Here’s a jolt coming out of Detroit on a frigid January day: Ford made it official that it will build an all-electric version of its best-selling full-size pickup truck, the F-150.
While the automaker has previously revealed that a hybrid version of the truck will appear in showrooms around 2020, talk of a fully electric version has been just that: talk. Until now. Jim Farley, Ford’s global marketing chief, officially made the claim at the Deutsche Bank Global Automotive Conference in Detroit.
Although announcements of new electric vehicles (EVs) seem commonplace these days, this news from Ford is a big deal. And while this is not the first vision of an electric pickup – both Tesla and Rivian have stated that they will introduce electric pickup trucks in the near future – an electric F-150 has the potential to be a game changer.
When I think about Ford electrifying the F-150, I’m reminded of the turn of this century, when hybrids first came on the market. They were strangely shaped oddities that were solely appealing to holier-than-thou eco-conscious types who were meek of right foot. Get caught behind one on the highway, and you were sure to be annoyed by the hyper-miler who would maximize their MPGs at the expense and frustration of everyone else on the road.
However, when luxury brands adopted hybrid technology for some of their most popular models – the 2005 Lexus RX 400h comes to mind as the most obvious example – the change was much more readily accepted by the larger public, elevating the technology beyond that original audience of crunchy granola types.
Now, hybrid technology is employed by almost every auto manufacturer and is sometimes even used to enhance a vehicle’s athleticism as well as its efficiency, as in the case of the Acura NSX and MDX Sport Hybrid, and the BMW i8.
Similarly, perceptions exist that EVs are high tech, high maintenance, and high cost, and beyond the reach of the middle-American consumer. In some instances – like with Tesla models – electric drivetrains also represent performance, but not the strong and burly kind that is necessary for a full-size pickup truck.
A Ford F-150 Electric will surely challenge that notion if the Rivian R1T hasn’t already. No doubt, an electrified F-150 will put up impressive numbers in order to convince people who depend on the strength of their trucks to get their jobs done that it is a legit alternative to burning gas or diesel.
Beyond power for hauling and towing, Farley says this new version of the F-150 will serve other uses. “With the F-150 electric, you don’t have to have an expensive generator on site,” Farley said. “You can just plug your tools into your truck and that electric powertrain will run all the tools on the job site. Customers will pay for that because now they don’t have to buy an expensive $10,000 generator.”
Of course, this means that the F-150 Electric will be plenty more expensive than a regular pickup, but it’s likely that it will also be equipped with high-tech features to help justify its higher price tag.
America knows and trusts the F-150, which has been the best-selling model in America for the past 40 years. Little doubt exists that an electric version of the truck will give it a huge advantage over its competition if only for the valuable brand equity it has built over the decades.
No timeline has been released for the rollout of the new F-Series EV, but we can’t wait to see what the future holds.