Weekly Brief: Ford’s ‘Budget’ BEV Pickup Claims Game-Changer Status

The most popular vehicle in America went electric last week when Ford launched the F-150 Lightning pickup truck.

The Lightning ditches the F-150’s traditional gasoline V6 engine for a zero-emissions powertrain that’s claiming 560bhp and a 10,000lbs towing capacity. The lithium-ion battery boasts a maximum of 230 miles of range per charge but, when hauling heavy loads, that range drops to as low as 100 miles. The pickup truck has some fun features that you won’t find on a gas-powered F-150, including a spacious frunk: aka, a trunk in the front where the engine typically would be. Also, the truck’s battery is capable of serving as a backup generator for a house for three days when fully charged.

Ford’s chairman Bill Ford called the launch “a defining moment for our company, a watershed moment for our industry”. The F-150 Lightning joins a host of electric pickup trucks due out in 2022 or 2023. There’s Tesla’s Cybertruck, Rivian’s R1T and the Chevy Silverado EV, not to mention a number of pickup trucks from EV start-ups like the Bollinger B2, the Lordstown Endurance and the Atlis XT. The question that looms over all of these vehicles is how customers will receive them.

Pickup trucks are popular everywhere in America, including in more liberal parts of the country with suburban dads who don’t need to drive them, yet, like to think that they do. Pickup trucks’ core customers, however, tend to live in more rural communities, in places where the charging infrastructure is mostly nonexistent and where the topic of climate change is often greeted with skepticism if not outright denial. To put it plainly, will communities where Trump 2020 signs still proudly fly on lawns really embrace an electric pickup truck?

So far, it seems like it. Ford reported that it racked up more than 44,500 reservations in less than 48 hours following its launch last Wednesday, which was rife with climate-conscious pronouncements like this one from Bill Ford: “The F-150 Lightning will fulfill our promise to our children and our grandchildren that our generation is committed to leaving them a cleaner planet.”

Ford didn’t release demographic data for its wave of early purchases last week. While it’s possible that the vast majority of the purchases were from liberal suburbanites, the more likely explanation is that the F-150 Lightning’s MSRP, which starts at about $40,000 for the base model, is contributing to its popularity. When you factor in the federal tax credit, the electric F-150 is cheaper than the gas-powered F-150. Cost savings like that are attractive no matter one’s politics.

This could be a game-changer for the EV revolution. Ford sold more than 200,000 F-series trucks in the first quarter of 2021. By comparison, the entire American market sold less than 100,000 EVs of any type in the first quarter of 2021. If Ford can convert a quarter of its pickup truck sales to EVs, that would lead to a 50% increase overnight in the total EVs selling per quarter in America. That would benefit everyone in the EV segment, including Ford’s rivals. No wonder Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk was so enthusiastic last week when he tweeted:  “Congrats to @Ford on embracing an electric future!”

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