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Ford (F) just revealed a peek into its electric future, and it was pretty shocking — in a good way.
At an electric vehicle event last week in the New York City area, Ford offered dealers, journalists, and select Ford customers a chance to ride in its upcoming electric vehicles. Along with the upcoming Mustang Mach-E GT and E-Transit electric commercial van, Ford had another big vehicle on offer: the all-electric F-150 Lightning pickup.
I was one of the few journalists given a chance to ride in the F-150 Lightning pickup. There is a lot riding on Ford to get this vehicle — the gas-powered version of which is the number one selling vehicle in America — just right. It’s been said it’s just as important a release as the Model-T was back in 1908.
In order to get to its electric vision of the future, Ford is investing $30 billion through 2025 in R&D, new plants, and worker training, as the automaker believes 40% of U.S. car volume will be electric by 2030.
Of course a big part of the investment, along with that EV target, will be focused on the F-150 electric pickup. We’ve already heard the impressive stats, up to 563 hp and 775 lb-ft of torque available, with Ford offering an available targeted range of 300 miles with the truck carrying a full payload of 1500 lbs.
Impressive stuff considering Ford is pricing the base model at $39,974 (commercial-oriented Pro model), with better-equipped XLT trims starting at $52,974 before any federal or state tax incentives.
In person, the F-150 Lighting prototypes here looked close to a production model (however these prototypes were not built on any existing production lines). Now the Lightning does basically look like a regular gas-powered F-150 with a couple of subtle changes like the exterior front and rear lights, and the charge port located on front quarter panel.
But make no mistake — this is a truck and it is big. It is easily the biggest electric vehicle I have ever seen, and it immediately occurred to me the challenge Ford is facing making this behemoth move quickly, nimbly, and efficiently.
The interior, which Ford says could be changed at any time, looked very much like the models and mockups Ford had previously shown, although we didn’t see the version of the center console with the 15.5-inch portrait style touchscreen.
The massive “Mega Power Frunk” was also on display — and in person it is quite substantial. There is plenty of room for tools, toolboxes, suitcases, and it also includes four power outlets that utilize Ford’s Pro Power onboard 120V system for items like power tools or even a TV.
It was now time for our ride in the F-150 Lightning. As alluded to earlier, I really wanted to see how this big EV pickup went through its paces. With a curb weight of around 6,500 lbs (1,300 more than a regular F-150), I was expecting a lumbering, truck-like performance, maybe with some oomph off the line given its EV powertrain, but I was mistaken.
Our driver (I was not allowed to drive the prototype) drove us silently over to our mini auto-cross course on MetLife Stadium's parking lot, and proceeded to mash the accelerator and whip us around the course.
The boost off the line was immediate and immense, and pushed me deep into my seat. This is what 775-lb ft. of torque feels like off the line, it was impressive - but what really blew me away was the handling. Our driver ripped the Lightning through a slalom-like series of turns, then into some longer sweeping curves like you would in a Mustang. With fully-independent suspension and a very low center of gravity due to the battery pack located deep below in the chassis, the F-150 negotiated this complex of curves stunningly well.
Yes there was some body roll and push, given the softer damping settings and immense weight of a truck, but the instant torque and true all-wheel drive with torque-vectoring (each wheel can spin independently) scooted the F-150 around like no truck this big could ever do. President Biden, who test drove the vehicle in May, wasn’t kidding - this sucker is quick.
I did two short runs in the F-150, and both equally were impressive. If Ford can get a real world 300-mile range with a full payload (extended-range model in this case) in this package, it will be a true feat of engineering. The true test will come when journalists like me, and more importantly prospective buyers, get behind the wheel to see if the Lightning really can be the best F-150.