Ford’s F-150 Lightning electric pickup has won accolades, but the truck is simply too expensive and time-consuming to build at the volume of Ford’s best-selling combustion-powered F-150 trucks.
Ford’s plan is to build a cheaper simplified electric truck it calls “Project T3” at the sprawling new Blue Oval city facility in western Tennessee starting in 2025. That simplification means that T3 will be available in just a fraction of the Lighting’s 70 buildable combinations, according to Jim Farley, Ford president and CEO.
Unlike today’s Lighting assembly at the Rouge Electric Vehicle Center, the BlueOval plant will be capable of producing 500,000 electric trucks a year at full production, when it is expected to employ 6,000 workers. Ford boasts that this new factory is 30 percent smaller than a conventional plant and has higher production capacity.
Just as importantly, the plant’s half-million customers will be able to afford the T3, because it will be substantially cheaper than today’s Lightning, which starts at $65,000 at the lowest XLT retail trim level and runs to nearly $100,000 for the fully loaded Platinum model. The T3 pickup will be a crucial part of Ford’s plan to deliver 2 million EVs in 2026.
“Project T3 is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to revolutionize America’s truck. We are melding 100 years of Ford truck know-how with world-class electric vehicle, software and aerodynamics talent. It will be a platform for endless innovation and capability,” said Farley.
“[Humorist] P.J. O’Rourke once described American pickups as ‘a back porch with an engine attached.’ Well, this new truck is going to be like the Millennium Falcon – with a back porch attached,” he said. “The manufacturing process will be equally breakthrough, with radical simplicity, cost efficiency, and quality technology that will make BlueOval City the modern-day equivalent of Henry Ford’s Rouge factory. A factory of the future that people from all over the world will want to tour.”
Part of being a “factory of the future” is being green, so BlueOval City is designed to be Ford’s first carbon-neutral vehicle manufacturing and battery campus. The company says it will power all Ford plants globally with renewable and carbon-free electricity by 2035.
The BlueOval City assembly plant will use carbon-free electricity from the day it opens and Ford also is using recovered energy from the site’s utility infrastructure and geothermal system to provide carbon-free heat for the assembly plant. Ford says that compares to about 300 million cubic feet of natural gas typically needed each year to heat similarly sized vehicle assembly plants.
The campus’ new utility system will also save 50 million gallons of water each year by reducing evaporation from the site’s cooling towers. Ford aims to use no freshwater for its assembly processes, and it is developing a holistic stormwater management system separate from the water table to help protect the local environment and to send zero waste to landfill.
You don’t build a half million trucks a year in a vacuum, so Ford is vertically integrating the BlueOval City site. That includes a BlueOval SK battery manufacturing site for building battery cells and arrays and assembling battery packs that will be delivered just across the site into the assembly plant, in less than 30 minutes.
At the other end of the process, Ford can deliver finished trucks to an on-site upfit center that can add popular features such as robotically installed spray-in bedliners and integrated toolboxes before the pickups are released to dealers and customers. The campus even has an on-site Lowe’s store supplying building materials, two construction equipment rental companies and three concrete batch plants.
This part of Tennessee doesn’t have a big industrial presence or history, so Ford is launching dramatic efforts to cultivate a workforce for BlueOval City.
Key elements include:
- Building STEM curricula: Ford will support K-12 schools and universities to expand existing STEM-related curricula and infrastructure
- Bringing advanced manufacturing to local schools: Ford will provide mechatronics training equipment and program development in Haywood, Tipton, and Lauderdale counties
- Kick-starting careers in high school: Ford will help to expand certifications and dual-enrollment opportunities for students
- Experiential learning: Ford will partner with colleges and universities to develop work-based learning such as co-ops and internships
- Premier training in advanced technologies: Ford will collaborate with higher education institutions to provide training on advanced manufacturing, EVs, and battery manufacturing
- BlueOval City TCAT: This state-of-the-art training center, a $40 million investment by the State of Tennessee and created with the Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology, will be a hub for education resources and best-in-class training programs