An Electric Pause

John Scalzi

You may recall that roughly two years ago Krissy and I put in a reservation for a Ford F-150 Lightning, the Ford Company’s first all-electric truck. I was excited about this; aside from being a cool vehicle in itself, it had several features I was keen about, including the ability to power one’s house for up to three days in case of an outage. That sounded pretty great to me. So it may come as a surprise that I note that today, just a few minutes ago, in fact, my reservation fee for the Ford F-150 Lightning was refunded to me by my local Ford dealer, and we thus we are no longer in line for an electric truck.

What happened? Well, two things, primarily. One, we bought a church (plus a couple of other buildings), and then refurbished the church to get it up to modern standards. Although these expenditures were more modest than they would have been if we lived near a coast (last week in LA I enraged a bunch of movie and TV execs by making them guess how much the church cost and watched them get more infuriated each time I said “no, lower”), they certainly added up over the course of nearly 18 months now. So our appetite for spending close to $100k for a pickup truck, even one that can power the house in a pinch, is somewhat lessened.

Two, Krissy’s enthusiasm for a new car of any sort has waned rather a bit. She was impressed by the F-150 Lightning and saw a use case for it, and also, she’s kind of a truck gal in any event. But as time went on she decided she wasn’t quite ready for a new car. Getting a new car is a lot in any circumstance, and the F-150 Lightning would require some extra charging infrastructure being added to our house, which she became less interested in doing right now given other projects she wanted to get to first, not including the church and its necessities. So when we were told by Ford that we could order our Lightning, Krissy demurred, and we punted. And then punted a couple more times. And now Ford has refunded the reservation, so I guess that’s that.

I’m mildly frustrated by this, not because of the Ford F-150 in itself, but because I’ve been trying to buy Krissy a new car since 2015, which is when I signed That Big Damn Contract with Tor, and I thought of getting Krissy a surprise Mustang convertible to show her my appreciation of everything she does for me that got us to the point I could get That Big Damn Contract. But it turned out Krissy didn’t actually like the Mustang convertible that much, so I said to her, fine, you have a coupon redeemable for a new car whenever you want. I thought the Ford F-150 Lightning would represent the redeeming of that “you get a new car” coupon, but I guess not. One day! Before we’re old(er)! I swear!

(Also, no, I won’t be getting the Lightning for myself. My 2011 Mini Cooper Countryman runs perfectly well and in fact has absurdly low mileage on it for a 12-year-old vehicle; it just a couple of days ago hit 90,000 miles. With care, it’s probably good for at least another 60k, which at this rate means I’ll be looking for a new car in 2032. Also, Krissy may be a truck gal but I’m definitely not a truck guy. The thing that excited me most about the Lightning was that it was not its truckness, it was the fact it was a portable power wall. When I finally get a new car, it’s likely to be electric in some way, but it will almost certainly be more car-shaped than truck-shaped.)

In any event, I now release the dream of a Ford F-150 Lightning back into the sky, where hopefully it will land on someone else who wants the truck today, rather than at some nebulous point in the future. It’s still a really nifty vehicle. I assume someone else will be happy to take our place in the reservation line.

— JS

38 Comments on “An Electric Pause”

  1. “where hopefully it will land on someone else who wants the truck today”

    Now I’m picturing a Ford dealership in Dayton with a trebuchet, energetically gifting F150s to unsuspecting wait-listers…

  2. Has the market de-stupided enough that it wasn’t worth getting it just to flip it?

    I know for awhile there, it wasn’t worth keeping any F150, because used ones were selling for over the list of new.

  3. If Krissy won’t accept your Mustang or your truck you’ll just have to write her song, I guess.

  4. Thank you for the update. I wondered what was going on. As a person who waited 2.75 years for a Tesla Model 3 (no I’m not joking) I thought maybe Ford just wasn’t delivering them yet due to supply chain issues.

  5. It’s probably for the best. You can always hop back on the electric truck bandwagon in a few years, after the new models have had some time to conduct shakeout drills.

    In the meantime, have you considered solar panels? (Or a wind turbine)

  6. I recommend solar panels and a house-sized battery. We’ve got the panels on our former church, generating like crazy. We’ve been waiting for prices on the batteries to get lower.

    Although you might indeed like your battery to be on wheels, since you have multiple buildings.

