Can Millions of New Ford F-150 Trucks Become a Clean-Energy Storage Grid?
Listen, I think you should be able to get rid of your car if you want to. It should be easy to get everywhere you need to go on fast, frequent, fare-free public transit or by using safe, shaded, separated road designs that prioritize the movement of people. The reality is that we will never achieve our climate goals — a net-zero economy by 2050 — unless we have fewer cars that drive fewer miles; just swapping every gas-powered vehicle with an electric one won’t be enough. But here’s another reality: One-third of all miles driven in this country are in rural areas. Billions of those miles are driven in trucks. Which is why, if you’re under 40, God bless you, Ford’s F-150 has been the country’s top-selling vehicle every year you’ve been alive. Of late, the company has sold nearly a million trucks annually. And just one week after Joe Biden took his dazzle-camouflaged lap around a Dearborn, Michigan, track, Ford has received 70,000 preorders for its first-ever all-electric F-150 Lightning. To give a sense of how absolutely game-changing that figure is, consider this: If Ford ends up shipping all those preorders, they would equal one-fourth of the total number of all EVs sold last year. So the F-150 Lightning is much more than just an electric version of a very popular car; it’s the first viable electric vehicle for a huge number of Americans. And it has another feature that may be a key to the coming zero-emissions revolution: an 1,800-pound battery that holds a charge for 300 miles as well as an intriguing and essential role in this country’s renewable-energy-storage future.
Although an array of flashy electric megavehicles have debuted recently, there’s a big difference between, say, the Tesla Cybertruck or the Hummer EV — both of which are niche, bordering on stunt, products — and the F-150, which has long since proven itself to be extremely useful. (Eight percent of the U.S. workforce uses an F-series truck daily, and Ford trucks and vans constitute 40 percent of the country’s commercial vehicles.) The F-150 Lightning is specifically designed for labor, including 11 outlets designed for plugging in power tools, a front-trunk storage area (“frunk”) under the hood, and a special model made for fleets. The F-150 Lightning also has exceptional emergency capabilities, as Camila Domonoske reports at NPR: “When it’s plugged in at home and the power goes out, the Lightning can automatically send electricity back into your home, keeping the lights on for days.” At the launch event, Ford CEO Jim Farley talked about how EV owners used their cars to heat their homes during the Texas ice storms, where grid collapse might have killed as many as 700 people. Ford has announced a partnership with industry leader Sunrun to provide an inverter — plus the option to install solar panels — allowing energy stored locally to flow back and forth from the car to the home. But the possibilities become broader for the F-150 with the installation of a bidirectional charger that allows energy to flow between the car and the home and also back onto the grid, what’s known as vehicle-to-grid (V2G) integration.