Grand Rapids family plugs in to electric vehicle life

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Chances are you won’t hear Walt Gutowski coming if he’s in his new pickup. With the radio and AC off, the only sound from inside the truck is the tick of the turn signal.

Gutowski, the second-generation owner of Swift Printing, is the proud owner of a brand-new Ford F-150 Lightning. He believes it’s among the first of the much-anticipated fully electric pickup trucks delivered to customers in the Grand Rapids area.

The Lightning isn’t a novelty for the Gutowski family. Sitting next to the gray pickup in Gutowski’s driveway is a bright blue Mustang Mach-E, also all-electric.

“We just think it’s the right thing to do,” Gutowski said.

Gutowski bought the Mach-E about 18 months ago and loved it, so he put in an order for the Lighting. The switch to an electric vehicle took some getting used to, like one-pedal driving. By letting up on the accelerator pedal, the electric motors slow the vehicle, reducing the need to use the brake pedal.

“It’s totally smooth. There’s no jerking or anything,” Gutowski said as he demonstrated the stopping option. “My wife and I took to it very easily. Sometimes in the old cars, she’d say, ‘You’re hitting your brakes too hard.’ You know, it just comes to an easy glide.”

Walt Gutowski drives his new Ford F-150 Lightning. (July 19, 2022)
Walt Gutowski drives his new Ford F-150 Lightning. (July 19, 2022)

The Lighting has an estimated range of about 320 miles on a full charge. Gutowski said that so far, that has worked well for his family’s travels. He installed charging stations at his home in northwest Grand Rapids and the family cottage in northern Michigan. He said he hasn’t noticed much of an increase in his electric bill.

“Now when I put Christmas lights on all of the peaks, we can see a difference in the wintertime when all of our lights are on. But we haven’t noticed a difference plugging the cars in at night,” Gutowski said.

While he is all in on EVs, the jury is still out for others concerned about range, electric infrastructure and other factors. Gutowski is convinced advances in technology will take care of all that.

“People can talk about the infrastructure; at this point it’s supporting it. I’m trusting that The Powers That Be will have it figured out,” Gutowski said.

He said it’s also a good business decision. Swift Printing is part of B Corporation, a nonprofit that promotes social and environmental performance by companies through a certification process.

“Obviously, buying electric vehicles helps us in our score as well,” Gutowski said. “It’s just cool. It’s cool and we try to be a good corporate citizen at Swift and we think this is one way to do it.”

It looks like there will be an EV parked in the Gutowski driveway for a long time to come. He also has an SUV on order from California-based EV startup EV Rivian.