By Keith Naughton
After jouncing through muddy ruts and drifting on gravel trails, we pause in the electric F-150 Lightning pickup among a grove of trees on a rugged off-road course deep inside Ford Motor Co.’s suburban Detroit proving grounds. “Roll down your window and take a listen,” instructs my driver Anthony Magagnoli, a Ford engineer.
The sound we hear is far from silence — birds, a breeze, the buzz of cicadas — but what we don’t hear is the roar of an engine or the rumble of an exhaust pipe. This 3-ton truck has somehow managed to blend into the environment.
Explore dynamic updates of the earth’s key data points
Open the Data Dash
Such are the juxtapositions of Ford’s new electric truck. It can handle everything you can throw at it, capable of towing up to five tons, fording streams and bottoming out on stony ground without damaging the big battery beneath and racing from zero to 60 miles per hour in 4.5 seconds— sports car speed. And yet, it doesn’t even purr like a kitten. It’s a silent runner that burns no dinosaur bones.
Since the Lightning was introduced on May 19, Ford has taken more than 100,000 reservations of $100 for the plug-in pickup. Apparently, when you convert the best-selling vehicle in America from guzzling gas to running on electrons — and start prices below $40,000 — that gets people excited. It’s generated buzz on late-night talk shows and in online chat rooms. And there was the moment nearly all of America saw, when President Joe Biden gave the Lightning the thumbs up — his presidential seal of approval — after a wild ride on a Ford test track last month.
Still, there have been questions about how tough a truck can be if there is no internal combustion engine blazing beneath the hood. Ford saw that coming and put this rig through what it calls “torture testing” that included hauling heavy loads up twisting, deadly mountain roads in Iowa Hill, California, and subjecting it to extreme temperatures as low as 40 below Fahrenheit to make sure the battery would still work. “The truck can thrive even in the toughest driving ordeals,” says Ford.
We’ll see about that.
Actually, we saw about that.