Ford unveils electric version of F-150 pickup truck — and it can power your house for 3 days

Ford Motor Co.'s newly revealed electric version of its best-selling F-150 pickup doubles down on a bet that the company can beat Tesla and other rivals by giving new technology a familiar face.

Electric trucks will be assembled in Michigan starting next year for sale in 2023

Ford just unveiled an all electric version of the F-150 pickup truck, the gasoline version of which has been the best selling vehicle in Canada for more than a decade (Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

Ford Motor Co. unveiled an all-electric version of the best-selling F-150 on Wednesday, one that's capable of driving from Edmonton to Calgary on a single charge, and with enough juice to act as a backup generator to power the typical Canadian house for up to three days.

Ford showed off a prototype of the F-150 Lightning at its headquarters in Dearborn, Mich., on Wednesday evening. U.S. President Joe Biden was on hand to take it for a spin, quipping "this sucker's quick" to assembled press when he floored it on a test drive.

The F-150 has been the best-selling vehicle in Canada for 11 years in a row, and while the existing model has an option for a gasoline-electric hybrid, the new version is Ford's first all-electric pickup truck.

The company didn't announce a firm release date, but the truck will be available for purchase starting in 2023, according to Sam Fiorani, head of global vehicle forecasting at AutoForecast Solutions.

New direction

The truck is a major departure for the company, as it attempts to maintain its popularity among those who need and want a large working vehicle but also appeal to new buyers.

The truck can serve as a de facto backup generator, generating 9.6 kilowatts of power from up to 11 power outlets throughout the vehicle.

While other electric and gasoline-powered vehicles have the capacity to act as electrical generators, Ford seems to have fully embraced the concept.

Ford claims a fully charged battery has enough juice to power a standard home for several days. "It's your own personal power plant, automatically powering your house for three days during an outage," Ford's chief engineer, Linda Zhang, said at the event on Wednesday.

'A game changer'

Wilf Steimle, president of the Electric Vehicle Society of Canada says it's hard to understate the significance of Ford making an all-electric version of the F-150, a vehicle that has more versions on Canadian roads than any other pickup over the past 55 years, and more than any other vehicle overall since 2010.

"There's such a demand, and a need for this type of vehicle so that fills a really important gap," he said in an interview with CBC News on Thursday. "Up until now we really haven't had something to fill that that gap."

Steimle is a fan of electric vehicles in general, and has driven one himself as his main source of transportation since 2012. But he also lives on a working farm south of Barrie, Ontario, so he has a need for the type of work that a pickup truck can offer. He currently has a diesel-powered pickup for farm-related tasks like moving tractors around. He'd love to replace that internal combustion engine with something electric, which is why he was among the first to put down a deposit for the F-150 Lightning on Thursday.

"This is the opportunity to combine those two vehicles into one and have the pickup truck that's electric that has all the benefits of the electric vehicle, and all the capabilities of the pickup truck," he said, calling the truck "a game changer."

Wilf Steimle lives on a farm in Barrie, Ont. While he loves electric vehicles for his personal transportation, he uses a gasoline powered pickup truck for work around his farm. (Colin Hall/CBC)

Currently, electric vehicles make up only about four per cent of all vehicles sold in Canada. But that figure is expected to grow quickly, and having an version of a vehicles that is such an icon will go a long way toward normalizing them, automotive journalist Stephanie Wallcraft said in an interview.

"It is a very important vehicle to introduce the mainstream buyer to the idea that electrification is coming," she said.

While a purely electric vehicle may be a tough sell for pickup truck lovers, Wallcraft says she expects to see a quick uptake in the number of hybrid versions the company sells at least, since they have the gasoline engine that truck lovers depend on, but also the ease of the mobile battery.

"With no compromise needed from the consumer, buying one of those over a gas-powered F-150 right now saves you, immediately, about a third on your fuel consumption, with no effort whatsoever," she said.

WATCH | Ford unveils all-electric version of best-selling F-150:

Ford unveils electric F-150 truck

2 years ago
Duration 2:03
Ford unveiled its Lightning F-150 electric truck, which some call a breakthrough electric vehicle, with its price around the same as a gasoline model. But material shortages spark questions about how many the company can produce next year.

The company also boasts that the model has all the range and power of its gasoline versions. 

The truck has 563 horsepower and 775 lb.-ft. of torque, more than any other version of the F-150, Ford says.

The standard model has enough power to drive up to 370 kilometres on a single charge, but a version with extended range can go up to 480 kilometres — more than enough to drive from Calgary to Edmonton, or from Toronto to Ottawa. 

Ten minutes of charging would currently provide enough juice to go more than 50 kilometres, Ford says.

Mainstream pricing

The company went for mainstream appeal with its pricing strategy, too. Ford says the base model will go for $39,974 US, although added bells and whistles can drive that price up above $90,000.

In Canada, the base model will start at $58,000. That's about $10,000 more than what it would cost to simply convert the cheapest U.S. model into Canadian dollars.

Ford is pitching the all-electric F-150 as a sort of backup generator, with enough juice to power an entire home for days. (Ford)

While the truck may appeal to regular consumers, Ford says its sales strategy will target commercial fleet operators.

"That's the only way you can build up the volume," said Ted Cannis, Ford's general manager for commercial vehicles.

The truck also comes with a "frunk" to store items in the front of the truck where the engine would normally be — similar to what Teslas have, since electric vehicles don't have a conventional engine. Also like a Tesla, the F-150 will come with a touchscreen in the cabin that's almost 40 centimetres wide.

The truck is the latest entrant in what is proving to be a competitive space for electric trucks.

U.S. President Joe Biden drives the F-150 Lightning at the Dearborn facility on Tuesday, the day before its official unveiling. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

Tesla's Cybertruck, which looks like it rolled off the set of a science-fiction movie, is due to begin high-volume production in 2022, and its price will start at $39,900 US. GM's first electric pickup is an "electric supertruck," the GMC Hummer EV, priced from $79,995 to nearly $100,000 US. High-volume production will begin in fall 2022, after a small initial run of trucks this autumn.

In addition to the pricey Hummer, Fiorani said GM plans to introduce a Lightning competitor, the Chevrolet Silverado EV, in late 2022. It will be built on a dedicated electric vehicle platform that it shares with the Hummer EV, GM has said.

The company will assemble the vehicle at its facility in Dearborn, Mich., starting next year, but Wallcraft says she would not be surprised to see some work migrate to Canada over time. She notes the $1.8-billion investment that Ford recently made in its Oakville, Ont., assembly plant, as part of a landmark labour deal with its largest union to assemble electric vehicles in Canada.

One-third of the cost of that investment came from government funds, as Canadian policy makers are eager to make Canada a hub for electric vehicles and batteries.

"The governments are seeing the value in investing in this future for automotive production in Canada, and it's put us in a really good spot for now," she said.

With files from Reuters

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