Type to search

No, you don’t have to buy an electric truck now


After a week behind the wheel of the 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning, it’s clear there’s a ton of misinformation and a huge fear of forced electric truck adoption. I saw it again and again through YouTube comments as well as from friends and family members during casual conversations throughout the test week.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

The Ford F-150 Lightning is basically an F-150 with a battery. This, in my opinion, leads people to make all sorts of assumptions about the truck, the future of electric vehicles and the little choice they think they have in shaping the future of transportation.

I have a lot to say about all of this. So, buckle up; this is going to be a long one.

What is the Ford F-150 Lightning really?

I think the key part of any discussion on the Ford Lightning needs to establish what the truck is and who the intended buyer is.

The Lightning is designed to mirror the F-150, and this leads people to assume it’s designed to replace the F-150. That’s false.

It may look like an F-150, but it’s clearly different. On the one hand it can tow, haul and do regular F-150 jobs. It just can’t do them with the same range. On the other hand, it is fast, quiet, comfortable and full of tech — not attributes typically found in a truck.

What the Lightning is boils down to this: It is an alternative truck choice for certain consumers.

Let me be clear, in its current form today, it will not replace the F-150. It won’t replace gas or diesel engines, and the technology certainly won’t work for heavy-duty trucks.

I tend to think of the Lightning as an SUV with a bed. And with that understanding, it does its job very well. It cannot and will not replace a traditional truck right now.

What about no-gas-car bans?

Ah, California. That state has caused quite the commotion joining other European cities and countries in banning certain types of engines in the future. But that isn’t what it seems.

Let’s start with the news headlines proclaiming California and other states are banning the sale of gasoline vehicles. These headlines are all doom and gloom, proclaiming the end is near, and regular gasoline vehicles will be dead in a decade.

This has people looking at the Lightning as the truck they must buy now because California said so.

Ok, hold on. Stop reading just the click-bait headlines, and dig into the actual articles.

First, the “bans” are set for years in the future. Automakers can meet these targets easily in the future with a wide assortment of different EV, hybrids and plug-in electric hybrids on the market.

Second, consumers still have some say in the vehicles they plan to buy. These bans are for new car sales, and this leaves the used market untouched. It also doesn’t involve heavy-duty trucks like the Ford Super Duty — which Ford CEO Jim Farley said won’t be going fully electric anytime soon.

Third, these bans are really just goals. They are designed to push the industry along the path to zero emissions. That’s fine and dandy, but unnecessary. Automakers are already going down this path, no matter which politician is in office.

ford model t truck

Tim Esterdahl’s family’s 1926 Ford Model T Roadster pickup truck.

The Model T era of electric trucks

I gave people numerous rides in the Ford F-150 Lightning this week, and I posted several videos. I listened to a lot of concerns and read a lot of scathing comments. It’s clear there is a lot of misinformation out there.

Let me start with a statement that seems to resonate with people: We are in the Model T era of electric trucks.

You may not remember this, but we have a Model T truck in our family. It rides terrible, can’t fit two adults these days (people have grown), produces 20 horsepower, has a top speed of 45 MPH, has a 10-gallon gas tank, is noisy, smells and is all around an awful vehicle compared to today’s trucks.

Any version of today’s F-150 puts the Model T truck to shame — and just a little more than 100 years of engineering made this happen.

Looking at the Lightning, it might be smooth and powerful, but it has terrible range for long-distance driving, it can’t tow nearly as far as a regular gas truck, and it takes longer to “fill up.”

OK, what does that mean? It means, we shouldn’t judge the Lightning against today’s gas trucks. What we should be doing is looking at it as the first example of what is to come. I guarantee you the 2035 Ford F-150 Lightning will make the 2022 model seem prehistoric and ready for a museum once we get there.

This same thing played out with the first-gen Nissan Leaf, for example. The older Leafs look like they are the cart-and-horse version of today’s Leaf.

The charging nightmare

The final thing I heard all week was about the charging. So, let’s be clear: Charging isn’t great right now. Mostly.

There are currently three ways to charge an EV. You can plug it into a 110 volt outlet in your house, plug it into a 220 volt outlet if the plugs match up or use a fast charger.

But let’s be clear, the 110 volt outlet is for emergency use only.

The 220 volt is a good option for most people since it charges a truck overnight.

Better than both of those, however, is the fast charger that can charge in a fraction of the time of the other methods. It’s also the most expensive way to charge and should be used in moderation.

However, this brings up an important point when it comes to EVs: You shouldn’t charge it until it’s full every time.

Driving an EV is not the same as driving an gas vehicle. Instead, you manage the battery of your vehicle like the battery of your cell phone.

What I mean is you monitor the battery, and when it gets low, you charge. Most people don’t let their cell phone die because they didn’t charge it. Instead they plug it in when it gets low.

For the Lightning, I only fully charged it twice during the test week, and I drove it around most of the time with varying amounts of battery left. I’ve learned most EV owners operate similarly. They drive way less than the mileage range displayed on the truck and charge overnight up to 80 to 90% of the total battery limit.

This might change in the future with more public charging stations, but public charging is expensive and the prices vary across the country.

The trick with an EV, then, is to charge at home and just for what you anticipate you’ll need.

Simply put, owning an EV is a vastly different experience than a gas truck. You have to plan for your driving needs the night before, or you have to plan out your road trip before you leave home. You can’t simply hop in the truck and go.

That’s not a big deal once you get used to it. It’s just different. That’s all.

The bottom line

These first versions of the electric truck are certainly causing a lot of concern, fear and, sometimes, anger. That’s understandable when we’re talking about a fundamental shift in driving habits, vehicle needs and the high prices of these kinds of vehicles.

However, let’s slow down and realize these vehicles aren’t perfect and they are certainly not for everyone at the moment.

In time, things will change and improve — just like technology has always done. These trucks are more like computers than vehicles anymore, and it’s just a matter of time until there are truly good choices for all consumers — not just the select few.

Related posts:

Tim Esterdahl

Automotive Journalist Tim Esterdahl has been a lover of trucks and SUVs for years. He has covered the industry since 2011 and has pieces in many national magazines and newspapers. In his spare time, he is often found tinkering on his '62 C10 pickup, playing golf, going hunting and hanging out with his wife and kids in Nebraska.

  • 1

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *