front engine and heavy batteries packed under the floor, the F-150 Lightning has a lower center of gravity than a regular truck, and nearly 50/50 weight distribution. Even though you're carrying more weight than a conventional pickup, the F-150 Lightning feels more balanced. An un-truck-like independent rear suspension improves the ride quality still further.
I drove the F-150 Lightning for around 200 miles over everything from crowded urban highways to curvy Texas hill roads. It's comfortable. It's quiet. It can drive sportily, or not. It can lean into its EV-ness with one-pedal driving, or not. With the quickness and handling, it's definitively the best-driving F-150 — which says something given how great the combustion version is. Once you've zoomed past one slow, rumbling V8 truck on the highway, it's hard to rationalize going back.
How does the Ford F-150 Lightning drive off-road?
Ford stressed that "Built Ford Tough" is more than a marketing slogan for the F-150 Lightning. They put the truck through the same torture testing the standard F-150 endures. The Lightning isn't a purpose-built off-roader, but it's still capable: its 8.9 inches of ground clearance is on par with a non-Tremor or Raptor F-150; plus, the work done protecting the batteries means ample protection for off-roading, with front and rear skid plates shielding the motors and batteries and water-proofing that allows for about two feet of water fording.Ford gave us a reasonably rigorous off-road hill course to test the Lightning. It was not Bronco Off-Roadeo level, but it offered a reasonable challenge.
The F-150 Lightning won't perform impressive articulation feats. It doesn't have a tight turn radius like the Hummer; we actually had to do a three-point turn on the route at one point. But with its mammoth torque on demand and locking differentials, the F-150 Lightning powered its way through and over everything in the rutted path.
On loose surfaces, the 50/50 weight distribution, low center of gravity and ample torque give the F-150 Lightning somewhat of a rally car-type feel. (Granted, a weighty rally car.) Ford even set up a rally-cross course and let us slide it around without the traction control to highlight that. The Lightning felt remarkably planted and controlled in that setting while getting sideways a bit. And, I didn't take out any hay bales.
What's the F-150 Lightning interior like?
The F-150 Lightning interior will feel very familiar to current F-150 owners. You can lux it up with the Platinum trim, which gets you Nirvana leather max-recline seats, real wood trim, a massive 15.5-inch touchscreen and an upgraded 18-speaker B&O Unleashed sound system. I spent about an hour chilling in the comfortable (and heated) rear seats.
However, I preferred the humble XLT trim's interior. I don't mind a quality cloth seat. And you still get a substantial 12.0-inch screen that leaves some functions to more straightforward traditional buttons.
My only critique is the giant 15.5-inch touchscreen. I find vertical screens harder to read than horizontal ones while driving. Plus, Drive Modes and critical drive settings are buried in a touchscreen sub-menu that requires scrolling down, which can get tedious and distracting.
How much range does the F-150 Lightning have?
EPA range for the Standard Range F-150 Lightning is 230 miles. Ford recently announced an upgraded 320-mile EPA estimate for the Extended Range version. The latter, in actual driving, seemed almost uncannily accurate with the outside temperature in the 80s. I hopped in my truck with 100% battery life, and it showed 319 miles of range; I turned it in with more than 200 miles of range remaining after a few hours of not particularly abstemious driving — and with the climate control and ventilated seats running full bore.
One key question I had entering the drive event was towing range. Yes, the Extended Range can tow up to 10,000 pounds. But for how long? Towing does affect the range significantly. I towed a 4,500-pound Airstream trailer. The truck told me I had 128 miles of range in Tow/Haul mode with 84% battery life remaining (about what you would charge the truck to at a fast charger). It tows surprisingly well — to the point you can forget the trailer is back there. But the range will make longer road trips tedious.
Wait, I heard the F-150 Lightning can power your house?
With the proper setup, yes. You need the Ford Charge Station Pro (included with the Extended Range, optional for the Standard Range). You also need the Sunrun-installed Home Integration System. Once those are installed, the F-150 Lightning can use its bi-directional charging capability to send up to 9.6 kW of power back into the system — which it can do automatically if there's an outage.
