Electric trucks aren’t ready for the big leagues — but I still loved the F-150 Lightning

Electric cars are getting pretty cool. While Tesla popularized the concept of a “fun” electric car, these days there are quite a few options out there, like the Kia EV6, the Hyundai Ioniq 5, and even some luxury options from Mercedes and BMW. These cars offer awesome performance and often a sweet design, making them excellent choices for first-time EV buyers.

But with electric trucks, it’s a slightly different story. To be clear, they’re just as powerful, — often more so — than electric cars. But when you’re driving a truck, you expect to be able to use that power in different ways, and frankly, electric trucks seem to have a way to go before they’ll hold up in those settings.

Towing is tough

The Achilles’ heel of every electric truck comes down to hauling: Adding a ton of weight to the load seriously impacts range — and not in a trivial way. Add a camper or even a lightweight trailer, and you might find that you’re getting half of the expected range out of a charge. That means that you’ll have to charge up more than every 150 miles, and if you’re towing a camper, it’s very likely that you’re driving further than that. And even lighter loads can have a heavy impact on range.

Ford F-150 Rear
Christian de Looper / Digital Trends

In the early days of electric cars, which we’re still in, range is an issue. The gas-powered F-150 typically gets over 500 miles of range. To be sure, that number is also cut down when you’re towing heavy loads — but getting 300 miles out of a tank of gas while towing is a whole different ball game than getting 150, especially given how easy it is to find and use gas stations compared to car chargers.

Added space and a sweet ride

Ford F-150 Power
Christian de Looper / Digital Trends

Now, that’s not to say that you should completely discount electric trucks. For one, they’re going to get a whole lot better within a few years. Soon, they’ll have a much longer range, and charging will be much easier.

But even the current crop have some great features. I recently used a Ford F-150 Lightning for a week, and it’s a pretty sweet ride. It has power outlets in the bed for power tools and other accessories and, put simply, it looks cool. Inside, it offers the same big-screen experience as the Mustang Mach-E, and while I wish I could control more with good old-fashioned buttons, I really like the feel of driving a truck that also happens to be whisper-quiet.

Ford F-150 Front
Christian de Looper / Digital Trends

So who should buy one? Let’s be honest, there are plenty of people who buy trucks and don’t regularly tow trailers or haul heavy loads. And there’s nothing wrong with that. There are other good reasons to have some extra bulk on your vehicle, whether it’s for safety, or simply because you like the look. With an electric truck, you get those benefits without paying hundreds of dollars per month to fill that big tank. And even if you do casually haul larger loads, as long as you’re prepared to charge, or plan on only driving shorter distances, you’ll be perfectly happy with an F-150 Lightning.

Decisions

I’m pretty green-minded, and eventually I think all vehicles on the road will be electric — or at least 99% of them. But I also recognize that getting there is a transition, and there are plenty of customers who need more from their trucks than the current slate of electric options can provide. It’s not very green to buy a truck that you plan on replacing in only a few years, and if you do need something with some muscle — and actually plan on regularly using that muscle — then it’s probably worth waiting a few years. If, however, you’re a casual truck driver like me, you’ll love a truck like the F-150 Lightning the same way that anyone else will love the Mustang Mach-E.

You just have to find one that isn’t exorbitantly overpriced.

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