After a slew of eletric pickup truck announcements from Tesla, Rivian and even small startups like Bollinger Motors, America’s largest pickup truck manufacturer has decided to join the electric bandwagon. The Ford Motor Company has confirmed that it’s working on an electric version of the venerable F-150.
Here’s everything we know so far about the future F-150 EV.
The 2019 F-150, powered by a traditional combustion engine, was released at the tail-end of 2018. The next-gen truck for 2020 will be a hybrid model, confirmed by Ford CEO Mark Fields as early as 2015.
This means the earliest possible launch date for the all-electric version is at least two years away, possibly as a 2021 year model. The company recently announced it was “going all-in” on electric, investing $11 billion in R&D in a bid to put 40 new EVs in its lineup by 2022, and the F-150 EV might be Ford’s opening act.
The full-electric pickup will be the culmination of Ford’s electric pivot alongside the iconic Mustang. But for now the carmaker is taking it slowly and safely. Even as engineers at Dearborn work at electrifying the famous pickup, the company will first test the waters with a slew of hybrids.
In addition to the hybrid F-150, there will be a hybrid Explorer for 2020. This will allow the company to weigh the tradeoffs of electric motors versus traditional ICE engines, including range, weight, and most importantly for truck owners — performance.
To date, Ford’s hybrid offerings have been limited to small passenger cars like the Fusion and the C-Max and compact SUVs like the Escape, while its sole all-electric entry is the Focus. That will change next year as the company’s pickup and SUV segments get hybridized, in preparation for going full-electric.
The current F-150 has a base price of $28,000 but the top-end model costs over $70,000 once all options are factored in. Meanwhile, the first confirmed electric pickup, Rivian’s R1T, will carry a $70k price tag.
While Rivian’s EV pickup is being positioned at the top end of the utility vehicle segment, the F-150 has traditionally been Ford’s entry-level workhorse in the US. Its low price has allowed Ford to sell 40 million units in the past 60 years.
However, an electrified version will need two outside components that Ford currently lacks: the electric motor and battery.
Ford’s sole electric car, the Focus, uses an electric drivetrain from Canada-based Magna International. The batteries meanwhile are supplied by South Korean chemical giant LG Chem. Both outsourced components substantially increase the cost: the 2018 Ford Focus S has an MSRP of $17,950, whereas the EV version costs $29,120, a price difference of over ten grand.
Right now there is a federal tax credit for EVs ranging from $2,500 to $7,500. However, the tax credit ceases once the manufacturer sells 200,000 units. Given that the F-series sold 900,000 last year alone, future F-150 owners might not qualify for the credit.
One of the benefits of all-electric vehicles is the ability to deliver maximum torque from 0 RPM. Tesla’s Ludicrous Mode churns out a staggering 920 lb-ft of torque, bringing its P100D sedan within fighting range of Ram’s new 3500 HD and its whole grand of torque.
Imagine the same EV benefit being applied to a utility vehicle like the F-150, and the torque wars might reach an entirely new level.
Apart from delivering instantaneous gobs of torque, an electric F-150 could act as a mobile generator for work sites and camping grounds.
In an interview with CNBC, Ford’s executive VP Jim Farley says there will be plenty of new applications for the truck’s electric motor. “With the F-150 electric, you don’t have to have an expensive generator on site now. 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 a expensive $10,000 generator.”
There’s already a hybridization kit for the base F-150’s 3.3L engine from a Boston-based company called XL Hybrids. The kit adds a traction motor and 15kWh battery that yields a claimed 50% improvement in fuel economy.
A second outfit, Montreal-based Ecotuned, is more ambitious. The startup converts 12th-gen F-150s to full-electric versions by gutting out the ICE engine and replacing it with a 210hp electric powertrain that delivers 300 lb-ft of torque, which is about equal to the torque output of the 4.6L V8 mill of that generation.
Ecotuned says they actually had to limit the torque via software; before they capped it, the maximum torque delivered by the electric motor actually twisted transmission shafts.