It's a good time to be a truck shopper, because we're finally starting to see some momentum in the electric-truck market. Not only is the Tesla Cybertruck set to arrive by the end of this year, but Ford has recently announced that it will be releasing the first F-150 Lightning pickup truck early in 2022.
The gasoline-fueled F-150 is America's most popular vehicle, and Tesla produces some of America's favorite electric cars. So which of these trucks is going to come out on top?
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Tesla's Cybertruck may look like the product of Elon Musk's fever dream, but it's also marrying its premium electric experience with the versatile utility of a truck. Ford looks to be offering the same classic truck experience it's offered for decades, but powered by a battery instead of a gas tank.
We're putting both electric trucks in a head-to-head preview to help you decide which one should be on your wishlist. Here's what we found, based on our Tesla Cybertruck vs Ford F-150 Lightning comparison.
Tesla Cybertruck vs. Ford F-150 Lightning: Specs
|Tesla Cybertruck||Ford F-150 Lightning|
|Release Date||Late 2021||Early 2022|
|Price||From $49,900||From $39,974|
|Power||3 motor, AWD||2 motor, AWD|
|Range||Up to 500 miles||Up to 300 miles|
|Charging||250 kW DC||150 kW DC|
|0-60 mph||2.9 seconds||TBA|
Tesla Cybertruck vs. Ford F-150 Lightning: Release date and price
Currently, the Tesla Cybertruck is on track for delivery by the end of the year, with Tesla recently confirming that production would begin before 2021 is over. But that is provided you want the tri- or dual-motor versions of the truck with all-wheel-drive, because the cheaper single-motor rear- wheel-drive Cybertruck won't be arriving until late 2022.
Ford has laid out an "early 2022" release window for both F-150 Lightning models. That means both F-150s will hit the road after the first two Cybertruck models, though they will likely outpace the entry-level Cybertruck by several months.
Ford does have Tesla beat on price, though. The entry level F-150 Lightning, which comes with two motors and all-wheel drive, starts at $39,974. That's a good $10,000 cheaper than the $49,900 you'd pay for a comparably equipped Tesla Cybertruck.
Meanwhile, the extended-range F-150 Lighting doesn't have a price but is currently estimated to be around the mid-$50,000s. The top-tier Cybertruck is $69,900, though that does come with extra hardware and features, including extra range and a third motor.
Tesla Cybertruck vs. Ford F-150 Lightning: Design
The main selling point for the F-150 Lightning is that the truck is almost identical to its gasoline-powered and hybrid counterparts. There are some differences on the front end, particularly with the grille that isn't necessary on an electric car, but it's clear at a glance that all the F-150s are very closely related.
Considering that the Ford F-series trucks have been North America's best-selling passenger vehicles for a very long time, it's crucial that Ford keeps that momentum going. Ford CEO Jim Farley likened the F-150 to Coca-Cola, which is pretty apt if you ask us. You don't want the F-150 Lightning to flop like ‘New Coke’, especially not as the rest of the auto industry moves towards electrification.
The Tesla Cybertruck is the first of its kind, and there are no other vehicles to base it on. Elon Musk being Elon Musk, the Cybertruck has been made to look like something out of an early ‘90s PS1 sci-fi game. You can't deny that it's eye-catching, and the weird angular design has people talking.
The Cybertruck comes with all the truck features you'd expect, including a 6.5-foot truck bed. The bed comes with an extendable telescoping ramp instead of a standard tailgate, which, while different, does have its uses. The Cybertruck is also built to be incredibly durable, with Elon Musk proudly bragging that the door would hold up to shots from a 9mm handgun.
Tesla also demonstrated that the Cybertruck's doors can hold up to a beating from a sledgehammer. Unfortunately the windows weren't so lucky, and were cracked by a thrown metal ball.
Which electric-truck design is the "best" all depends on what sort of truck you're looking for. The F-150 Lightning is built to mimic the 2021 F-150 and will blend in as well as any Ford pickup possibly could. It's similar to how the GMC Hummer EV takes the classic Hummer look and adds a few twists to adapt it for prospective EV ownership.
Meanwhile, the Tesla Cybertruck sticks out because it's unlike anything else you'll see on the road. But therein lies the difference between the two trucks. Ford has built the F-150 to be as practical as a regular gas-powered pickup, while Tesla seems to be pushing the Cybertruck as a fashion statement — a useful one that can do all the truck things you'd expect, but a fashion statement nonetheless.
Tesla Cybertruck vs Ford F-150 Lightning: Interior
Ford has filled the F-150 Lightning with a lot of features you'd expect from a modern EV, including a 15.5-inch infotainment screen. But unlike the Tesla Cybertruck, which goes for an almost-exclusively touchscreen-based experience, Ford is keeping the physical buttons and dials around. In fact, there's even a physical dial built into the screen, just as in the Ford Mustang Mach-E.
Being a big truck, the F-150 Lightning also has plenty of storage space. There's a 14.1 cubic-foot ‘Mega Power Frunk' (front trunk), plus the same 5.5-foot bed as the gasoline F-150. The inside also features a fold-out workstation in the center console and front seats that can fold completely flat.
The Tesla Cybertruck is very much a standard Tesla affair, though not without some key differences. While a Model S and Model 3 may look practically indistinguishable on the inside, there's no denying that the Cybertruck's unique aesthetic has influenced the interior.
