Ever since Ford first started discussing electrified versions of the F-150 pickup truck several years ago, a key part of the messaging was making sure the vehicles met the needs of commercial customers. Both the 2021 hybrid and the upcoming 2022 Lightning are explicitly targeting truck buyers that rely on the vehicles as a tool of their business. The all electric Lightning will be offered in four trim levels, XLT, Lariat, Platinum and the work truck variant called the Pro.
For those familiar with the nomenclature and pricing strategies of Apple with its computers, phones and tablets, you might be a bit confused by the Lightning Pro. Mac Pros, iPhone Pros and iPad Pros are the most expensive and feature-laden variants of their respective product lines. The F-150 Lightning Pro is the stripped down, most affordable variant of the battery-powered pickup.
When Ford announced the Lightning’s starting price of just under $40,000, that was for the standard range Pro work truck. So what do you get and what do you give up when you go Pro with the Lightning? On the plus side, even the most affordable Lightning gets a dual-motor four-wheel drive system. For comparison, the entry-level version of Tesla’s
The motors on both the standard and extended range models are identical front and rear. But since the smaller battery has lower peak power output than the extended range model, that version has peak power limited to 426-hp rather than the 563-hp in the extended range version. Peak torque remains the same at 775 lb-ft regardless of which battery is installed. The Lightning Pro with the 300-mile battery does add $10,000 to the price tag, but that is still in line with the the mid-level Cybertruck which also has dual motors and 300-miles of range.
The Lightning Pro is available only as a crew-cab with a 5.5-foot bed. At some point after launch, if the Lightning proves popular, Ford will probably offer either regular or extended cab variants with rear-drive and probably a long bed at an even lower price. But for now, there is just one configuration. Visually, the main difference between the Pro and XLT, Lariat and Platinum is the absence of the full width light bar at the front, leaving only the segments that wrap around the headlamps. The waterfall “grille” also features a simpler finish akin to what can found on a base gasoline XL models.
Work trucks are used for all kinds of jobs from park rangers, to landscaping, to construction to portable blacksmiths. With users that are regularly getting in and out, and frequently doing manual labor, one feature you want in a work truck is the ability to clean it easily. Thus the Lightning Pro comes standard with vinyl seat coverings. It also comes standard with the 12-inch touchscreen infotainment system that is optional on gas versions of the truck. The larger 15.5 display from the Mustang Mach-E is standard on the premium Lariat and Platinum models.
Other work related features that debuted on the redesigned 2021 F-150s are also carried over to the Lightning Pro. This includes the fold-out work surface on the center console and the ProPower Onboard system to provide energy for electric tools. Like the hybrids, the Lightning gets the 2.4-kW generator system as standard with four 120V outlets in the frunk, two in the cab and two in the bed. The optional 9.6-kW version adds two more 120V outlets in the bed along with a 240V NEMA outlet.
Speaking of the frunk or Mega Power Frunk as Ford calls it, this is the largest one we’ve seen yet on an EV at 14.1 cubic feet. The floor of the frunk is strong enough to hold 400-pounds of payload or as Ford measures it, eight bags of cement mix. Other major mechanical features are identical across all four trim levels. This includes the Onboard Scales that sense how much payload is being added to the bed and the available smart hitch to measure tongue weight for trailers.
The scales are used not just to alert the driver to how much load they are carrying but also as a signal to the range estimation. As the truck is loaded up, the range is automatically updated with this information as well as weather and traffic conditions and terrain information from the navigation. Add a load of lumber in the bed or hook up a trailer and the scales will automatically adjust the estimated range downward so drivers can accurately plan their trips. The system also tracks individual driver profiles that can be linked to key fobs or selected by the driver from the infotainment screen. A driver that is regularly more aggressive will see shorter range estimates than one that has a lighter touch on the accelerator pedal.
A big part of the potential appeal of an electric truck to commercial customers is the operating cost savings. Commercial vehicles frequently accumulate far more miles annually than individual retail buyers. It’s not unusual for a commercial customer to run up 50,000 to 100,000 miles a year and the cost of fuel adds up very quickly. Going electric can cut the fuel bill by 2/3s or more. That extra mileage also increases the service and maintenance costs for a gas or diesel truck, but an electric truck eliminates the need for oil changes and many filters while also reducing the wear on the brakes.
Ford has integrated its telematics service into the Sync connectivity system so that fleet managers can track where trucks are and when they need charging or other service. Telemetry data that Ford gets from its commercial customers was a factor in product planning for the Lightning. They found that 95% of current, commercial F-150 customers go less than 175 miles per day which led to the choice of 230 miles as the minimum range to meet almost all of their customer’s needs.
One advantage that Ford has over newcomers like Lordstown or even a more established player like Tesla is its dealer network. While many retail customers complain about their interactions with dealers, when it comes to servicing vehicles, those stores play a crucial role, especially for customers that rely on vehicles to earn a living. More than 2,300 of Ford’s U.S. dealers are now EV certified with all of the parts and tools required to quickly get a vehicle back on the road.
With its standard bed dimensions, for commercial users that have upfit equipment in their trucks, transitioning to electric vehicles will also be easy since they can just take the gear off the gas trucks that are being replaced in bolt it directly into the Lightning. Ford and its rivals at Chevrolet and Ram have been serving commercial customers for decades and understand the needs of their customers. Between the Lightning, the upcoming electric Silverado and a likely plug-in Ram, they will probably continue to dominate this market despite the influx of new entrants.