Newsletter: Ford’s Lightning strikes the electric pickup market

Welcome to the age of the Frunk.
By Julian Spector

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In Canary Media’s Reddit AMA Wednesday, someone asked us whether electric cars could ever win the hearts of red-blooded Americans, so to speak.”

My initial response: A crucial element in the success of clean energy will be showing customers how it can be better than the status quo.”

Later that day, Ford Motor Company, the grandfather of modern automobile production, revealed its all-electric F-150 pickup truck. The F-150 Lightning does a bunch of things that its gas-powered forebears cannot:

  • The truck battery can power your house during a blackout. This requires installing an 80-amp Ford Charge Station Pro with a transfer switch to isolate the home from the grid. Ford tapped rooftop solar leader Sunrun as its preferred installer” for these systems. Ford says its long-range model (300 miles) can supply a home with 30 kilowatt-hours of consumption for three days, or even longer with more targeted consumption.
  • Workers can run power tools from their Lightning instead of using a generator. The truck boasts 11 outlets that can dispense 9.6 kilowatts of max power.
  • By going all-electric, you also get a truck that requires no gas and offers lower scheduled maintenance costs,” Ford notes.
  • Where conventional pickups stick an engine, the Lightning has a Mega Power Frunk.” That’s not just fun to say — it can carry 400 pounds of payload.
  • The lithium-ion battery casing, located between the lower frame rails, doubles as a shield” against rubble that gets kicked up while off-roading.

Those are objectively useful features that differentiate the Lightning from a gas truck, without sacrificing its truckness. And that’s all with a starting price under $40,000.

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Speaking of automatic transfer switches to isolate a house from the grid…

Try finding that segue at any other publication.

But this piece of equipment is crucial for turning homes into mini-grids to keep them running during an outage. And Span, one of the leading startups innovating on this product, has a new version of its product out that’s smaller and cheaper than before, Jeff reports.

For those homeowners using batteries for backup power, this offers the ability to pick and choose which loads remain energized during outages. The other options today are hard-wiring critical loads in advance or trusting that a single battery can keep an entire home powered for more than a few hours.

Being able to easily pick what you use and don’t use while operating in backup mode is crucial for knowing how long your power will last. It’s not clear if there’s a role for Span in households that adopt the Lightning home backup system, but there’s a natural overlap in interest.

Arizona’s clean energy plan may have another shot

Arizona regulators voted down a 100 percent clean energy plan they had previously supported earlier this month. But, Emma reports, the plan could return for reconsideration.

This would be the first time a state set a binding 100 percent goal through its regulators, rather than legislative or executive-led actions. And it’s a test case for whether this policy succeeds in more conservative states than the liberal strongholds that were early adopters.

The holdup seems to be on the question of cost, which some regulators worry would rise under the clean energy transition. 

But research suggests it will be cheaper for Arizona to go zero-carbon than maintain business as usual, by a couple of billion dollars.

Today’s newsletter is sponsored by Aurora Solar’s Empower Virtual Summit.

Julian Spector is a senior reporter at Canary Media. He reports on batteries, long-duration energy storage, low-carbon hydrogen and clean energy breakthroughs around the world.