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Michael Corea charges his Ford F-150 Lightning at a public charging station.Handout

Dylan Christiansen and Michael Corea both work in construction, both live in western Canada and both drive a Ford pickup truck. Less expected, perhaps, in a region with limited charging infrastructure and no provincial incentives, they both chose to drive the F-150 Lighting, a fully electric vehicle. On the surface, they have starkly different reasons for driving an EV, but share a common goal: energy independence.

Christiansen, who runs a stucco business near Maple Creek, in western Saskatchewan not far from the border with Alberta, said he makes his investment decisions with his head and not with his heart. When he learned that Ford Motor Co. of Canada Ltd. was introducing an electric version of the best-selling vehicle in Canada, it didn’t take long for him to do the math and see the savings.

Even though he paid about $86,000 – about $15,000 more than a comparable gas-powered F-150 XLT – when he took delivery of his Lightning in June, he figures he can quickly recover the extra expense through fuel savings. “Our fuel bill last month [for four vehicles] was $4,000,” Christiansen said. “If we could cut that down by half, I’d be thrilled.”

Dylan Christiansen with his two children, Maren and Max, in the “frunk” of their Ford F-150 Lightning.Handout

Albertan Michael Corea’s reasons for buying a Lightning for his Edmonton-area residential renovation company included his concern for the environment. Though he expected to wait up to two years for delivery when he ordered the Lightning in the summer of 2021, through a twist of luck his local dealership was able to get his vehicle by June.

“I personally like to do as little damage environmentally as possible,” said Corea, 37, who lives with his family in the town of Beaumont, about a half-hour south of Edmonton.

Lightning fans are buying the truck for a number of reasons, from the environment, to saving money to just plain nerdiness, as witnessed on independent fan sites like LightningOwners.com and F150forum.com, where esoteric discussion threads run into the hundreds.

By early August, Christiansen had put 9,000 kilometres on his Lightning (an average of about 300 kilometres a day) with little more trouble than a dent in the roof caused by debris from a prairie tornado that narrowly missed the family home. Although EV chargers are as rare as a Liberal politician in his province (there is one public charger in all of Maple Creek), so far he’s had no trouble keeping the vehicle moving. The closest call was a 420-kilometre round trip in which, fighting a 70-kilometre-an-hour headwind, he got home with just 5 per cent battery capacity left.

Christiansen is not new to EVs. He bought his wife a Ford Mustang Mach-E last year, again because it seemed to make economic sense. He upgraded their home’s electrical system about five years ago when EVs first caught his eye, preparing for the day he would buy one. A positive experience with the Mach-E encouraged him to try the Lightning.

”I’m doing it to save costs,” said Christiansen, “although I don’t feel bad that I’m helping the environment.”

Corea's Ford F-150 Lightning with his tent trailer attached. He says when towing it on the highway, the range drops to about 330 kilometres.Handout

The one thing the Lightning cannot do is haul heavy trailers over the distances he sometimes must travel – as far as 1,000 kilometres. “I use the diesel when I need the [extra] power,” Christiansen said.

Corea is also not new to EVs. He has owned two Teslas – a Model 3 (purchased used in 2019) and a Model Y, which he bought new in 2021 because he wanted the seven-passenger capacity for his family, which includes a spouse and three sons. With the Lightning in hand, he sold the Model 3.

“Coming from having two Teslas, I was impressed with the Lightning,” he said. “It’s like a smoother, quieter F-150.”

Corea said his Lightning can travel 600 kilometres driving around the city, but when he hits the highway towing a tent trailer, the range drops to about 330 kilometres – a range he says he can live with. “That’ll get us to Jasper or Drumheller,” he said. With a wide variety of chargers in the Edmonton area, “you have to work really hard to run out of battery.”

He’d like to see Ford adopt one Tesla feature in particular – a calculator that reroutes the vehicle to a nearby charger if power consumption spikes. While Tesla sends drivers to its dedicated charging network, Ford relies on public networks, which Corea said are not as simple and intuitive to use as Tesla’s.

Though their reasons for buying an all-electric truck differ, Christiansen and Corea are aligned on one major benefit: energy independence. Both have installed solar panels on their homes. This self-generated power not only helps insulate them from gas and electrical price volatility, but can also keep essential services including their trucks running in the event of a total power failure. Christiansen has about 50 kilowatt-hours in battery storage capacity, which is fed by the solar panels. Corea doesn’t have on-site batteries. In the event of a power outage, he intends to draw electricity from his truck battery.

Christiansen charges his Ford F-150 Lightning at a public charger.Handout

Corea notes the Lightning’s 130 kilowatt-hour battery can feed power into his home, if needed. (Ford has stated that a fully charged Lightning with the extended-range battery pack can power a typical house for up to three days.)

“I think a lot of people in Alberta support energy independence,” he said. “I really think the tide is turning. And the Lightning is going to change a lot of hearts and minds.”

Christiansen, who has a six-kilowatt solar panel on his house, says, “For me, it’s all about independence.”

Corea, who is a volunteer board member of the Electric Vehicle Association of Alberta, spent about a decade working for oil companies in the Fort McMurray area, and now consults on EV charger projects for the Alberta-based Epcor utility company, in addition to co-running EBO Design+Build with his wife, Chelsey. Yet he sees nothing disloyal about owning an EV in Canada’s oil-and-gas province.

“If someone asks, ‘Don’t you support oil and gas?’, I point out there are a lot of plastics in vehicles – and that’s all made from oil,” he said. “I just don’t like burning it.”

When asked what Christiansen’s neighbours think about him driving an electric truck in an oil and gas province, he said, “It’s my truck. … I can do whatever I want.”