Why trucks are the ‘it’ electric vehicle to buy right now


(NEW YORK) — Michael Critchley’s job is to persuade his longtime Ford customers to swap their gas-guzzling pickups for the F-150 Lightning.

Ford started production of the all-electric Lightning in late 2021 and the Dearborn automaker still cannot keep up with demand. Critchley says he has so many requests for the electric truck that he’s forced to turn away wannabe owners.

“People are offering me a lot of money over MSRP. I’ve been offered $20K above sticker price,” Critchley, the sales manager of Romeo Ford in Kingston, New York, told ABC News. “A lot of pickup guys are coming to the Lightning.”

Higher material costs and ongoing chip shortages have hampered production of the $60,000 pickup, which gets at least 230 miles on a full charge, forcing eager buyers to wait months or longer for theirs to arrive. The Dearborn automaker sold 15,600 F-150 Lightning units in 2022.

Critchley says he has been seeing customers trade out of a Tesla or a hybrid SUV for a Lightning. Some of his upstate New York customers are so fed up with the long wait they’re going to competing dealerships and paying more.

“I have about 25 customers waiting for one … the higher prices haven’t deterred customers,” Critchley said. “My dad has one and loves it. He’s never getting rid of it.”

Ford has raised the price of the Lightning multiple times since its launch. Customers who choose the entry-level Pro model now pay at least $20,000 more than the original $40,000 price.

Ivan Drury, senior manager of insights at Edmunds, said Ford could charge even more and customers would pay up. The average transaction price of a Lightning this year costs $84,192 versus $64,331 for the standard F-150 truck, Drury pointed out.

“The Lightning is a home run for Ford,” he told ABC News. “The company has hundreds of thousands of reservations — it’s sold out through 2024. There is no cooling down in this market.”

The F-150 Lightning may be wildly popular with Americans but competition in the burgeoning electric market is just heating up. Rivian’s compact R1T electric pickup has already won accolades with the automotive community. GMC has seen unprecedented interest in its $110,000 Hummer EV pickup. The brand’s $107,000 Sierra EV Denali goes on sale in early 2024.

Stellantis recently unveiled the Ram 1500 REV, a battery-electric light-duty pickup.

Common complaints of trucks — noisiness, hefty fuel costs — no longer apply with electric models.

“They’re getting consumers to think about EVs. The adoption rate is going up,” said Drury. “Electric trucks are removing all barriers to entry … I see them as the holy grail of EVs.”

Drury also noted that electric trucks post performance numbers not found in standard gas-powered pickups. The R1T and Hummer EV can sprint from 0-60 mph in 3 seconds; the Lightning completes the task in less than 4 seconds.

“No one expects a truck to be that fast,” said Drury.

The rapidly expanding lists of electric trucks could help President Joe Biden meet his latest climate goals that call for two-thirds of new cars and trucks sold in the U.S. to be all-electric by 2032. The Biden administration says these proposed rules would cut nearly 10 billion tons of CO2 emissions and save consumers $12,000 on average over the lifetime of a vehicle.

Electric vehicle sales are rising though they still account for a small share of the U.S. auto market. Drury said electric trucks totaled a fraction — 0.20% — of total vehicle sales in 2022. Cox Automotive forecasts EV sales will surpass 1 million units this year in the U.S.

Jonny Lieberman, senior features editor at MotorTrend, took the electric plunge when he bought a Rivian R1T in June of 2022. Lieberman said the truck’s off-roading capabilities convinced him to embrace the EV lifestyle.

“The truck has four motors — that’s game-changing for off-roading,” he told ABC News. “It’s also a performance vehicle with 845 horsepower and 908 lb-ft of torque.”

Lieberman, who lives in Southern California, installed a home charger to juice the truck’s battery for his outdoor adventures. He gets 270 miles on a full charge and hasn’t experienced range anxiety yet, he says.

“I stopped thinking about worse-case scenarios like what do I do on a road trip,” he said.

He’s even become an unofficial spokesperson for the brand, preaching to friends and strangers about the benefits of owning one.