  7. Still waiting for my reservation to come up. You might think about the Dodge REV coming next year. The killer feature it has over the F150 is 4 wheel steering. Makes it significantly easier to get around in one of those giant vehicles. I put in a reservation for one of those as well, just in case Ford never gets around to me. From what I have read, Ford is mostly selling to fleet purchasers right now. I put my reservation in on day 4 and it still hasn’t come up.

  8. This is the longest post about hey, we’re not getting that e-truck, I’ve ever read. I mean that in good humor, Scalzi.

  9. The nice thing about a mobile generator in a car (besides it being silent unlike gas generators and you can keep it inside) is that you can easily go recharge the car if you start to run low. We rarely lose power for long, so three days is enough, and we have two cars that can do this. The higher end EVs come with an inverter, needed to convert the car’s dc to ac, but you can buy one too. Our two ICE cars were well over 20 years old, so it was time to make the jump. Next we put in solar panels. Electricity from the grid isn’t cheap here.

    The L2 chargers are usually pretty easy to have installed. And there are often state rebates for the costs.

  10. Choosing an electric pick-up implies several affirmatives:
    – I need a means of transporting bulky stuff (won’t fit in the trunk) often enough that an occasional rental won’t do,
    – I need a BIG, LUXURIOUS truck,
    – The truck must be electric because (one of the following):
    – they’re cool and I want to be cool,
    -… (I can’t think of any other reason.)

  11. I can relate to your frustration at not having been able to keep your promise to yourself to give Krissy a brand-new car, but I can also relate to her lack of enthusiasm for a new vehicle. I’ve owned exactly three new vehicles in my life (I am in my late 60s) and I honestly just don’t like having a brand-new vehicle.

    Coincidentally enough, this post appeared right about the time I wrote a check for the first two-thirds of the cost of having solar panels installed on our house (the balance is due on completion of the project next month). We’re going to wind up paying less than 20% of the cost of an F-150 Lightning to power our home with solar energy, and that’s the up-front price. Once we get the benefit on our 2023 tax return, our actual cost is going to be a bit over 10% of what you were planning to spend on the Lightning. And we live in a relatively high-cost community, which you do not.

    All of which is to say that if you really want to make sure you don’t lose power even if the grid goes down, you may want to check out the cost of installing solar panels on the house. Based on the photos you’ve shared, it doesn’t look like there are any big trees that shade the house, so it could be ideally suited for solar panels. And it is also worth noting that unlike vehicles, solar panels are generally expected to last at least 40 years – AND you can get an EV charging station added to the solar installation for the EV you’ll buy when that Mini gives up in another decade or so.

    And who knows, maybe Krissy will find the idea of getting free power from the sun more exciting than the idea of driving around in a new vehicle.

  12. I’m kind of interested in the upcoming electric VW “ID.Buzz Microbus”. Just have to save up for it. And get a job. Both of those.

  13. My 2012 370Z has not quite 55K miles on it, so it’s still a youngster. (Retired guys don’t need to put lots of miles on a vehicle commuting to work, and being pretty much house-bound for several years of a pandemic helped to keep the mileage down as well.) Given that I turn 70 next month there’s good chance that, baring getting rear-ended by an inattentive texting driver or t-boned by someone running a red light, it’ll be the last vehicle I ever buy.

  14. I’m kind of sorry to hear you aren’t getting the truck, as I was looking forward to your review of it. I drove a Ford F150 for years & I loved that truck. Oh well.

  15. Appreciate the peek under the hood. At 71, my trusty 2010 Ford Ranger with zero rust and almost 140k miles will likely outlive me to be embraced by somebody running a lawn care business or working for the Illuminati.

    Just keep being a good guy. I’ll buy your books. Least I can do.

  16. Waiting to give the wife a gift she wants, rather than one you want to give her – that’s playing the long game.

  17. I’m pleased to hear this story, as it reads like a good-news tale, in which a significant amount of natural resources and energy was not expended on building new vehicle.

    Once a vehicle is bought, the best environmental option is almost certainly to maintain it as long as possible in good working order, and use it as little as possible, of course.

    I drive less than 2,000 miles a years, and do not fly, at all, anywhere. I still travel throughout the UK going to conventions, and in Europe, by train.

    Consumption is the enemy, and our current society is driven by consumption.

