The frustrating limit to Ford's F-150 Lightning electric pickup

There's a whole lot to like about the Ford F-150 Lightning, though one aspect of the all-electric pickup could prove frustrating for those considering taking the leap into a gas-free lifestyle. Unveiled earlier this month, Ford's zero-emissions truck is no mere nod to electrification but feels like a wholehearted embrace of the concept and all the potential perks that come along with it, with a line-up that should have something for almost everyone.

I say "almost" because there's a glaring proviso in Ford's trim walk. Or, more accurately, a decision on just who can, and can't, buy one particular version of the F-150 Lightning, which seems more of an issue the more I think about it.

Many of the headlines for the past couple of weeks have been about an electric truck that starts at "under $40k." In reality that's not quite the case, since though the 2022 F-150 Lightning Pro may be $39,974 on paper, that's before the destination fee is added.

Even then, it's unexpectedly affordable given the other recent electric pickups we've seen announced. Ford will have more lavish versions too, of course, and you'll be able to spec out the Platinum trim to over $90k if you so desire. What caught my eye, though, was the F-150 Lightning Pro Extended Range. Or, more accurately, the fact that you probably can't buy it.

It's the version of the commercial trim for the electric truck with the bigger battery: 300 miles on a charge, Ford estimates, rather than 230 miles. It'll cost $49,974 before credits and incentives, and also comes with the 80A Ford Charge Station Pro for faster charging as standard. However while Ford will sell the Standard Range commercial model to anyone, business or individual, the Extended Range Pro trim is for commercial customers alone.

I can understand the likely reason why, of course. The gap between the commercial F-150 Lightning Pro Extended Range and the entry-level F-150 Lightning XLT Standard Range is only a few thousand dollars. Ford, unsurprisingly, would prefer to nudge buyers toward the more expensive truck, especially if they're of a mind to splash out on the bigger battery in the first place.

Full pricing for the F-150 Lightning range hasn't been confirmed, but we do know an XLT trim truck starts at $52,974 before tax credits or incentives. The price differential between the Standard and Extended Range commercial versions of the EV is $10k; admittedly there's more added for that than the bigger battery alone, but it's an indication of the sort of premium we can likely expect to be involved for upgrading range on the consumer models too.

The EV market is in an awkward phase right now. Electrification is finally pushing into the mainstream – rather than being the preserve mainly of the eco-pious or the Fans Of Elon – and trucks like the F-150 Lightning will be instrumental in that transition. Problem is, even with incentives and credits, most EVs are still beyond the typical market price for a non-electric vehicle.

A base F-150 Lightning Pro in Ford's commercial spec comes in, assuming you're eligible for the full $7,500 federal tax credit, at $32,474. Ford's prediction of 230 miles of range, though, is going to give some potential owners anxiety. While those familiar with the electric lifestyle may already know that our gut-reaction for how much battery is "enough," the mainstream buyer Ford has in mind may not be so enlightened.

An entry-spec F-150 with the base 3.3-liter V6 engine has at least a 23 gallon tank, and is EPA-rated at 21mpg on the combined cycle. That works out to over 480 miles of driving, more than double Ford's estimate for the entry version of its electric truck. There are, of course, a whole host of confounding factors either way, but making an on-paper judgment of EV versus a $29k gas pickup may not convince those with lingering skepticism.

I think a 300 mile electric F-150 would be far more compelling in that situation, but suddenly you're looking at a considerable jump up in price if you're not eligible for the commercial-only Extended Range model. Again, I can understand why Ford decided to work things that way – and, with 70k+ reservations already, clearly there's going to be no shortage of demand for the pickup EV at least to begin with – but I'm also a little disappointed that what could've been a Lightning sweet-spot hasn't been capitalized on. Here's hoping that restriction changes as the electric pickup rolls out into dealerships next year.