Two High-Tech EV Pickups Face Off
Americans love our pickup trucks. Every year, we literally buy millions of the things, using them for work, play, and everything in between. Their space, versatility, and ability to haul cargo and tow trailers gives them unmatched flexibility to fit into almost every lifestyle. The one thing, however, that has given potential buyers pause has been their fuel consumption. Now, however, electric pickup trucks are available, offering all of the advantages of gasoline trucks without any of the emissions. Two of the most popular electric pickups on the market are the Ford F-150 Lightning, an electrified adaptation of America’s best-selling vehicle for 40-plus years running, and the Rivian R1T, from a new high-tech EV startup. Which one is best for you? Read on.
Design and Versatility
The biggest difference between the Rivian R1T and the Ford F-150 Lightning is that the Rivian was designed from the start to be an electric truck, while the Ford was adapted for electric power from the gasoline F-150. As such, the Rivian, because it wasn’t designed to have a big space for an engine, is more space-efficient than the Ford. It packs a similar amount of interior space to the Ford on a smaller footprint.
On the outside, it’s a smaller truck than the Ford – almost midsize in length if not width – but the truck bed has almost the same amount of space. The Rivian is also easier to get in and out of; there are no frame rails that the cabin perches on top of, so the spacious cabin sits a little lower. The Rivian is also easier to maneuver around town, thanks to its more compact dimensions.
The F-150 Lightning has its advantages, though. While its packaging is slightly more compromised, it’s simply bigger. The front trunk area, which would normally hold a large gasoline engine, is enormous, with enough space for a couple of coolers, or a bunch of luggage. The tall cabin makes the Ford easier to see out of, even if you have to climb up into the cabin. The Ford also has a larger bed area.
While the F-150 wins hands-down for the size of its truck bed – and for the accessibility of its frunk – the Rivian has one big trick up its sleeve. Just behind the rear doors on either side of the truck are doors that open to reveal a huge, open pass-through area big enough to hold a few bags or a lot of outdoor gear. It’s a clear demonstration of the advantages of a structure designed for electric from the ground up. Both trucks come with a plethora of charging ports, including 110-volt outlets for tools and other gear.
As for styling, the Rivian R1T is more futuristic-looking, with pill-shaped LED headlights at the front and a lower profile than the boxy Ford, which looks like a traditional F-150 with some high-tech wheels, lights, and blue details.
Interior and Technology
Because the F-150 Lightning is physically larger, no surprise that it has a very spacious cabin, with tons of front and rear leg, head, and shoulder room. The seats are huge and comfortable, the dashboard is simply designed and easy to use, and a large central control screen provides access to everything you need at a tap or a swipe. We also really like how many practical storage bins and cubbies there are in the Ford.
While the Rivian R1T’s interior is a little smaller than the Ford’s, it’s easier to access, and better-packaged. It is also far more luxurious than the F-150, with higher-quality materials including open-pore wood on the dashboard, the option of vegan leather, a movable center console with built-in wireless charger, and a panoramic glass roof that brings lots of natural light into the interior.
Both EV pickup trucks are packed with technology too. Both offer a full range of driver assistance features, including adaptive cruise control that can work from a standing start up to highway speeds, lane keeping assist, and if things should go wrong, automatic emergency braking. Ford’s BlueCruise technology offers near-autonomous driving on the freeway, and makes long distance drives very relaxing; Rivian’s highway assist feature does the same, offering automatic steering, braking, and acceleration.
While both the F-150 Lightning and the R1T offer useful connected apps to show the truck’s state of charge and other information, the Rivian app lets you use your smartphone as a key, and you can even share a code with other Rivian app users to provide them with access to your truck if needed. The Rivian also has greater over-the-air software update capability than the Ford.
If you’re switching from a gasoline pickup, both the F-150 Lightning and the Rivian will blow you away with their performance. Opt for the larger battery in the Lightning and its twin electric motors provide 580 hp and a stunning 775 lb-ft of torque – more than any other F-150 model, and enough to outrun many sports cars from a standing start. Base Rivian R1Ts come with 600 hp and 600 lb-ft of torque, with higher-end models offering 700 hp and 700 lb-ft.
One area where the Rivian R1T has the Lightning beat is range. Both the dual-motor AWD version and the high-powered performance model are estimated to deliver up to 400 miles of range by the EPA with the largest battery (smaller battery choices give you 270 and 350-mile estimates). The standard battery in the F-150 Lightning delivers 240 miles of range according to the EPA, with the extended-range battery capable of up to 320 miles. Both trucks offer Level 3 fast charging options, and can easily be charged at home, but only the Ford offers vehicle-to-load capability that lets it power your house in the case of a power outage, with the right kind of charger.
Both trucks should be immensely capable off-road thanks to the torque provided by their electric motors and the precision EV drivetrains provide during low-speed driving. The Rivian, however, has an adjustable-height air suspension that should give it an advantage in the roughest terrain. On the towing front, the F-150 Lightning is rated for up to 10,000 lb depending on configuration, and the R1T is rated for up to 11,000 lb; depending on the size and shape of your trailer, though, you should be prepared for your range to drop significantly.
Buying and Owning
The Rivian R1T and Ford F-150 Lightning are very popular trucks, and there’s a waiting list for both models. Starting MSRP of the R1T is $73,000 USD, which gets you the standard dual-motor AWD version with 600 hp and 270 miles of EPA-estimated range. An upgrade to the “large” battery and 350 miles of estimated range costs $6,000, while the “max pack” and 400 miles of estimated range costs $16,000.
Unless you are a trade professional, the least expensive F-150 Lightning Pro trim, at a starting MSRP of $59,974, won’t be available to you; you’ll have to step up to the F-150 Lightning XLT, with a starting MSRP of $64,474 with dual motors and 240 estimated miles of range. Adding the extended-range battery will tack on $14,400 to that MSRP, for 320 miles of range according to EPA estimates.
Unlike the Rivian, which is available for purchase online with a $1,500 deposit, the F-150 Lightning is available through hundreds of Ford dealerships across the country. You won’t get the personalized concierge and delivery of the Rivian – but working with a dealer has its advantages. While electric cars should require less maintenance and service over their lifetimes than gasoline vehicles – there’s no oil to change – they will still need periodic inspections, updates, and repairs, so having access to a nationwide network of service locations is a positive. The Rivian’s comprehensive warranty of 5 years or 60,000 miles is better than Ford’s, which offers comprehensive coverage for 3 years or 36,000 miles and powertrain coverage for 5 years or 60,000 miles.
In the end, which EV pickup you choose will depend largely on what you might want to use it for – and maybe what part of the country you live in. If your electric pickup is going to be for personal use, the Rivian’s slightly more compact dimensions and its more luxurious interior, as well as its tech-forward attitude, might be a better fit – and Rivian has studio showrooms in some larger cities across the country. On the other hand, it’s hard not to be swayed by the F-150 Lightning’s ruggedness, its extra space, and a broader sales and service network. One thing’s for sure: their features and performance will electrify you.