The best selling vehicle in America — and the American de facto work truck — is going electric.
That would be Ford's F-150. Last week the American automaker unveiled the electric version of the F-150 pickup truck, Lightning. It's a $40,000 to $50,000 truck that can tow 10,000 pounds, has two electric motors and built-in all-wheel-drive and will be available in the spring of 2022.
Ford's electric truck launch — marked by images of Americana such as bald eagles, football players and off-roading — is a turning point in the evolution of electric vehicles. Ford Chairman Bill Ford took advantage of the live streaming event to call the truck "a watershed moment for our industry." Ford CEO Jim Farley tweeted that the truck got 44,500 reservations in less than 48 hours.
Why is it such a big deal? One reason is that many F-150 owners use their trucks for commercial purposes.
Out of the close to 17 million F-series trucks driving on the roads across the U.S., somewhere between a quarter and a third of them are being used for work, according to research at BCG. Ford has put a lot of commercial-friendly features into the Lightning such as outlets to power work tools.
Fleets run by organizations such as utilities and cities have been eagerly awaiting more details about the electric F-150 as they make their budgets. You can expect fleets that buy pickup trucks — particularly those in California that are moving quickly to meet mandates and climate goals — to be excited about Lightning.
At the same time, electric pickup trucks planned by competitors just don't have the history, the budget and the brand recognition behind them. Tesla's Cybertruck, and its avant-garde design, no doubt will play a much smaller role in the work truck market. Rivian has an electric pickup truck in the works, but the company is a relative newcomer and it's closely aligned with Amazon.
At the end of the day, the fact that Ford is electrifying its most popular vehicle — and one that is so deeply embedded in American culture — is testament to both Ford's commitment to EVs and the mainstreaming of EVs in general. Eventually electric cars won't just be made up by Teslas driving around Northern California; they'll be a wide range of models and options from many automakers and likely be used across the country.