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Ford F150 Lightning. I'm not convinced. | How about Battery Powered Tractors?

Neil from Messick's here with a very special pickup truck. This is Ford's F-150 Lightning, their battery-powered truck. I've had a lot of fun running around here lately. Normally, we're talking about tractors and construction equipment and implements. There's a lot of interesting parallels between the strengths and shortcomings of this battery-powered pickup truck and the strength and shortcomings of a lot of the battery-powered technology that's filtering into our industry in terms of battery-powered tractors and mowers and some of that stuff you're starting to see floating around out there.
We're going to take a little bit of time today. We're going to take this guy for a drive. We're going to tow for it, load it down, and talk a little bit about those parallels. There's other people that review vehicles better than I do but if you want to understand how battery technology is going to impact tractors and construction equipment, that's today's conversation.
Here at Messick's, we have dozens and dozens of pickup trucks. We are hauling equipment all the time. The average fuel economy of our entire fleet of regular pickup trucks and tractor trailers is 12 miles to the gallon. The trucks that we use specifically for hauling tractors and equipment average closer to about 8 to 9 miles to the gallon. With $4 a gallon of fuel, our fuel bill that's there chipping away at our corporate profitability, is enormous. A lot of us sense this right now. Expensive gas really hits your bottom line, and it hits the bottom line of our business, too, in a big way with such low fuel economy from our fleet of vehicles.
I was hopeful that maybe Ford actually has a viable truck here that we could use for going out, making deliveries, picking equipment up, and that kind of thing that we can bring back, plug in, and charge. If you look at that, your operating costs of running electric are far, far cheaper than us burning fuel all the time. I was hoping that this truck would work out for us here.
A couple of things to share. We're going to talk about this in terms of a work truck. A lot of people are going to look at a vehicle like this and still use it as a grocery-getter. A lot of the trucks that you see out on the road aren't used for truck-like purposes. This is going to be no exception. A lot of people are going to buy this for what it is, for a really fun-to-drive truck and not necessarily one to work with and tow with.
What's going to be the biggest issue for us with this is range. Everybody's got range anxiety with these electric vehicles. This is no exception. The extended-range battery pack of this truck comes in right about 300 miles of range. As soon as I hooked this trailer up to the back of the truck, told the truck that I had a trailer behind it, it immediately took the range number here on the dash and cut it in half. It will learn a little bit more. It might change that number a little bit based upon how heavy my load is here. If you take that 300 miles of range and immediately halve it, we're now at 150. If we give a 20% buffer in there so that you're not headed back to the shop or out to your customer on that very last bit of range, say we've got 120 or so of usable range. That's basically 60 miles out, 60 miles back, maybe a little bit over an hour's worth of driving.
Unfortunately, that's still not enough to get us to a majority of our customers. Yes, two-thirds of the time, it probably is going to do the job. When you look at a truck as a tool and it needs to be a tool that's always going to work. For us, there's just too much unknown, too much unknown there about are we going to be able to make it or not.
We're also always going to have a concern, too, of when can the next person take the truck out. We're often making three deliveries, two deliveries, three deliveries a day sometimes. If you look at our calendar that shows the bookings for all of our vehicles, it's really busy. To be able to bring this back, plug it in, and have it charged up for the next guy, you just don't know.
It's charging options for these things are coming a long way from the way that things sound, but it's not just like pulling to the gas station, filling her up, and knowing that the next guy can take it out again. We have some compromises there.
As far as a vehicle goes, though, this thing is a lot of fun to drive. If you overlook the fact that it's electric, it drives just like any other truck does. The electric aspect of it is pretty cool, though. When you stomp on the gas, the thing goes like a bullet. It is unbelievably fast; honestly, almost too fast to have in a business environment. Putting a 22-year-old kid in this kind of truck is probably not something that we as a business can do responsibly. It would be nice to see some eco modes or some speed-limiting ability inside this truck because the get-up-and-go is just unbelievable, honestly, to the point that I feel like sometimes I'm on a roller coaster.
If I'm out on some of the back roads here playing around and slamming on the gas, it still rides like a truck. It's still got a lot of bumps and stuff to it. I find myself getting nauseous almost sometimes just because of the speed, the acceleration, and the way that the thing handles.
It does tow nice. I can't even tell that this trailer is behind me. No question about that. It's not pulling hard. My goodness, at almost 500 horsepower, thing should just be a towing beast. When I look at the range aspect of this and towing. When I was back at the store with the trailer hooked up, it was telling me that I had 70 miles of range remaining. I've now driven 5 miles and it's telling me I'm at 62, so it's dropped 8 in the course of me actually driving 5.
It's actually using less electric now. Now, I'm on the highway. It would tell me that I'm burning 1-kilowatt hour per mile, which is less than when I was hot-dogging it around and driving it hard. I'm driving like a bit of an idiot, to be honest. That's more economical than what I would have guessed. No question.
As soon as that trailer is back there, you can see this immediate hit on range. Talk about the anxiety part of it. Just in my talking here, I was 70 back at the store. I'm already at 60 as far as my gauge cluster goes, and I've only driven 5.6 miles. The computer is going to learn. These numbers are going to get more accurate over time. Yes, the anxiety part of this. I'm headed out to a customer to go drop off a piece of equipment. Am I going to make it there? Am I going to make it back? Are we going to send a flatbed out to pick this thing up because somebody runs it dead along the side of the road?
