Ford’s new electric F-150 has a motor at each end providing all-wheel drive. It has a claimed range of up to 515 kilometres, delivers up to 580 horsepower and a monumental 775 lb.-ft. of torque, plus it can tow up to 10,000 pounds. And pricing starts below $70,000 (far less for fleet customers).
In short, the F-150 Lightning is a slam dunk. So much so that Ford has temporarily closed the order book while it works to fulfill the 200,000 reservations it has received. The auto maker has already doubled its previously planned annual production to 150,000 vehicles in 2023.
And yet, is Ford missing an opportunity to maximize the planet-saving potential of electrifying a gas-guzzler that is also Canada’s top-selling vehicle (56 years and counting)? How about offering a single-motor, front-wheel-drive Lightning for those who never tow or tote anything more than a couple hundred pounds of topsoil once a year? Beyond the money saved by omitting the rear motor, Ford could cut more cost by reverting to the simple leaf-spring suspension of ICE-engined F-150s (the actual Lightning has independent rear suspension).
That said, the Lightning as-is promises to be relatively affordable within the context of what people already pay for their pickups. Ford says Canadians are more likely than Americans to buy high-trim F-150s. The price for the Lightning starts at $68,000 for the XLT, the lowest trim available to the general public. A fleet-only work-truck version, dubbed Pro, starts at $58,000.
Other trims are Lariat ($80,000) and Platinum ($110,000), all crew cabs with a five-foot six-inch box. A whopping 131-kilowatt-hour battery will be standard on the Platinum and a $13,380 option on the lesser trims, which otherwise get a 98-kilowatt-hour unit, good for 370 kilometres of range.
If you must have a big pickup, the Lightning makes a fine electric one. It is comfortable, capable, easy to handle, quiet and very quick. It’s also a mobile power source on wheels. Every Lightning has eight 120-volt power outlets, four of them in the frunk. The 9.6-kilowatt Pro Power Onboard option adds two more 120-volt outlets plus a 240-volt one. The Lightning can jump-charge another EV or, with the necessary home charging system and Home Integration System installed at home, the Lightning can provide backup power in an outage.
Our introduction to the Lightning comprised an afternoon of mixed driving between downtown San Antonio and Texas Hill Country. After 177 kilometres, my extended-range Pro’s initial predicted range of 515 kilometres at 99 per cent state of charge had fallen to 312 kilometres at 64 per cent, for an extrapolated range of about 490 kilometres. That was unladen, but with the A/C running full-time. The trip displayed energy mileage of 2.3 miles per kilowatt-hour (27 kilowatt-hour per 100 kilometre), slightly better than the official U.S. EPA combined mileage of 2.1.
In metric terms, the Lightning’s EPA combined number translate to 30 kilowatt-hour per 100 kilometres, or 3.4 Litres equivalent per 100 kilometres. Those numbers are almost identical to those of the Rivian R1T, the only other pickup EV currently available. For perspective, however, the most efficient small-car EVs are in the 15-20 range.
Day two provided an opportunity to tow 5,000 pounds of loaded Airstream trailer over 25-kilometres of slow rural roads, resulting in power consumption of 1.5 miles per kilowatt-hour (41 kilowatt-hour per 100 kilometres). Repeating the route in an unburdened Platinum trim (which is marginally the “thirstiest” Lightning according to the EPA) returned 2.5 miles per kilowatt-hour (25 kilowatt-hour per 100 kilometres). That fits with what vehicle engineering manager Dapo Adewusi told me, that the effect of towing on an EV’s energy consumption is about the same as for an ICE vehicle.
Even unladen, at around 6,500 pounds the Lightning is a heavy truck, so it’s still an energy hog. It just takes its energy from the hydro grid instead of oil wells. At least, in Canada, most of our hydro is clean or renewable, but still, too many energy-hog EVs could raise the risk of electric generating capacity being overburdened by EVs. On that score, it doesn’t help that, according to Ford, a substantial proportion of initial reservations are from people who haven’t previously owned a pickup.
Ford is starting to ship Lightnings this month. Chevrolet’s rival, the Silverado EV, is still about a year away, while the R1T from startup Rivian, due this summer, is smaller and has a higher starting price.
2022 Ford F-150 Lightning
- Price: $58,000 (fleet only) to $110,000
- Motor/battery: Dual permanent-magnet, 452 horsepower/98 kilowatt-hour (net); Dual permanent-magnet, 580 horsepower/131 kilowatt-hour (net)
- Transmission/drive: single-speed/all-wheel drive
- Energy consumption (Litres equivalent per 100 kilometres): 3.0 City/3.7 Highway
- Max DC charging voltage/range: 150 kilowatts/370 or 515 kilometres
- Minimum time to recharge 15 – 80 per cent: 44 or 41 minutes
The frame is all new, but the body itself looks very familiar apart from some lighting elements and the blank grille. Note the charge port just forward of the driver’s door.
If you can ignore the rubber floor, even the Pro doesn’t feel spartan, with a 12-inch horizontal centre screen and a digital gauge cluster, plus physical controls for the dual-zone climate control and audio. Those functions move onscreen with the 15.5-inch vertical screen on Lariat and Platinum versions. Power-adjustable pedals and an eight-way power seat are standard on XLT and up, but even without them the Pro proved hospitable. Rear-seat room is limolike.
Ford claims acceleration to 60 miles per hour (96 kilometres) of five seconds with the base battery and mid-four seconds with the uplevel. The claims feel entirely credible. Acceleration is omnipotent whether from rest (which easily induces wheelspin) or stomping on it while travelling at 100 kilometres an hour for a quick pass on the highway. Balanced weight distribution and a lower centre of gravity can make the Lightning a capable dance partner on winding roads, even bumpy ones, though it can feel ponderous through tight turns. One-pedal drive mode has only one setting, but is easily adapted to. As for towing a 5,000-pound trailer, that was so effortless you could easily forget it was there.
Even the Pro has 4G LTE WiFi and a useful suite of driver-assist systems (ADAS). The XLT adds SiriusXM and a little more ADAS, while Lariat upgrades the infotainment to SYNC 4A (including enhanced voice recognition, connected Navigation, wireless CarPlay and Android Auto) plus adaptive cruise with stop-and-go and lane centring. Platinum adds active-park assist and BlueCruise – basically, autonomous driving on appropriate roads.
You get the same five-foot-six-inch box as on ICE SuperCrews, with a total payload up to 2,235 pounds including the contents of the 14.1-cubic foot frunk (about the same volume as an average sedan trunk). A Class IV trailer hitch is standard, and the max tow rating varies between 5,000 and 10,000 pounds depending on trim, battery size and whether the max trailer tow package is installed. An available trailer technology package includes on-board scales and features that make towing easier for the driver.
An electric pickup with 500 kilometres of range unladen won’t meet every need, but the Lightning promises to satisfy a lot of wants. To drive it is a feel-good experience. How much that will benefit the planet, however, will depend on what vehicles the Lightning replaces.
The writer was a guest of the auto maker. Content was not subject to approval.