Ford’s big bet: Fans of F-150 pickup will embrace electric

·2 min read

ON THE outside, the electric version of Ford’s F-150 pickup looks much like its wildly popular gas-powered version. Yet the resemblance is deceiving. With its new battery-powered truck, Ford is making a costly bet that buyers will embrace a vehicle that would help transform how the world drives.

Branded the F-150 Lightning, the pickup will be able to travel up to 300 miles per battery charge, thanks to a frame designed to safely hold a huge lithium-ion battery that can power your house should the electricity go out. Going from zero to 60 mph will take just 4.5 seconds.

With a starting price near $40,000 (before options), Ford has calculated that an electric version of America’s top-selling vehicle will appeal to the sorts of buyers who favor rugged pickup trucks prized for strength and durability. If it succeeds, it could speed the nation’s transition away from petroleum burners—a cornerstone of President Joe Biden’s broad effort to fight climate change.

“It’s a watershed moment to me,” Ford chief executive officer Jim Farley said of the electric truck, which was formally unveiled Wednesday night. “It’s a very important transition for our industry.”

For its part, Ford is taking a significant risk by sinking so much capital into an electric version of a pickup that commands a huge and loyal following. In a typical year, Ford sells about 900,000 F-series trucks nationally. It has been America’s top-selling vehicle for nearly four decades.

Gas-powered F-150s are staples on job sites across the nation, where workers haul equipment and materials and often don’t see a need for change. So it could be years before Ford realizes a return on its investment in an electric F-150. This year, through April, the company has sold only 10,000 of its new gas-electric hybrid F-150s—just over six percent of the F-150′s total sales.

Still, introducing a capable electric truck at a fairly reasonable price could potentially produce the breakthrough that draws many more people to battery-powered vehicles of all sizes, said Ivan Drury, a senior manager at Edmunds.com.

“If you’re going to choose one vehicle in the industry that’s going to do it, this is going to be the one,” Drury said. “I expect this to be a home run, and I expect it to really convert a lot of consumers’ minds.”

To be sure, Ford won’t stop building gas-powered trucks for years. They remain an enormous cash cow. A study by the Boston Consulting Group found that the F-Series generates $42 billion in annual U.S. revenue for the automaker—more than such entire companies as McDonald’s, Nike or Netflix do. (AP)