“I have convinced many people to buy a Rivian. I am an evangelist,” he said. “Imagine never having to go to a gas station again.”

Tony Caravano, senior director of customer engagement at Rivian, said 75% of R1T and R1S customers are new to EVs. Moreover, 60% of R1T customers have never owned a pickup truck before.

“People are really excited by the design, capability and performance,” Caravano told ABC News. “The vehicles are durable. Customers put baby strollers in the truck’s gear tunnel.”

He added, “We’re exposing EV technology to a lot of people.”

Owners of the $73,000 Rivian R1T truck are some of the happiest in the industry, according to a new J.D. Power survey. Many buy the R1T and the R1S, the company’s three-row SUV, for their daily commutes or to shuttle their kids to and from school, Caravano said.

The R1T may also soon act as a backup power generator, similar to what the F-150 Lightning can do. Ford customers who purchase the Lightning’s extended range battery can power up their homes for up to three days.

Rivian, like Tesla and Mercedes, is also busy building out its “Rivian Adventure Network,” where Rivian customers can exclusively charge their vehicles at various U.S. locations. Rivian currently has 113 DC fast charging sites and 34 additional locations are coming online soon, Caravano said.

“Charging infrastructure is very important as well as and education around charging,” he said.

The all-electric 2025 Ram 1500 REV, which made its debut in New York this month, has a targeted range of 350 miles with a standard 168 kilowatt-hour battery pack. That number jumps to 500 miles if owners choose the larger 229 kilowatt-hour battery.

The 1500 REV marks the first battery-electric light-duty pickup truck from Ram Trucks. The truck can add up to 110 miles of range in about 10 minutes with 800-volt DC fast charging.

“We believe in bringing the right range of powertrain solutions to our customers and will continue to redefine the pickup truck segment. Our all-new Ram 1500 REV pushes past the competition in areas customers care about most including range, towing, payload and charge time,” Ram CEO Mike Koval Jr. said.

The Silverado EV will be available next summer and GM is already accepting deposits online. The Detroit automaker said the truck will get an estimated 400 miles of range, utilize GM’s Ultium EV Platform and include the Super Cruise driver-assistance technology.

Jim Farley, the president and CEO of Ford, told ABC News in March a second electric will soon be built at Ford’s BlueOval City manufacturing campus in Stanton, Tennessee.

“Lightning is the best-selling electric pickup in the U.S. but this will be its successor,” he said.

Electric trucks’ gargantuan size and massive battery packs have not gone unnoticed. The beefy Hummer weighs more than 9,000 lbs; the Lightning tips the scale at 6,500 pounds — 2,000 to 3,000 pounds more than the internal combustion F-150. The extra weight has prompted federal officials and industry watchers to warn of their safety risks.

“I’m concerned about the increased risk of severe injury and death for all road users from heavier curb weights and increasing size, power, and performance of vehicles on our roads, including electric vehicles,” Jennifer Homendy, the head of the National Transportation Safety Board, said in January. “We have to be careful that we aren’t also creating unintended consequences: More death on our roads. Safety, especially when it comes to new transportation policies and new technologies, cannot be overlooked.”

Another criticism of electric trucks: Range drops precipitously when towing. MotorTrend found the F-150 Lightning’s range fell from 300 to 115 miles when towing a 3,140-pound camper. The magazine’s testing also discovered the truck’s max range was 100 miles when pulling a 5,260-pound camper. The R1T’s estimated 314-mile range gets slashed by half when hauling a heavy load, according to reports.

Critchley of Romeo Ford said “die-hard diesel and gas guys” who live in rural, upstate New York may be the last holdouts in the electric truck revolution. If these trucks can reliably tow, pull and travel long distances, Critchley’s customers — farmers, construction workers and locals needing a reliable winter ride — may forgo diesel and gasoline for battery power.

“The Lightning is the best pickup I’ve driven,” he said.

Drury has already put down a deposit on the Ram 1500 REV, his first electric vehicle. The long wait may be the toughest part of owning one.

“You can have everything with these trucks,” he said. “I would choose an electric truck over anything.”

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