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Ford Motor Co. Goes for Function Over Fashion With its Electric F-150 Lightning Pickup

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【Summary】The fully-electric Ford F-150 Lighting was officially unveiled during a live streamed event on Wednesday evening, and its poised to become a huge hit, given the popularity of the automaker's F-Series lineup of trucks. “This is a historic day for our company.” said executive Chairman Bill Ford, kicking off Wednesday’s unveiling for the F-150 Lightning at Ford’s headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan.

Eric Walz    May 20, 2021 9:00 AM PT
Ford Motor Co. Goes for Function Over Fashion With its Electric F-150 Lightning Pickup
The fully-electric F-150 Lighting pickup was officially unveiled during a live streamed event on Wednesday evening, and its poised to become a huge hit, given the popularity of Ford’s F-Series lineup of trucks.

Forget the Tesla Cybertruck and all of the social media hype surrounding it. Catching up with Tesla, which is currently the world's most valuable electric car company, might be easier for Ford Motor Co with its new electric F-150 lightning. The internal combustion engine powered F-150 has been the best-selling truck model in the U.S for the past 44 years. Now a fully-electric version is joining Ford's truck lineup. 

The fully-electric F-150 Lighting pickup was officially unveiled during a live streamed event on Wednesday evening, and its poised to become a huge hit, given the popularity of Ford's F-Series lineup of trucks.

"This is a historic day for our company." said executive Chairman Bill Ford, kicking off Wednesday's unveiling for the F-150 Lightning at Ford's headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan. 

"For both Ford and the American auto industry, F-150 Lightning represents a defining moment as we progress toward a zero-emissions, digitally connected future," said Ford. "F-Series is America's best-selling truck for 44 years, the backbone of work across the country, and a trusted icon for generations of customers. Now we are revolutionizing it for a new generation."

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The Lightning will start at just under $40,000, which might be one of the biggest surprises of the official unveiling.  The commercial-oriented entry model starts at $39,974 before any federal or state tax credits, while the mid-series XLT model starts at $52,974. The XLT model offers additional comfort and technology.

Based on its low starting price, the electric F-150 Lightning could become the best selling EV to date as long as Ford can convince current and future F-150 customers to switch to battery-power. But the truck's impressive specs and capabilities, along with a more affordable starting price, it might be easier for Ford than it seems.

Ford is targeting 563 horsepower, 775 lb.-ft. of torque for the Lightning, which is more than any F-150 ever. Acceleration from 0-60 mph will be in the mid-4-second range when equipped with an extended-range battery.

"It feels like a bullet train and works like a freight train," is how Ford described it in a promotional video shared on Wednesday evening.

The F-150 Lightning targets a maximum 2,000 pounds of payload in the standard-range model with 18-inch wheels, and a maximum 10,000 pounds. It will offer Ford's Pro Trailer Hitch Assist, which automatically controls steering, throttle and brake inputs to make hitching trailers even easier.

The F-150 Lightning  is designed to be a workhorse, unlike other luxury electric models that will never be driven off-road or in a work site.  

"It hauls ass and tows like a beast, metaphorically it should have a Superman shield," said Ford CEO Jim Farley describing the robust capabilities for the F-150 Ligthning.

Since there is no internal combustion engine, Ford was able to turn the underhood space into a front storage space, often referred to as a "frunk" in EVs. The storage area is secure, lockable and features a powered open and close system. 

This spacious area targets 400 liters of volume and 400 pounds of payload – enough to stow two carry-on bags and one checked bag, or two sets of golf clubs, according to Ford.

It's also water-resistant space comes equipped with four electrical outlets, two USB chargers and a drainable floor that can double as a food and beverage container. It can easily power a mobile work site with 2.4 kilowatts of power. That's enough power for plug in power tools, TVs, laptops, speakers, and more. The Lightning has a total of 11 power outlets, which Ford says is enough to power an entire worksite. 

"The words ‘front trunk' don't even begin to describe all the innovation and capability Ford packed into this high-powered space," said Nancy Reppenhagen, supervisor, Global Feature Process. "It will have customers rethinking what their truck is capable of – and enable the kinds of experiences they never would have thought possible before."

