News of the new Ford F-150 Lightning is on everyone's radar since its introduction last week. But while pundits were asking whether people would actually want an electric pickup and if it will work for tough jobs (hello? yes to both!), there was less discussion of what we view as the most exciting part of the package: the battery storage.
Even the New York Times and our bestie Rachel Maddow treated the battery storage like a party trick, touting its ability to cook hot dogs on the job site. But once this technology really gets moving, the reality is that this is a home battery storage unit that you can use in the event of a grid outage to power your whole home for up to three days of normal energy use. That is a game changer for the automobile industry, the battery storage industry, the solar industry, and most importantly, the pace of the fight against climate change. Here's why.
Normalizing EVs Like Never Before
First it's important to know that the Ford F-150 has been the best-selling automobile, not just truck but vehicle overall, in the US for the past 38 years. So this is a tremendously popular vehicle, and car company, out here normalizing EVs like no company has done before. Yes, the Toyota Prius is everywhere, but it's not a better version of something everyone already loves like the F-150 is.
Thanks to its electric motor, the F-150 Lightning has more towing capacity, more torque, and faster acceleration than its fossil-fueled predecessor, plus it has much lower maintenance and much less expensive fuel.
- It can tow up to 10,000 pounds.
- With extended battery: 563 horsepower, 775 lb-ft of torque, and a driving range of about 300 miles on a single charge.
- Starts at MSRP of about $40K, although the extended battery and V2B charger will cost more.
Simply put, when you factor these specs in, it's just better. Plus the base price for the EV version is close to the base price of the gas version. Once you factor in cheaper maintenance and fuel, it's a no-brainer.
This will accelerate the adoption of EVs just because it puts the electric vehicle out in front of a huge audience that may want to try it because it will save them money and work better. When it comes down to it we know that everyone would love to save the planet, but if it's actually cheaper to do it than not to, we're all in.
Battery Storage in a Time of Worsening Storms and Grid Instability
The amazing part of the F-150 Lightning is that on top of all the impressive features above, it solves a huge problem for humanity in a holistic, elegant way. Yes, the truck has amazing towing power thanks to that electric battery, but that same battery can be used to power your home when the grid goes down. Ford's Intelligent Backup Power Technology is a huge development, especially for all those pickup-driving Texans wondering what's going to happen in the next grid outage.
Up until now, the specialized charging plugs that make this possible were not really a thing. You couldn't plug your Chevy Bolt into your outlet and decide whether to send power from your house to your car, or from your car to your house. But now you can, and this changes everything.
The First Bi-Directional Charger
The Ford Charge Station Pro, as it's been dubbed, is the first mainstream bi-directional car charger for what's known as V2B (Vehicle-to-Building) charging. They exist in pilot programs and various non-typical uses, but according to Ford, this is the first-ever home use.
The implications are enormous. Now everyone can soon be driving around with a part of what is essentially a microgrid. If you have solar panels and an F-150 Lightning, you can operate off-grid for extended periods.
With some planning, people in areas with electricity rates that vary depending on the time of day or demand could have a bi-directional charger, solar, and an electric vehicle, and use their own stored power during those times to save themselves money and reduce stress on the power grid. This adds resilience to the grid without costly utility upgrades or new fossil fuel peaker plants to help meet peak demand periods.
The Ford F-150 Lightning can send power back to the house through the proprietary Ford Charge Pro bi-directional charger
Helping Vulnerable Communities
Paired with solar power, the energy storage possibilities for areas that have intermittent power outages, places dealing with natural disasters, or rural areas where people are without power are tremendous. Solar and battery storage helped people during the rolling blackouts in California, the Texas grid outages, and the hurricane victims in Puerto Rico.
I'll never forget driving through the Navajo Nation and seeing that many people there have no electricity, and also noticing that many people had a fairly new pickup truck. I made a friend there who was Navajo and I asked her about this seeming disconnect.
She said, "You can't get the power company to come out and string power lines, but almost everyone can lease a pickup. You have to have one here for the harsh conditions and the washboard dirt roads tear up your truck pretty quick, so you go through them faster."
The Energy Information Administration estimates that 14 percent of households on Native American reservations have no access to electricity, 10 times higher than the national average. Many reservations have homes scattered over large areas, far from a utility grid. With the cost of extending utility distribution lines to remote locations as much as $60,000 a mile, it is often cheaper to power the remote homes with solar energy and battery storage. Installing solar panels and adding battery storage with an EV pickup truck that's more durable than a gas-powered one seems like an even better solution.
Climate Impact: Accelerating the Transition off Fossil Fuels
It hardly needs to be stated that the implications of this news for accelerating the transition off fossil fuels is mind-blowing. If the F-150 Lightning truly normalizes EVs the way we hope, reduces people's car maintenance and fuel bills, reduces people's electric bills by reducing power use during demand times, provides power in a grid outage, and helps stabilize the power grid, then we have to believe that fossil fuel cars should start filling out their last will and testament. For our kids' future, for all of humanity, let's hope... and truly, this news has given me more hope than I have had for a long time. We can do this!