Pickup truck owners may not seem like the most conventional market for electric vehicles. And yet, demand has surged in North America for the hotly anticipated release of the first electric passenger trucks.
In May 2021, Ford became the first mainstream automaker to reveal an electric pickup, the F-150 Lightning. By December, Ford had to cap its initial reservation list at 200,000 and announced plans to nearly double its planned production to a total of 150,000 units annually.
“We had to stop reservations, we got so many,” CEO Jim Farley told CNBC.
Clearly, early demand suggests the market is ready for electric trucks, which could play a significant role in decarbonizing transportation. Pickups comprise an estimated 20% of vehicle sales in the United States and filled the top three spots on the bestselling vehicle list in 2021. The top-selling Ford F-150 holds 3% of the industry’s total market share all on its own. In Canada, full-size pickups accounted for four out of the top 10 bestselling vehicles last year. The Ford F-150 crowns this list as well, a position it has held in Canada for 12 years in a row.
There’s no denying these trucks contribute significantly to the transportation sector’s carbon emissions. According to data collection agency Statista, light-duty trucks accounted for 17% of transportation-related emissions in the United States in 2019.
While the early numbers for Ford’s electric truck are promising, not all pickup drivers are sold on EVs. As is often the case with electric vehicles, the prices on these trucks may generate sticker shock. In the U.S., this is offset somewhat by the Ford F-150 Lightning’s entry-level Pro grade, which is priced at less than US$40,000 before fees. In Canada, the most affordable version of the F-150 Lightning is the XLT, which starts at CDN$68,000.
This makes the F-150 Lightning a prime candidate for a cost-of-ownership analysis, not only because its gas-powered equivalent is the bestselling vehicle in North America, but also because the F-150 Lightning is the electric truck for which we currently have the most details.
The proposition is different in Canada and the U.S., but on both sides of the border, the electric F-150 makes a solid case for itself.
For our Canadian cost-of-ownership analysis, we went straight to the heart of pickup country and based our assessment on ownership in Alberta.
On the electric side, we priced out a 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning Lariat, which is likely to be the volume trim, with features such as blind-spot monitoring, an upgraded infotainment system and a 9.6-kilowatt Pro Power Onboard generator system. All F-150 Lightnings come with all-wheel drive and are configured as four-door SuperCrew cabs with a 5.5-foot box by default. With the standard 370-kilometre battery and no additional features, our example rings up at CDN$82,095, including fees.
Because of its high starting manufacturer’s suggested retail price, the F-150 Lightning does not currently qualify for federal or provincial rebates. The federal Incentives for Zero-Emission Vehicles (iZEV) program applies only to vehicles with six seats or less and a starting price of less than $45,000. For vehicles with seven seats or more, the starting price must be less than $55,000. Quebec caps its provincial program at a starting price of $60,000, while B.C. matches the federal figures.
The Globe and Mail reported in December 2021 that the federal government is considering updates to the iZEV rebate program to include more popular vehicle segments such as higher-priced SUVs and pickups.
In the meantime, buyers purchasing the truck for business use receive a federal tax writeoff of $55,000. Since we’re assessing for personal use, we’ve left this out of our calculation.
Official energy consumption figures for the truck have not yet been released by Natural Resources Canada. The Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that the F-150 Lightning will consume between 0.285 and 0.31 kilowatt hours (kWh) per kilometre (converted from U.S. figures). We calculated based on a midpoint of 0.3 kWh per kilometre at $0.08 per kWh, the average electricity rate in Alberta in January 2022.
Our gas-powered equivalent is also a Ford F-150 Lariat in the same configuration as the Lightning. Five engines are available and purchase rates among them are similar, so we’ve chosen to upgrade our example to the 3.5-litre twin-turbocharged V6 ($2,350), which strikes a balance between the base 2.7-litre V6 and the highest-powered 5.0-litre V8. The optional 4X4 system, which is needed to match the Lightning’s standard all-wheel drive, is $5,200 extra.
Ford’s truck engines take regular-grade fuel. As of early February 2022 (before Russia invaded Ukraine), the average fuel price in Alberta was $1.43 per litre and trending upward. Given that our analysis covers a 10-year period, we went with a conservative estimate of $1.50 per litre as an average.
Based on these figures, and calculating over a 10-year ownership period, we estimate that an F-150 Lightning owner would spend $12,334 less for an F-150 Lightning over an equivalent gas-powered F-150.
However, this calculation is based on the standard battery, which carries a range of 370 kilometres. The extended-range battery, which lengthens the Lightning’s range to 483 kilometres (slightly less on the Platinum grade), is a $13,380 upgrade and effectively wipes out these gains. As battery prices come down with demand, this premium is likely to be reduced over time.
For our U.S. assessment, we’ve based our figures on the state of New York. We’ve chosen to work with the entry-level Pro grade with a base price of US$39,974, which includes the standard 230-mile battery (no extended-range battery is available on this trim). With the standard 5.5-foot bed, SuperCrew cab and dual-motor all-wheel drive, the final price is $41,669, including a $1,695 destination charge.
The Environmental Protection Agency also has not released energy-use estimates. Based on Union of Concerned Scientists estimates of between 0.46 to 0.50 kWh per mile, we’ve calculated based on usage of 0.48 kWh per mile and the current average electricity cost in New York of $0.20 per kWh.
The closest gas-powered equivalent is the Ford F-150 XL, with a SuperCrew cab, 5.5-foot bed, and the 3.3-litre V6 engine. We added four-wheel drive to match the Lightning’s all-wheel drive, which bumps up the price by $3,510 for a total of US$43,550. For this truck, our fuel cost estimates are based on the average price of fuel in New York in February: $3.42 per gallon.
The bottom line? A Ford F-150 buyer would save just over $20,000 in a 10-year ownership period by choosing the F-150 Lightning Pro over its gas-powered equivalent. If gas prices keep climbing, they would save even more.