  18. Your writing is usually super-clear, so maybe it’s just me, but did you actually surprise her with the Mustang and then have to return it, or did you ask her first if she wanted a surprise Mustang.
    As someone who HATES surprises, I hope it was the latter. Hey guys, always consult with your loved one before arranging a “surprise”.

  19. I was hoping that the F-150 would help move along the Vehicle-to-Home (V2H) but that doesn’t really seem to be the case. It looks like some of California’s legislation may be the prod.

    As others have said, a home generator tends to be a cheaper alternative at this point.

    However, the integration of solar, battery, car charger/car battery still seems to be really poor and will likely be a bad consumer experience unless you go with a single vendor. There don’t really appear to be many standards for interoperability between products.

    Solar also seems rife with unexpected items popping up. For example, most people don’t expect that if the power goes out and they have solar (no battery) that they’ll lose power too. Most people don’t understand that the grid both provides power to the house but also provides a path for excess power and why that’s important. The tax implications also can be glossed over.

    I’m still pretty happy with my solar+battery two years in but I also went into it as an opportunity to learn about the space and not going in just looking for the end-result.

  20. I am kind of glad you didn’t get it. I am an old guy,but, because of my hobby, I have a lot of experience with lithium batteries and their use can be problematic. The ones I use are small but when they ignite the fire is hellish. You don’t have venture far in the news feeds to see what happens when large lithium fires occur including the recent Ford 150 Lightning storage compound fire or the Powerwall fire in Australia.

  21. My wife bought a new Subaru Forrester last year with all the bells and whistles. It will actually self-drive but it barks at you if you don’t keep your hands on the wheel. But the best feature is the cruise control, which adjusts speed on its own whenever you approach a slower moving vehicle, then speeds up again once the way is clear.

    My 2009 RAV4 doesn’t do that so when I use CC I’m constantly hitting the + and – levers. But it’s not often I use CC as I hardly drive anywhere besides Lowes or Menards (and the liquor store!). It just rolled over to 63K miles, an average of 4.5K/yr. Kind of like one of those low-mileage used cars that “was only used to drive to church,” which ironically, you could possibly say truthfully!

  22. Like Bonelady, I am disappointed to not get the product review I anticipated.

    I have valued the idea of electric vehicles since I studied electrical engineering back in (mumble mumble [some time in the previous century]). I note that they recently reached 10% of global new vehicle sales, which is the level generally recognised as the inflection point after which sales rapidly increase. I hope so; we need to stop burning fossil fuels.

  23. I’ve been looking hard at electric vehicles recently, and I think I’m going to wait a bit longer for a few reasons similar to yours.
    We have two good, reasonably new and fuel efficient vehicles now, and switching to electric would require a revamp of our electric panel (hoping for tax breaks, etc. to help with that in the near future) and the need to make the trip from Arizona to Indiana to visit family a couple of times a year that involves crossing some parts of the country that still have very sparse charging stations. I expect we’ll make the transition to at least one electric vehicle in the next 5 years though.

  24. There are ways to replicate the “generator” feature of the Lightening using any hybrid vehicle, a big inverter, a daughter panel and some warranty-breaking wiring into the battery pack. Search “priups”.

    We recently acquired the RAV4 Prime, plug-in hybrid and have been happy with it. The ~ 40mi. battery can charge up overnight with just the included 110V charger. The safety features are impressive relative to the 2009 Prius we traded out. Living on a dirt road on an island, the extra ground clearance has been happy-making as well. YMMV.

  25. Robert, We have a RAV4 Prime as well and like it quite a bit. More recently, we bought a Hyundai Ioniq 5 (it has a built-in inverter). I haven’t yet found any problems with either car. They both get more mileage on a charge than expected. I’ve had the RAV for over a year and put less than a quarter tank of gas in it in that time. This makes me worry about the gas going bad, though. We’re planning a long trip in it to remedy that. The Ioniq is more fun to drive–a very fast flying carpet ride. One other thing that’s nice, we can warm up or cool down both cars in our garage before going out. No deadly fumes.

  26. I see that I’m not the only geriatric case who suspects that our current unkillable 17-year-old vehicle (an Outback, of course) will probably outlast us. I suppose an electric Outback would be nifty–but on the other hand, the new models are all too big to fit in our 1928-spec garage.

  27. @Russell Letson, if you like Subaru, it has come out with an all-EV crossover called the Solterra.

