Ford recently released a YouTube playlist with 10 videos that gives potential customers not only more information about the F-150 Lightning truck, but also gives us a look into the minds of the people who designed it. In many ways, it’s a sort of infomercial, but it gives the extra information a potential buyer would indeed appreciate.
Here’s the first video, an introduction by Kumar Galhotra, president of Americas and International Markets Group:
While there isn’t much in the way of new information in this first video, it does seem that they wanted us to know that Ford is taking the shift to EVs very seriously. They have a lot at stake, and it’s part of a larger overall effort to electrify Ford’s fleet.
In this second video, they interviewed Jasen Turnbull, the head of marketing for the project. He goes through what they learned about the target market for an electric F-150. Some of it is pretty obvious (they skew younger than gas truck buyers, and tend to live in or closer to cities), but that towing and other capabilities of the truck are important to them. In this video, he says that customers told Ford that they didn’t want the truck to look like “a spaceship or a doorstop,” which seems to be a jab at the Cybertruck. (Heard of that one?)
In this third video, Darren Palmer, manager of EVs for Ford (who we just interviewed last week), goes through the electric specs and autonomous features. He then hands it off to Gitanjli McRoy to give more information about how engineers aimed to give the customer a better electric experience. This part of the video was more of a resume for Ford’s experience building EVs, likely so that potential customers will know Ford isn’t new to EVs.
One thing I hadn’t heard before this video was that the vehicle uses pouch cells, with a nickel-manganese-cobalt cathode. In some cases, manufacturers have had cooling issues partly related to pouch cells, but they’re using liquid cooling, so it’s probably not going to be an issue. They’re also pretty eager to tell us that they’re using less cobalt than ever in batteries. AC charging will be around 11 kW, with a dual charger option available for 22 kW.
In the fourth video, they interview Ryan O’Gorman, energy services lead. In this one, he focused on the truck’s ability to give a home or business backup power automatically through the charger. Whether helping at home or out at work/on the road, you can output up to 9.6 kW of power through the truck’s outlets. When using it away from home, you can tell the truck to leave a certain amount of range in the battery so you don’t use power tools and other things until you’re stranded.
In this video, Husein Dakroub shows us information about the company’s infotainment capabilities. He talks about the large screen first, and how they simplified the menus for things that people use the most. He also explains that they kept a physical knob (something Tesla fans panned Ford for) because people needed fast access. Like the Mach-E, it automatically sets itself to your presets when you approach the vehicle. He was also particularly proud of OTA updates and other connected features.
Mark Sich, Ford’s UI design manager, told us what it’s like to get into the F-150 lightning and drive it. The screen welcomes you and starts the UI experience before you need it for anything. They centered the experience around an “avatar” of the truck that gets affected by the things you change in the UI, like drive mode. They also gamified the efficiency experience, which can help you get more range, or at least better understand the factors affecting range, as you go.
It’s designed to help new owners learn how to drive an EV without all of the anxiety. They also work on incorporating weight and other factors to give accurate ranges and trip planning to help with driver confidence.
Finally, it features its own automated system for putting a trailer on the hitch. He says it will automatically put the ball under the trailer’s coupler without needing a guide to help you get on the hitch.
All of this was designed to reduce stress and make things easier for the driver.
In this sixth video, they talk to Kenny Moore, the exterior design manager for the Lightning. They wanted the truck to be a little different, but retaining most of the F-150 was important to them. It has the same cab and largely the same bed, so it can use the accessories people buy for a normal gas F-150.
He also reveals that the Lightning is setting the stage for all future F-150s in terms of appearance of the front fascia and the rear lighting. They wanted the Lightning to be the vanguard.
To arrive at the design, they studied existing F-150 truck owners. They looked at what they do, how they do it, and what their tastes were. This may seem like a “legacy auto” thing to do, and something that stifles innovation, but keep in mind they currently are selling the most half-ton pickups, and this is America’s top selling vehicle. They don’t want to lose that status in this market, and they have a product that works.
For the interior of the cab, they made it easier to take a nap during charging sessions, and made an area for people to do office work, like writing. They also tried to use premium materials whenever possible for higher packages.
Nancy Reppenhagen gives us more information on the feature that seemed to impress Tesla owners and fans the most: the cavernous frunk. This gives dry, lockable, secure storage.
They have four more videos that you can view here and pick through for new clues or features, and I’ll leave that up to the reader. It’s a well-made series.
What impresses me the most about these videos is that they’re trying to convey to the public that the F-150 lightning wasn’t a gas-truck afterthought. It looks a lot like any other F-150, but that was done intentionally, not because they were trying to phone the design in. Under the hood (literally and figuratively), they did a lot to make it a new and compelling vehicle in a familiar package.