Also debuting on F-150 Lightning is available "Ford Intelligent Backup Power", which turns the truck into a power source for a home. With the ability to offload 9.6 kilowatts of power, Ford Intelligent Backup Power keeps the lights on during an outage while providing security by powering home appliances, security systems and more for approximately three days.

In the future, Ford will introduce an additional feature called "Ford Intelligent Power'', which can use the truck to power homes during high-cost, peak-energy hours while taking advantage of low-cost overnight rates to charge the vehicle so its ready to drive by morning. This can help save money on electricity, Ford said. 

"F-150 Lightning is built for seamless transitions between charging your vehicle and powering your house when needed and Ford is the first in the U.S. to offer this capability on an electric truck," said Ryan O'Gorman, electric vehicle manager, Strategic Partnerships.

Another cool feature that Ford developed are onboard scales in the bed, which can analyze the payload and intelligently adjust the estimated range based on how much the load weighs.

The F-150 lightning will also offer Ford's BlueCruise automated driving features.

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The F-150 Lightning features a large front storage area under the hood.

Along with a high-strength, military-grade aluminum alloy body, The Lightning has a new independent rear suspension that delivers improved ride comfort, while an all-new frame uses the strongest steel ever put in an F-150 frame, according to Ford. 

The Lightning's low center of gravity will help improve isolation from the road, provide a more stable ride and reduce steering roll, according to Ford.

Underbody protection keeps the battery safe, with metal skid plates shielding both the battery and inboard motors from rugged terrain. The battery itself is secured inside a waterproof casing surrounded by crash-absorption protection. It was tested at temperatures as extreme as minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Ford says the F-150 Lightning boasts excellent off-road performance, including all-wheel-drive. The 4x4 system features four selectable drive modes: Normal, Sport, Off Road and Tow/Haul. 

More importantly, the F-150 Lightning looks like an ordinary F-150 from the outside, which is a good thing for Ford. It was not intended to be not some fancy truck like Tesla's Cybertruck. The F-150 has been the best selling truck in the U.S. for the past 44 years so Ford didn't want to mess with the F-150's aesthetics.

The reality is that not everyone wants (or needs) an expensive luxury EV like those from Tesla, Audi or Mercedes. For most truck buyers, its function over fashion, which is what Ford successfully captured with the design and features of new F-150 Lightning. 

For the most part, this everyday truck market was ignored by segment leader Tesla, whose first SUV the Model X, which featured gull wing doors and no real substance or practical utility, but still has a $90,000 price tag.

"We're not here to make an electric truck for the few – Ford is committed to building one that solves real problems for real people," said Kumar Galhotra, Ford president, Americas and International Markets Group, Ford Motor Company. "F-150 Lightning delivers everything we've said electric vehicles can offer, plus the capability expected from a Built Ford Tough truck – not just near instant torque but powerful towing and hauling customers can depend on."

One technology that segment leader Tesla pioneered in the auto industry are vehicles that offer over the air software updates, which the F-150 Lightning will support. Ford will deploy standard over-the-air software updates called "Ford Power-Up" to improve the technology experience, add new features and fix any issues without visiting a dealership, the company said.

Ford has the opportunity to dominate the electric truck segment with its Lightning, which rival startup Rivan is eyeing with its upcoming R1T electric pickup.

The electric version of the F-150 will help bring the company into the future as the auto industry pivots towards electrification. For Ford, sooner the better for a company whose stock price has remained flat for the past several years, leading to the departure of former CEO Jim Hackett last year. During the pandemic last year, Ford's stock fell to $4.33.

Tesla is now the world's most valuable automaker with a market cap topping $700 billion. This puts U.S. automakers Ford and General Motors in a position to deliver capable and more affordable electric vehicles, or face being swallowed up by the competition in the growing EV space. The F-150 Lightning will help ensure that doesn't happen to Ford. 

The Lightning will be built at Ford's Rouge Electric Vehicle Center. The company is investing $700 million into the factory to build electric vehicles.

The F-150 Lightning goes on sale in the Spring of 2022. Customers can reserve one now for just $100 on Ford's website.

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