The wait is over. A mass-market electric pickup truck is available to purchase now from the Blue Oval brand, Ford. We've had the chance to try it out twice in 2023, and here are our thoughts on the Ford F-150 Lighting, a massive development in the EV sector and a game-changer moving forward. Our test models were both Lariat trims, built at the Dearborn, MI, plant, and starting at $82,395 (an actual MSRP of $111,350 on the vehicles shown).
Light-duty pickups are the best-selling vehicles in North America, so when the Ford F-150 Lightning was announced for 2019, it quickly caught the public's attention. This was further confirmed when Ford announced that it had received nearly 100,000 reservations shortly after the official unveiling of the final version of the Lightning. The Dearborn manufacturer isn't the first auto manufacturer to bring an electric pickup to the market; that honour goes to Rivian with its Rivian R1T in October 2021, but Ford is the first global automaker to do so, while Tesla will start to deliver its Cybertruck in early December 2023.
The design of the F-150 Lightning is one of its advantages over competitors. It closely resembles the gasoline-powered Ford F-150, making it indistinguishable to the untrained eye. This Ford pickup truck may appear ordinary, which is a positive since that was its original goal. There are a few differences; the front grille is an obvious one. On the other pickups, it is open to bring air into the engine, but in this case, it's closed off to enhance aerodynamics and allows you to use that area as a front trunk, commonly called a Frunk. Also, the Lightning has a unique set of lights, including a front and rear light bar, which sets it apart from regular gas-powered trucks. The electric F-150 has minor details that differentiate it from the standard gasoline version, such as the absence of exhaust pipes on the rear bumper and the charging port on the driver's side. However, the overall shape is remarkably similar, a significant advantage since electric vehicles are typically quite distinct from comparable ICE vehicles.
Climbing inside the Ford F-150 Lightning is familiar for any truck buyer, once again in line with the vehicle's mission. It looks normal when you get behind the wheel and look around you. You have the same feeling of sitting high off the ground; the buttons and switches on the steering are the same as the traditional F-150, and the same goes for the gauge cluster and gear lever. The similarity to the rest of the F-series trucks means large-scale savings for the manufacturer; it also benefits the consumer since you feel at home in the cabin. Starting on the driver's side, the digital gauge cluster is large, with huge displays for speed and range. Unfortunately, no full-screen map is available for display. That said, the center part of the cluster is still configurable using the buttons on the steering wheel. What's great is that you can quickly see the battery's temperature, which is essential information when you're pulling up to a DC fast charger to get the fastest charging speed.
In the middle, you'll find the large 15.5" touchscreen fitted with the latest SYNC 4A infotainment system, the same screen as the other Blue Oval electric model, the Ford Mustang Mach-E. It's a great screen with wireless Apple Carplay and Android Auto features and an excellent display. You can input a direction that will show you the different charging stations on the way, for example. The only thing that annoyed us a little was that there were no physical buttons for the heated/ventilated seats and heated steering wheel; you had to tap the screen, and lack the quickness of a button. Finding the driving modes can be challenging if you are unfamiliar with the interface. A neat feature found on the F-150 Lightning is the Stow Away shifter, which stows away when you're parked, and you can deploy a workstation to have a flat surface to put a laptop or a notepad, for example. We were also satisfied with the quality of our truck's optional Bang & Olufsen sound system.
This Ford F-150 Lightning, being a Supercrew cab, offers plenty of space for rear passengers. Enough for three people to sit in the cab; you'll find amenities like heated rear seats, two dedicated chargers, and a household-style outlet. There's even a 12V charger to juice up many devices simultaneously. You can pull up the seat bottoms, where you can find the charging cable for this electric truck. Storage cubbies are also present to prevent your things from rolling around the cabin. Talking about the storage, we must remember the truck bed, which is 5.5 feet. Inside the bed, you'll find the Pro Power Onboard 9.6kW electric system, which allows you to power tools at the campsite or a construction site. The power liftgate is also an excellent addition to the ensemble. Finally, we have to talk about the Mega Power Frunk, as Ford calls it. It's not only quite roomy (400L), but there are other power outlets and USB chargers, which means you can park the truck any way you like, and you'll have plenty of opportunities to plug your electronics. You can easily open the frunk (front trunk) using the key fob, touchscreen, or button under the automaker's logo.
In terms of the electric truck's performance, there are quite a few options for the Ford F-150 Lightning. Four trims are available in Canada: PRO, XLT, Lariat and Platinum. You can choose from two battery packs: a Standard Range 98kWh battery found on the first three trims and a larger Extended Range 131 kWh battery, optional on all trims except Platinum. We got the Lariat Extended Range with an announced range of 515 km (320 mi). We drove the truck twice, winter and fall, to get a better portrait of the actual range. Our first drive was in January, a typical Canadian winter with temperatures hovering around -25 degrees Celsius ( -13 degrees F), and we were looking at a range varying between 279-291 km (173-181 mi), giving up roughly 46% in these colder temperatures. In our second test, with warmer and colder days in October, the range varied wildly depending on whether or not we used the climate controls. On the warmer days, at 20 degrees C (68 F), we observed an electric consumption as low as 16 kWh/100km, allowing you to go as far as 819 km (508 mi). A more reasonable 21 kWh/100km was observed in the city, allowing you a suitable 624 km (388 mi). On colder days and the highway, the range diminishes to around 420-450 km (261-280 mi) due to an average electric consumption of 30kWh/100km. You can achieve the official figure on warmer days if your commute involves city and highway driving around 120 kph (75 mph). Note that the range on the gauge cluster is accurate; the number shown on the screen was close to the reality during our testing.
Moving on to the driving experience, the Ford F-150 Lightning is an electrified pickup. You sit higher than your typical electric vehicle while keeping the same great acceleration associated with EVs. The 0-100kph time for the Lightning with the extended-range battery is about 4.5 seconds, roughly two seconds faster than the most powerful, non-Raptor version of the F-150. You still get the fast feeling, too, with some weight shifting to the back. Braking is predictable; you still have the squishy feeling in the pedal, but you can activate the one-pedal drive to reduce the use of the brake pedal. The ride quality is also quite truck-like, with comfortable suspensions and reasonable handling. You still feel the truck's weight in curves, but it isn't unsettling.
With the Ford F-150, Ford created a truck with an electric powertrain that is both appealing and capable, yet it has some room for improvement. For instance, the charging speed could be faster, and a smaller cab option would be desirable to increase the size of the bed. We've also seen that towing is impacted, especially at its maximum capacity of 10,000 lbs with the Max Tow Package. Finally, its high price tag can make it out of reach for some. Still, we must credit Ford for creating a compelling case for electric vehicles.
Ford has lent us this vehicle for one week as a press vehicle. We have no affiliation with Ford Canada. The above reflects our personal opinion of the car referred to above.