    There is a PHEV Crosstrek, but the electric range is an abysmal 10-12 miles and a $3,000 premium above a gas Crosstrek.

    Also, for anyone looking for an import EV, try to defer your purchases until the 2025 model year. After the Inflation Reduction Act, the $7,500 tax credit for buying one was limited to EVs manufactured within the USA.

    This has kind of been a mixed blessing for U.S. manufacturing. What I heard from automaker reps at the L.A. Auto Show last year, Hyundai’s Ioniqs and VWs will start EV production in the U.S. in late 2024, because the $7,500 tax credit is such a key driver for sales that it prompted manufacturing to be moved to the U.S.

    One of the newest companies will be Vinfast, a Vietnamese carmaker. It is planned to have a U.S. plant in North Carolina.

  28. Well, as the owner of a Mustang Mach-E, the electric Mustang SUV that makes gas Mustang owners froth at the mouth as I leave them in the dust, I’m sorry to hear that you aren’t getting the Lightning, but yeah, that’s a fuck tonne of money for a truck. I hope you’ll jump on the EV bandwagon soon. They’re a fun ride! Still, a church of one’s own is pretty damn cool, even if it doesn’t have the acceleration of an EV!

  29. I am a big fan of electric vehicles but not a fan of trucks. The “frunk” of F-150 Lightning especially annoys me because it only exists to make it look like an F-150. I have nothing against automakers styling their vehicles however they want, except when it impacts safety.
    The F-150 (both electric and non-electric) has a huge blind spot in front of it. This is a safety nightmare just for the sake of making it look more manly.

  30. I predict a bright future for BEVs. The newer cars will come with tiny light-weight, solid-state batteries that charge in a few minutes and take you a thousand miles. If you capriciously tire of earthly travel, you’ll simply text Lufts-Schiff™. A battery-powered, torus-shaped airship will swoop down, grab up your car, and fly you to wherever you choose. On the way there, to keep yourself entertained, you’ll ask your AI to write you a rom-com about flying monkeys with bird-like cloacas, or, perhaps, provide you with a hilarious, Mind-Inject™, dream about thoroughly non-electric but sentient internal combustion engines.

    BTW, I came close to buying a church myself. With a little renovation, they make great artist studios. It was close enough to walk or run to (I like morning runs) through a park-like setting with abundant wildlife, um, and a scattering of gravestones. Instead, I expanded my house (adding a studio, expanding a kitchen; and adding a dining room, a garage, and a mudroom), but I continue to fantasize about a massive workspace filled with giant canvases too large to take anywhere. Despite having no church-studio, I still walk and run through the local cemetery. It’s a peaceful place.

  31. In my household, we have a 1998 BMW M3 convertible with a little over 100,000 miles on it.

    I also have an M3, but mine’s a 2018 Tesla with 28,000 miles.

    One our our neighbors has an Mazda 3, but I don’t know the mileage.

    I am vicariously disappointed that you’re not getting the Lightning. I have a reservation for the Cybertruck, and I’m going to have to make the same decision sometime in the next few years. The early prototypes had seating for six, but the newer ones seem to have only five seats. We have six in our family, so we need more passenger space. I was hoping for a vehicle with room for all of us AND a lot of luggage at the same time. Plus I could use it occasionally for towing and trips to DIY stores or IKEA.

  32. One way to get an electric car for cheap is an electric conversion kit for your existing car. The big hurdle is the batteries having to be smaller since non electric cars weren’t designed with space for huge batteries in mind. But if you don’t mind somewhat recharging more frequently on road trips, then this could work for you now.

  33. You may not like Tesla’s boss and he’s also dropped in my esteem quite a bit these last few months, but this company knows how to make good cars. They’re a solid bunch of engineers. And I love my Model 3. Just saying not to dismiss them just because there’s a jerk at the top. Also you can make the car fart remotely.

  34. I signed up for a reservation for the Lightning on the day it was announced. Several months later we ordered a Mustang Mach-E and began second-guessing our Lightning order. We took delivery of the Mustang in late Feb, 2022. We’ve ignored Ford’s continuing requests to complete our order of the Lightning.

    We love the Mustang and use it for everything that doesn’t require the dead-dino-juice truck. Eventually we’ll replace that with an electric truck, but we won’t get an $80k to $100k Lightning.

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