If they had something like this, and you've seen Ford tease this before, maybe like an extended range battery or something that could drop in the dead almost like a toolbox, that would do it. If you could get it out that rather than a top-end 300 miles of range, it was 500. I think we might have something at that point that when you do the math on how much of that's actually usable in a towing situation becomes viable because as it is even with the extended range battery pack as a day-in, day-out towing vehicle, I just don't feel like it's there yet.
Now, we are not a truck review channel. We're generally out here talking about tractors, construction equipment, farm machinery, their features and function. The reason why I wanted to talk about this today is because we very frequently get asked, when are we going to see more battery-powered equipment? When do you start seeing battery-powered tractors? You're starting to see some companies trickle out battery-powered lawn equipment now. I own Stihl battery-powered handheld stuff at home. That works really well.
The shortcomings of this truck and the shortcomings or the reason why you don't see battery-powered tractors out there yet are very much exactly the same. The battery-powered tech works really well when you're talking things with momentary usage. Maybe you take my Stihl stuff. My little battery-powered chainsaw needs to run really hard for a short period of time, but then I'm going to set it back down on the ground again and it's going to sit there until I need it the next time. You can get hours of work out of that kind of use. Where you don't have this continuous draw on the battery.
You take something like a tractor and you're doing PTO work or you're out mowing with it, your demand for horsepower is a lot more constant. The duty cycle of that kind of work is not like a vehicle. It's not like a weed whacker. It's not like these other areas where you see battery technology starting to take hold. If you needed, say, 25 horsepower to go out and run your mower, it takes a really significant battery and a significant amount of space to store it, and a significant amount of cost to make that actually work.
Yes, we're starting to see these companies dabble in battery technology. It is going to come someday. We know New Holland has made some investments in a battery-powered tractor company. Kubota has now announced that they're going to have a small battery-powered tractor coming out in Europe next year. There are some startups, some Silicon Valley companies dabbling in this stuff. But we are not to the point yet that I would say that there is mass market potential for battery-powered tractors and equipment.
Again, it all goes back to that duty cycle that the battery technology at this point just doesn't have the amount of potential energy storage capacity that it's going to take to really take mass market adoption.
We know man, companies are invested in battery tech like crazy. It clearly is getting better all of the time. We're probably a decade off maybe from really starting to see wide battery viable equipment that's out there for some tasks, but it does seem hard to think, "Are you ever going to be able to run a 300 horsepower field tractor with a battery?" Goodness, the tech has to come a long, long way.
There's other alternative options out there. You see New Holland dabbling with things like methane tractors or hydrogen technology. There's other options out there besides just batteries for powering this kind of equipment with alternative fuels. Maybe we should be a little bit more open-minded to some of the other technologies out there, rather than putting all of our stock in battery.
With all those drawbacks laid back, would Messick's buy a truck like this? I think that we would, and that there is a place for it. Unfortunately, it's just not this application. I like it from the towing aspect. Again, we're trying to address that eight or nine-mile-a gallon-truck that we put so many miles on. This absolutely would make sense for salesmen that running out to see customers, for inner store deliveries, and transfers. You could go through and you could make the case that it works in a lot of other applications. It's just not towing.
If it's not towing and it's not truck-like work, why buy a truck at all? Why not use a much more economical small car, a Tesla or any number of other very economical Toyota battery-powered options are out there. All kinds of companies have these things now. If transportation is pure your goal, why do it with a truck? Trucks are made for towing, for doing truck-like things, and there's so many compromises here with this vehicle when it comes to doing those truck-like things.
I'm torn. I honestly don't know what direction we would go with this at this point. The potential's there and I'd love to see it work. It's not to the point that you've got this kind of killer-fit where it just slots right into a particular place in our business and works well. We'll see where we go. I don't know.
I've unhooked my trailer here. We're going to do a quick drag strip here, like what everybody wants to see with this thing, because it is fast. If I remember the marketing stuff, faster than any Ford Raptor truck, any truck that they made to this point is slow in comparison to this. We're going to line up here, we're going to pop it into sport mode, and stomp on the gas, and here we go. 
That is ridiculous how quick that thing is. There is no person needs to drive that fast, but man, is it fun. This thing is awesome. It is a lot of fun to drive. It is amazing how battery technology has advanced automobiles, but at the same time, it's really good to understand what those shortcomings are. When we go and we throw this trailer behind the truck and we watch that range number plummet, we really have to understand the limitations of our tool.
That's how I view this thing, as not so much something fun, the blast around in. It is a tool, and our tool has some shortcomings here. We're going to see those same shortcomings as battery technology works its way into tractors in terms of how those cells just can't deliver the long-term run-time like a tank of diesel fuel can.
Excited to see where things are headed. We are going to be on this journey for your showing this stuff off on YouTube as it comes out, and finding those right applications. This could be a perfect truck for us in our business in the right application, but just probably not in the application that I was hoping it was going to fit into.
If you're shopping for a piece of equipment and we can help, give us a call at Messick's. We're available at 800-222-3373 or online at

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