What to expect (and what not to expect) from the electric Ford F-150
In January, Ford Motor Co. announced that it will be manufacturing an all-electric plug-in version of its trademark F-150 pickup truck. While the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Bolt have been available for several years, those electric cars still appeal primarily to a niche market, making industry insiders question just how much this new F-150 will reinvigorate the public’s interest in electric vehicles.
It will still be some time before drivers find themselves behind the wheel of a Ford electric truck and experts can analyze this vehicle’s full impact on the automotive industry. Until it is made available to the public, here are reasonable expectations about Ford’s electric F-150.
The electric F-150 may have a great economic impact, but it’s too early to tell what that could look like.
If this new F-150 sparks a massive consumer interest in electric vehicles, it could cause a rise in the number of vehicle-charging stations, an increase in positions related to servicing electric cars, and a potential economic boom in the automotive industry. However, that new enthusiasm for electric vehicles could potentially lead to gas stations shuttering their doors and thousands of automotive professionals potentially losing their jobs.
Generally, the increased popularity of electric cars does seem to have a positive economic impact. Tesla, an electric vehicle manufacturer, infused $4.1 billion into the California state economy in 2017, according to an IHS Markit report. However, Tesla’s national impact is smaller since it appeals to a niche, wealthier consumer base; its least expensive vehicle is priced around $35,000 after taking into account a federal tax credit and gas savings. The electric Ford F-150 could have a similar economic impact on a state level, but the total effect of the truck on the national or global economy is still unclear.
The release of the electric F-150 will not lead to more Ford electric vehicles.
It’s possible that the introduction of Ford’s electric F-150 is a signal of the automotive manufacturer’s long-term commitment to producing more energy-efficient trucks. But for right now, many consumers view the announcement of this new truck as an attempt to generate a positive response from the public rather than an authentic indication that the manufacturer is committed to producing greener vehicles. Industry experts can determine Ford’s electric goals only after assessing sales figures for the truck, the availability of the new F-150, its appeal to different markets, and Ford’s future plans for other electric vehicles.
Ford’s announcement might also inspire other automotive manufacturers to develop electric versions of their own iconic vehicles. Until these manufacturers make a long-term commitment to developing more electric cars, however, consumers will interpret their actions, just like they interpreted Ford’s, as a public relations move.
The F-150 is a popular truck, but its electric version will appeal to a niche market.
Truck owners often select their vehicles based on brand names and performance capabilities. Historically, the Ford F-150 has offered both; the 2019 edition packs a towing capacity of up to 13,200 lb, depending on the options selected. Unfortunately, many electric vehicles in the U.S. reportedly have struggled under harsh weather conditions this year. If consumers believe that electric vehicles are energy efficient but don’t perform well in severe weather, and the F-150 is a truck historically known for its great performance capabilities, what kind of driver is this electric truck intended for?
Even if this F-150 avoids the performance pitfalls that have plagued other electric cars, Ford will probably find only a niche consumer base, at least initially, for its new vehicle. That base could comprise eco-conscious professionals who need a truck, as well as wealthier drivers who view ownership of the electric F-150 as a status symbol. But when Ford releases the electric F-150, the initial target market will be small and specific.
The electric F-150 may bring change in the industry, but it will be slow and gradual.
If the electric F-150 does become a runaway success, it could lead to major changes in the automotive industry, causing car makers to open new manufacturing plants and retool their business strategies. If this F-150 appeals only to a niche market, it still could lead to the wider adoption of electric vehicles by consumers in the future. Regardless of the extent of the electric F-150’s impact, it will take place over a long period of time.
The automotive industry is still centered on vehicles with internal combustion engines. Even if Ford’s electric F-150 inspires drivers to ditch the engines of old and purchase fully electric cars and trucks, it would take years, if not decades, for manufacturers and automotive professionals to adapt to that new demand.
The Ford hybrid F-150 will make the bigger impact in the long term.
While the announcement of an electric F-150 entranced consumers, many car enthusiasts skimmed over the fact that Ford also announced a hybrid version of the truck. Because of the performance quality that has become synonymous with the F-150, combined with the perception that fully electric cars don’t operate as well as gasoline-powered vehicles, the hybrid F-150 could easily serve as a middle ground, offering top performance while still utilizing clean energy options. Although consumers frequently associate electric cars with a reduced environmental impact, they likely will appreciate a hybrid F-150 that embraces the advancements of the internal combustion engine while providing a cleaner energy alternative.