Electric vehicles have finally hit the mainstream: America's most popular model, the Ford F-series pickup truck, is going electric at a decidedly mass-market price: $39,974.
Why it matters: Until now, EVs have appealed mostly to wealthy technology fans or environmentalists. But the F-150 Lightning is aimed at everyday truck owners — making it a potential turning point in the electric vehicle revolution.
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Ford's biggest challenge will be to convince skeptical buyers that electric trucks are up to the job.
People buy trucks so they can tow trailers and haul heavy loads — which require extra power, slashing a truck's driving range.
To offset those fears, Ford loaded the F-150 Lightning with new technology. And it's pitching the truck as a generator on wheels — its batteries can power a home for three days in a blackout, Ford says.
At a work site or campsite, owners can offload up to 9.6 kW of electricity to power tools or appliances from a variety of outlets in the truck's cabin, bed or "frunk" — the massive front trunk where the engine would ordinarily be.
The Lightning comes with a standard 230-mile range pack or an extended range battery, good for 300 miles.
While using the onboard power, the system can send a smartphone alert if you're in danger of running out of juice.
Sensors can also estimate how much drivers are hauling and combine that data with driving conditions to give them an accurate, real-time estimate of how far they can go.
What they're saying: “It really is the smartest F-150 we’ve ever made,” said Darren Palmer, general manager, Ford's Battery Electric Vehicles.
Yes, but: Like other manufacturers, Ford is coping with supply chain issues that are threatening production.
On Wednesday, Ford said it would idle more factories, including the one where the F-150 is built, due to a shortage of semiconductors.
On Thursday, it's expected to announce a joint venture with South Korean battery maker SK Innovation to support its electric vehicle rollout, Reuters reported.
What to watch: Ford will face plenty of competition in the electric pickup market, including new plug-in models from Tesla, GM and Rivian.
But its sub-$40,000 starting price — before any federal or state tax credits — shows Ford doesn't intend to yield its truck leadership.
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