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F-150 Lightning rollout a watershed moment for electric auto industry, experts say

Ford's new "Lightning" edition truck is among the first electric vehicles nearly identical to its gas-powered counterpart.

SAN ANTONIO — For the first time, truck-lovers can buy an electric model pickup that's nearly identical to its gas-powered counterpart. 

Experts say Ford's F-150 Lightning rollout is a watershed moment for the electric vehicle industry. 

"Up until now, most electric vehicles have been smaller," said Joel Levin, executive director for Plug In America. "Lots of Americans drive trucks, SUVs and vehicles like that. There hasn't been much selection, up until now." 

Plug In America is the national electric vehicle driver's association. It aims, in part, to put more people in battery-powered cars. 

"We're finally getting to the point where we're going to have trucks, SUVs and sort of large vehicles that meet everybody's needs," Levin said. 

The most basic F-150 Lightning model will cost about $40,000. Ford's cheapest, new crew-cab F-150 costs about $35,000, according to the manufacturer's website. 

Buyers can also reduce their tax liability by $7,500 by buying an electric Ford, though any leftover credit value is non-refundable. A person has to owe $7,500 in taxes to capture the credit's entire benefit. 

Though they are not required to, some auto dealers will reduce monthly payments to pass the tax credit savings onto consumers who lease an electric vehicle. 

Levin says the F-150 Lightning edition benefits from new battery technology that will propel larger vehicles for a longer distance. He says these batteries are becoming cheaper to produce "by the month," and predicted electric vehicles will be more affordable than gas-powered vehicles in three to four years. 

"Imagine you've got this vehicle that's cheaper to produce, cheaper to fuel, cheaper to maintain, and it's more powerful," he said "It does all this cool stuff. It's, I think, really exciting." 

Like most electric vehicles, the new F-150 accelerates exceptionally fast. Ford also says it's truck can be used as a backup battery to power an entire home for up to three days. 

President Joe Biden test-drove the truck this week. 

"This sucker is quick," he said, before adding that he'd buy the truck. He's lobbying for an infrastructure plan that would extend the electric vehicle tax credit to more Americans. 

Currently, the credit phases out over 15 months after a manufacturer sells its 200,000th electric vehicle. Credits are no longer available to Tesla and GM buyers, for example. 

Biden's infrastructure plan would raise that cap. 

Ford has yet to cross the 200,000 unit threshold, though experts expect the F-150 Lightning will help the automaker achieve that mark. The F-150 is the most-driven vehicle in the United States. 

More Americans bought F-150 trucks last year than all electric vehicles combined. 

"There used to be this stereotype with electric cars," Levin said. "But it's not like eating your broccoli...you're going to want to drive one."

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