“This is not our only truck,” Ford CEO Jim Farley said, breaking news of another electric pickup in the works at an event celebrating the launch of production of the hotly anticipated 2023 Ford F-150 Lightning electric pickup truck. The first Lightnings were just rolling off the line at the Rouge Electric Vehicle Center in Dearborn, Michigan, headed for a long line of anxious buyers.
New Ford EV Pickup
The new truck announced at the Ford event today is not a reference to the next-gen electric F-150, nor plans for electric heavy-duty pickups. “This will be a new truck, ” Farley confirmed to MotorTrend after the formal event ended. We understand that it will be “an addition” to the F-Series family.
Ford has previously said it will make the next-generation of its announced electric F-Series trucks in 2025 at Blue City Oval, a new campus in Stanton, Tennessee. Ford is spending $11.4 billion to build an electric vehicle assembly plant and a gigawatt battery factory there, as well as two more gigafactories in Kentucky.
A contender for this all-new truck could be an electric version of the current, smaller Ford Ranger. Ford was also once looking into making a pickup version of the Bronco, but those plans were tabled. There’s also the car-based Ford Maverick which is already available as a hybrid. Positioned as an affordable entry-level vehicle, the Maverick might not be the best candidate for an electric vehicle—which would still be an expensive proposition for the model given the high cost of batteries—and its relationship to the full-size F-Series family is loose, to say the least.
Ford Versus Tesla
Farley also used today’s F-150 Lightning launch event to take a few digs at Tesla. “You can charge other EVs for your friends who own Teslas,” he said, referring to the truck’s ability to act as a power generator. And the cost is thousands less than Ford’s competitors’ trucks “whenever they go on sale,” in a reference to the many delays of the Tesla Cybertruck that has been pushed to 2023.
On a more serious note, Farley said Ford has every intention of being the No.1 electric pickup maker, “something no one would have believed from us two years ago.” It will come down to product execution and he is confident in Ford’s next cycle of new vehicles, most of which has not been made public yet.
Lightning Production Underway
Meanwhile, production of the Lightning actually began two weeks ago. More than 2,000 have been built to date and are headed to customers. The fullsize electric truck was initially supposed to go on sale in May—in fact the first deliveries are already underway, making it slightly early. “This is history in the making,” said Ford executive chair Bill Ford. “This truck is going to change everything. “
Ford capped Lightning reservations at about 200,000 in December. Farley said he did not know when the order books would open again. If someone were able to order a Lightning today, the wait would likely be a year, he said.
Ford is ramping up production to 150,000 Lightnings a year, almost doubling the 80,000 trucks Ford said it would be able to build in 2023, its first full year of production. The walls have literally been torn down and pushed out twice since construction began. Ford’s ability to hit the higher run-rate will take effect mid-year. Even with higher output, some reservations will end up getting a 2023 model.
The Dearborn plant uses robotic autonomous guided vehicles to move the trucks between workstations instead of traditional conveyor belts, making it easier to change the floor plan as needed. The Rouge Center also uses “cobots,” short for “collaborative robots” that can work alongside a person without a safety cage and perform tasks that are ergonomically difficult for a human.
Not First to the Party But Mightiest
The Lightning might not be the first electric truck to hit the market—that would be the 2022 Rivian R1T, which was also the 2022 MotorTrend Truck of the Year. It was followed by the 2022 GMC Hummer EV—but the Ford is arguably the most important because of its sheer volume potential and clout. The F-Series has been the top-selling truck in the U.S. for 45 years and electrifying the popular F-150 touches a huge buyer base. If only a fraction of F-150 buyers recognize the Lightning’s benefits and take a chance on it, it could easily become the best-selling electric pickup.
Within the F-150 lineup, it is an attractive offering. With its dual motors and extended-range battery it boasts 563 horsepower, 775 lb-ft of torque, making it the quickest model, beating the performance F-150 Raptor from 0-60 mph. This five-passenger SuperCrew cab with a 5.5-foot bed is the only version with independent rear suspension for greater handling. With up to 320 miles of range with the extended-range battery, it allows owners to escape high fuel prices while keeping range anxiety to a minimum.
And it is much more affordable than the Hummer, with the Ford Lightning Pro base work truck starting at $41,669 compared with the Hummer’s opening salvo of $112,595 for the loaded Edition 1—lower priced trims will roll out over the next few years. The 2024 Chevrolet Silverado EV is expected to be a more direct competitor, but the Lightning has a year’s head start. And Ram won’t have an electric pickup until 2024.
“This is not a vanity project,” Farley said. “There are no gimmicks. This is for people in their daily lives.” The Lightning has also been a boon for the Ford brand. Executives say more than 70 percent of reservations are from consumers who have never bought a pickup and who are new to the Ford brand. Ford is investing $30 billion in EVs through 2025 and forecasts that 40 percent of its U.S. sales will be EVs by 2030, or about 1.5 million vehicles a year. And a lot of them are likely to be pickup trucks.