Obviously there's no escaping the angular roof, and that straight-edged Cyberpunk-esque design has been added to things like the seats and the dash. But you still get the classic Tesla features, including the yoke-shaped steering wheel, the 17-inch touchscreen display, and the glass roof.
There's a lot we still don't know about the specifics, although Tesla tends to offer the same interior experience across all its cars. While it's confirmed that the Cybertruck's display will have a customized user interface, we assume that it will still be familiar to owners of other Tesla vehicles.
Tesla Cybertruck vs Ford F-150 Lightning: 0-60 and towing
Tesla has been bragging about the Cybertruck's' capabilities, promising that the tri-motor model can pull 14,000 lbs. and can go from 0-60 mph in 2.9 seconds. The dual-motor and single-motor models don't fare quite so well (naturally), with the 0-60 time dropping to 4.5 seconds and 6.5 seconds, respectively. Towing capacity levels out at 10,000 lbs. for the dual motor, and 7,500 lbs. for the single motor.
We don't know how quickly the Ford F-150 Lighting can do 0-60, not officially anyway. During a test drive, U.S. President Joe Biden guessed it was around 4.3 seconds, which a Ford spokesperson wouldn’t confirm or deny. So watch this space.
The standard F-150 Lightning can tow up to 7,700 lbs, while the extended-range model can handle up to 10,000 lbs. That's pretty similar to Tesla's equivalent Cybertrucks, but since there is no tri-motor Lightning, it's not fair to compare the current models to Tesla's top-tier model.
That said, the fact that Tesla has a more powerful model coming before the first F-150 Lightnings even hit the road gives Elon Musk's company an advantage. If you want as much power as possible and don't care about much else, then the tri-motor Cybertruck is the obvious winner.
Of course the F-150 is much more evenly matched with the cheaper dual- and single-motor Cybertrucks, which means it's much harder to choose based on power alone.
Tesla Cybertruck vs Ford F-150 Lightning: Battery and range
As is usually the case, Tesla has Ford well and truly beaten on range. The entry-level F-150 Lightning is set to offer 230 miles of range, while the extended-range model will offer up to 300 miles. This is respectable even if those figures are a bit middle-of-the-road.
The Tesla Cybertruck's entry-level model offers 250 miles of range for the same price, even if it isn't quite as powerful a vehicle. The dual-motor model offers up to 300 miles, while the tri-motor model offers over 500 miles of range. There's absolutely no question that the Cybertruck wins on range every single time.
Tesla also wins on charging, since the Cybertruck can handle the 250-kW charging speeds from the company's supercharging network. That lets the Cybertruck recharge from 10% to 80% battery capacity in just 44 minutes.
The F-150 Lightning has charging speeds of only up to 150 kW , and its battery goes from 15% to 80% in the same roughly 45 minutes. This isn't terrible, though the shorter range means you’ll inevitably end up spending more time recharging the car - especially if you’re doing a lot of long-distance driving.
Tesla Cybertruck vs Ford F-150 Lightning: Autonomous driving
Like all Teslas, the Cybertruck comes with basic Autopilot as standard, as well as the FSD Autopilot option that's available for an additional $10,000. The basic Autopilot system is a Level 2 autonomy system, which offers automated steering within visible lanes, smart cruise control, lane-change suggestions and blind-spot monitoring.
The FSD add-on means the car will navigate for you on the highway, automatically change lanes, stop at traffic lights and stop signs, park itself and respond to your summons. Tesla says these features require you to keep your hands on the steering wheel and your eyes on the road.
The F-150 Lightning comes with Ford's BlueCruise, which is also coming to the Mustang Mach-E later this year. BlueCruise can control steering and acceleration and doesn't require the driver to keep their hands on the wheel. It also comes with an infrared camera that monitors whether the driver is looking at the road or not, so you won't be able to get away with napping in the back seat while the truck drives itself.
The F-150 Lighting also comes with a smart-hitch assist feature, useful for people who intend to use the truck as an actual truck and do some towing.
In terms of standard autonomous features, the two cars are pretty evenly matched. Tesla's FSD add-on does give Tesla a big advantage, though it's still nowhere near advanced enough for the car to drive around without someone in the driver’s seat that can take over at a moment’s notice. It's also an expensive addition to the car, especially if you opt for the cheaper $40,000 option.
Tesla Cybertruck vs Ford F-150 Lightning: Outlook
It's clear that the tri-motor Cybertruck is the clear winner, though that can easily be explained away by the fact there is no tri-motor Ford F-150 Lightning to compare it to. When you downgrade the power then you end up with two trucks that are pretty evenly matched from a performance perspective.
Of course no matter how you look at it, Tesla wins on range. Tesla has spent several years investing in better batteries alongside lighter and more aerodynamic designs, which gives it a huge boost when it comes to single-charge driving. No other car company can come close to what Tesla has to offer.
It's still early days for Ford, though, and the F-150 Lighting is a good first effort, especially since the extended-range model can match the dual-motor Cybertruck's 300-mile range estimate.
It's difficult to say which car is better without actually driving them, especially given how evenly matched the two cheapest Cybertrucks are in comparison to the F-150 Lightning models. If you're after a more traditional truck experience, then the F-150 Lighting is the way to go, especially given Ford's decades of truck-building experience. But if you're after something different, there's nothing more unique than the Cybertruck.
- More: Ford F-150 Lightning: What we know so far