Reviews | Ford’s all-electric F-150 is set to transform American car culture
So it is with electric vehicles. In 1997, the first commercially successful hybrid, the Toyota Prius, entered the Japanese market. It fixed the pesky battery life issue by adding a small gasoline booster engine and an ingenious self-charging system that harnesses the energy of the car’s braking.
Engineers Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning designed an all-electric luxury sedan and persuaded a team of investors led by Elon Musk to fund a start-up they called Tesla Motors in 2003. Thanks to generous federal grants, their sleek machines have become a status symbol in the United States and China.
But the watershed moment – the event that turns incremental change into seismic change – may only be now. Ford Motor Co., one of the oldest names in the transportation business, is releasing an all-electric pickup truck. After nibbling away at the margins of American automotive culture, the electric revolution is tackling the main course.
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It’s hard to overstate the importance of Ford’s F-series trucks, especially the F-150. Despite a hiccup in manufacturing last year caused by a pandemic-related microchip shortage, Trucks ended 2021 as the best-selling vehicles in the United States for the 45th consecutive year. It’s an older sequence than “Star Wars”.
The country’s passion for pickup trucks doesn’t stop there. The second best seller in 2021 was the Ram pickup, and the third best was the Chevy Silverado. Americans need pickup trucks for work, they want pickup trucks for play, and they love pickup trucks enough to define themselves by their favorite brand. On the flat, straight highways of Central America, you’ll often see a Chevy driving by with a cartoon hoodlum window sticker. clink on a Ford logo – or vice versa. Talk about brand loyalty.
Ford has been working its way towards this moment for years. Indeed, the company can reasonably justify itself as the inventor – certainly the popularizer – of the pick-up. Company founder Henry Ford’s the model T that changes the worldintroduced in 1908 and enjoyed for nearly two decades, was offered in a number of configurations, including one with the rear seat removed from frame and replaced with a box to carry things. The purpose-built Ford pickup arrived in 1917and the F-series debuted in 1948. The F-150 star arrived on the market in 1975 and sprinted to the front of the sales pack.
As a first step towards an electric truck, Ford switched from steel to aluminum for F-Series bodies in 2015, shaving hundreds of pounds off the vehicles weight – but opening the company up to derision from competitors. A rival filmed a TV commercial in which an F-150 was covered in heavy blocks; unsurprisingly, the truck suffered a few knocks. Still, sales of the F-series were undamaged. Last year, Ford pickup sales outsold the No. 2 Ram by more than 25 percent.
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Can Ford do for powertrains what it did for truck bodies? The first reviews of the electric pickup – the F-150 Lightning – are more than positive. “You’re about to read a rave review,” Dan Neil, Wall Street Journal’s influential automotive writer. warned his audience. “The Lightning represents a triumph of American manufacturing, a resurrection of the brand, a victory for workers, a segment of vehicles emerging from darkness into light.”
Neil detailed the truck’s huge towing capacity, extensive storage space and ability to function as a rolling powerhouse. “To finish,” he wrote, “an EV that is not a sweet, overpriced white-collar commuter toy.” YouTube quickly fills with reports of the truck’s prowess, on the road and disabled-.
Bringing America’s most popular vehicles into the electric age lends credence to Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s projection that more than half of new car and truck sales will be all-electric by 2040. It also promises to intensify global competition for battery components and puts additional pressure on US researchers and manufacturers to create a robust and innovative American battery industry.
As a sign of progress towards a cleaner future, it’s the equivalent of a marching band leading a parade. Borrowing Kip Moore’s words from country music, there’s something about a truck that speaks powerfully to the hearts of ordinary Americans. This force is about to suddenly change from an energy-intensive problem to a hopeful solution.