From Ford F-150 Lightning To Lion Electric School Bus, The EV Revolution Is Accelerating

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Much has been written about the recently unveiled Ford F-150 Lightning, the company’s first all-electric pickup truck. Zachary  Shahan has noted with some glee that the base price of the single motor version with 230 miles of range is $39,974. Knock off $7500 if you are eligible for the full federal EV tax credit and you have a truck that competes on price with entry level pickups from Ford, GM, and Dodge. It is also well below the $50,000 + average price of a new pickup truck sold in American today.

“There are a lot of big fleets who have been looking for green solutions but haven’t had any answers until now,” William C. Ford Jr., the company’s chairman and a great-grandson of Henry Ford, said in an interview yesterday.

Ford F-150 Lightning
Ford F-150 Lightning, image courtesy of Ford

The base truck has a stated range of 230 miles — not that much, but not too shabby either. It’s true that amount of range will not be suitable for some pickup owners, but it is more than adequate for many fleet buyers — utility companies, municipal fleets, and local contractors. Those are the sorts of customers who are likely to fully appreciate the significantly lower costs of fuel and maintenance associated with electric vehicles. The gigantic frunk that can swallow an assortment of tools with ease is nice too.

For those who need more range and up to 10,000 lb towing capacity, the dual motor version of the truck is priced at $59,974 — smack dab in the sweet spot for new pickup trucks today. “The F-150 will put electric vehicles in a totally different realm,” Michael Ramsey, a Gartner analyst, told the New York Times. “It’s huge for Ford, but also huge for the whole industry. If you’re going to electrify the whole vehicle fleet in the United States, the F-150 going electric is a big step in that direction.”

F-150 Lightning Looks Familiar

Ford F-150 Lightning
Image courtesy of Ford

Many are eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Tesla Cybertruck, an electric pickup truck with a stainless steel skin that will be priced about the same as the F-150 Lightning. The big difference between the two vehicles is the Ford looks a lot like the current F-150, which has been the sales leader in pickup trucks since the 1970s. The Cybertruck looks like…nothing you have ever seen before. Ford has kept costs down by using many of the components from the conventional truck in the Lightning — things like seats. Ford sells almost 900,000 F Series trucks a year, which gives it significant economies of scale when it comes to outfitting the Lightning.

Styling is a matter of taste. The Cybertruck is “out there,” a radical departure from the norm. The F-150 Lighting looks familiar, inside and out. Many truck owners will be attracted by its looks not because they are a departure, but because they conform to their preconceived notions of what a pickup truck should look and feel like. Toyota and Nissan, and to some extent Honda, have been trying to crack the pickup truck market in America for 30 years with limited success. People who like trucks just like the looks of the Dodge Ram, Chevy Silverado, and Ford F-150.

Ford’s target market for the Lightning is contractors and fleet owners, people who will appreciate that it will have up to 11 AC power outlets available to power electric saws, tools, and portable lighting, which could eliminate the need for generators at work sites. “It’s made to be on the work site and to work all day long,” Ted Cannis, general manager of Ford’s North American commercial vehicle business, tells the New York Times.

Ford F-150 Lightning
Image courtesy of Ford

The side benefit is the people who get to drive a Lightning will learn firsthand what EV owners already know — driving on electrons puts a ton of torque under your right toe, which is exhilarating. In addition, EVs are quiet and comfortable without all the drama that comes with 10-speed transmissions, turbochargers, and stop/start systems. What they discover driving the boss’s truck could well affect their own buying decisions when it comes to getting a new car for themselves. The same applies to the drivers who will soon find themselves behind the wheel of a Ford E-Transit battery electric van.

260 LionC Electric School Bus Order

LionC battery electric school buses
Image courtesy of Lion Electric

Another class of drivers who are about to discover the pleasures of driving an electric vehicle are school bus drivers in Quebec, where First Student, the largest school bus operator in North America, has placed an order for 260 LionC battery electric school buses manufactured by Lion Electric, a Canadian manufacturer of electric heavy duty vehicles.

It represents the largest order for electric school buses in Lion’s history and will make First Student the largest operator of zero emission school buses in North America. Deliveries will take place beginning in the second half of 2021 and continue through the first half of 2023, according to a press release.

“Today marks a new step in the adoption of zero-emission school buses,” said Marc Bedard, CEO of Lion. “First Student’s leadership demonstrates that zero emission technology is here to meet the needs of the market at scale, as is our production capacity. We are not talking about pilot programs but rather entire bus fleets going electric with vehicles that meet the daily requirements of the industry’s largest operators.”

Benoit Morin, vice president of Lion’s Canadian sales team, says, “We are very excited to be putting the buses into operation in our own backyard here in Quebec, where soon an electric school bus will be a common sight. Getting children excited about zero emission technologies today sets them up for a lifetime of climate advocacy, to the benefit of their communities and the planet.”

It also spares them years of breathing carbon dioxide and particulates from the exhaust pipes of school buses as they idle outside schools waiting for their precious cargo. The EV revolution is moving forward and gathering speed. That’s a good thing for us all but especially for our children.

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." You can follow him on Substack and LinkedIn but not on Fakebook or any social media platforms controlled by narcissistic yahoos.

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