(Not) On the Road

Events like airport runways in the UK melting and Hawaii getting some unseasonably sizable waves, to go to two poles on the planet—presumably both indicators that the climate is undergoing something of a change that isn’t exactly beneficial—it would seem that things like 700-hp engines would be a thing of the past. Yet Ford, a company that has actual street cred in the environmental community (e.g., it has committed to reducing emissions in like with the Paris Climate Agreement), a company that is investing billions of dollars in developing the ability to produce electric vehicles, realizes that there is a good market for those who not only want power and performance (e.g., a 5.2-liter supercharged V8 under the hood) but who want to drive in places like the desert.

Ford Raptor R. Who needs a road? (Image: Ford)

So on the one hand Ford puts out an environmentally appropriate F-150 Lightning, a full-EV pickup truck that has a special price point for contractors (a starting MSRP of $39,974) in order to make it clear that EVs can get the job done, and on the other hand it has developed the F-150 Raptor R, specifically engineered for going off road in desert conditions: Carl Widmann, Ford Performance chief engineer: “Raptor R is our ultimate Raptor. When customer experience Raptor R in the desert and beyond, it will make the hairs on the back of their necks stand up—and they’ll love every second of it.”

Guess it is spreading its bets on what it offers to the market.

While Ford isn’t responsible for the behaviors of people who buy things like the Raptor R, it does seem curious that they’ve built it for “the desert and beyond,” and that “beyond” may be places that people aren’t supposed to drive.

According to the U.S. National Park Service, in Death Valley, for example, there are thousands of miles of road, paved and otherwise, yet the park rangers are finding that year after year there are off-road “disturbances”: people driving off the designated routes.

Why does this matter? Well, those who get caught can get sentenced to six months in the slam or a $5,000 fine.

But then there’s this: “The fragile landscape and ecosystem is impacted by illegal off-road driving in many damaging ways”:

  1. Leaves Lasting Scars
  2. Damages Vegetation
  3. Endangers Wildlife
  4. Disrupts and Compacts Soil
  5. Pollutes Water Sources
  6. Destroys Designated Wilderness
  7. Threatens Sensitive Cultural and Historic Sites

Some of those things, when broken, simply can’t be fixed. While the vast majority of desert drivers undoubtedly are responsible, those who aren’t can cause tremendous damage. . .which they’ll likely drive away from. (The National Park Service says that if one gets stuck having gone on an unauthorized excursion that person is responsible for paying the towing fees, which can cost thousands. One suspects, however, that it would really be tough to get the Raptor R stuck.)

Here’s hoping that when the dealers hand over the fobs for Raptor Rs they remind the new owners to Tread Lightly!