It’s Ford versus General Motors. No, this isn’t the classic showdown between the famous Ford Mustang and the covetable Chevy Camaro. This time, the two companies are squaring off over their share of the electric vehicle (EV) market. And while Ford is staying down on the farm, GM is shooting for the Moon.
General Motors is teaming up with Lockheed Martin, maker of aerospace and defense technologies, to produce the ultimate off-road, self-driving, electric vehicles. Where will these high-tech wonders spin their wheels? On the surface of the Moon.
The GM project goal is to design light, rugged EVs that will travel farther and faster than the lunar rovers used by NASA’s Apollo astronauts in the early 1970s. GM also helped design the earlier rovers. But those vehicles could venture no more than 4.5 miles from the lander. NASA plans to return astronauts to the Moon by 2024, a goal set by former President Trump’s administration.
“Mobility is really going to open up the Moon for us,” says Kirk Shireman, former NASA manager—now Lockheed Martin’s vice president for lunar exploration.
Meanwhile, back on Earth, Ford’s big bet is that fans of its F-150 pickup truck are ready to go electric. The F-150 Lightning looks like its popular predecessor. But the resemblance stops at the exterior. The Lightning carries a huge lithium-ion battery that could power a house in an outage. It can travel up to 300 miles per battery charge—about the same as a full tank of gasoline provides.
And the F-150 Lightning is fast as … well, not quite lightning. But it can go from zero to 60 miles per hour in just 4.5 seconds.
Ford plans to price its electric powerhouse competitively. The Lightning will start out around $40,000. (The base price for a 2022 F-150 standard pickup is about $42,000.) A $7,500 federal tax credit essentially lowers the cost to about $32,500.
Ford won’t stop building gas-powered trucks for years to come—even if the Lightning sparks sales. F-Series pickups generate $42 billion in annual U.S. revenue.
Initially Ford thinks Lightning will appeal to higher-income urban and suburban customers who don’t do much hauling. But in time, Ford CEO Jim Farley expects sales to be balanced between “vanity” users and hard-working commercial buyers.
That second group presents the challenge. They need trucks that deliver power and performance—characteristics they enjoy in big gas engines.
“I like my V-8,” says plumber Anthony Lane from the driver’s seat of his gleaming Chevrolet Silverado. “I’m not a Ford guy,” he continues, echoing the ages-old rivalry.
When told that Chevrolet is also tinkering with an EV Silverado to compete with the Lightning, Lane replies, “I’ll probably stick with the gas. But if they ever fully switch over to electric, I’ll probably get the Chevy one.”