Ford says a fully-charged truck should have enough juice to power a home for three days (or up to 10 if you're rationing power). In normal conditions, the truck can be set to charge at night when the energy is cheap and peak shave by sending power out during the day when energy is costly. The system also integrates with Sunrun's solar panels. And because the giant battery pack is on the truck, it's also mobile.
This Ford lets you store all kinds of junk in the frunk
Trucks have become modern family cars for millions, but they can be sub-optimal for carting around everyday stuff. If you want your items to remain secure and dry, they're probably coming into the cabin with you. The F-150 Lightning resolves this with a versatile, 14.1 cubic foot, easy access frunk. The frunk can transport your cooler; or, thanks to its waterproofing and drainage system, it can function as a cooler.
I traveled to our staging area with three other journalists in an F-150 Lightning. We fit all four carry-on suitcases and two laptop bags into the frunk without much strategery or squeezing. You can store tools and equipment there. And Ford says the frunk can accommodate two sets of golf clubs — relieving a pain point for more pickup truck owners than one would anticipate.
How fast can the Ford F-150 Lightning charge?
Most F-150 Lightning charging will occur at home, and there are multiple options. With the mobile power cord on a 240-volt outlet, the Lightning Extended Range can add about 13 miles of range per hour and charge from 15%-100% in 20 hours. The Ford Connected Charge Station can reduce that time to 13 hours, adding 20 miles of range per hour. The 80-amp Ford Charge Station Pro can charge the F-150 Lightning Extended Range in eight hours, adding about 30 miles of range per hour.
The F-150 Lightning also is capable of 150 kW charging on a DC fast charger. In ideal conditions, the F-150 Lightning Extended Range can charge from 15% to 80% in 41 minutes and add about 54 miles of range in 10 minutes. The main issue will be finding one: Ford's navigation software integrates with its charging network, but its expanding network still trails the ease and convenience of the Tesla Superchargers.
How much does the F-150 Lightning cost?
Nominally, the F-150 Lightning starts under $40,000. Starting MSRP is $39,974 — not including the available $7,500 non-refundable federal tax credit. But most buyers will spend substantially more than that. Leveling up to the XLT trim jumps the price to $52,974, and getting the Extended Range battery on the XLT bumps the price up to $72,474, about what one would pay for an F-150 Raptor. I drove the Lariat trim with the Extended Range battery, which priced out to $79,689 — or $81,384 when you factor in the mandatory $1,695 destination fee.
Assuming you don't have an order in already, when will you be able to buy a Ford F-150 Lightning? It's still not clear. Ford shut down new reservations after unexpectedly receiving more than 200,000 of them. Ford anticipates about 80% of reservations to be converted to orders, and initial reservation holders have already been pushed back to the 2023 model year. Ford expects to ramp production up to 150,000 F-150 Lightnings per year pace by the end of next year (nearly four times the initial production output). But they aren't there now.
Sure, some F-150 Lightning trucks will make their way to dealers. But you can expect substantial markups with the huge demand and limited supply. The best evidence for that may be Ford imposing a $25,000 fine on dealers that sell their F-150 Lightning demo trucks.
What are some F-150 Lightning alternatives?
Several electric trucks are coming, but only two others are here now, and both will require similar delays to the F-150 Lightning if you don't already hold a reservation. GMC launched the 1,000 horsepower, crab-walking Hummer EV SUT earlier this year. The price will exceed $100,000, and current wait times likely will stretch into 2024. A closer approximation to the F-150 Lightning is the Rivian R1T, which offers more capability than the F-150 Lightning, but at a steeper price. And neither provides a cheaper work truck option like Ford does.
But comparing electric trucks may not be the cross-shopping most buyers are doing. About 75% of F-150 Lightning reservation holders are new to the Ford brand. And many of them will be looking at the F-150 Lightning as a spacious, luxurious electric family car — which is tough to find in the electric SUV realm.
The 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning
- Powertrain: Dual-motor electric, AWD
- Horsepower: 580 (extended range)
- Torque: 775 lb-ft
- EPA Range: up to 320 miles
- Towing capacity: up to 10,000 lbs
- Payload capacity: up to 2,235 lbs