Henry Ford was an employee and friend of electricity pioneer Thomas Edison, so it should come as no surprise that Ford developed an electric car in the early days of his car company. That early EV largely never went into production, because the best-selling Model T was just that, a best-seller. Today, the Ford F Series is America’s current sales champion, and Ford has chosen to capitalize on that brand with its first electric pickup, the F-150 Lightning.
This is the third F-150 to carry a Lightning badge. The first two were performance pickups and to an extent this version is too. With 452 horsepower with the stock battery or 580 horsepower with the extended range battery, this is the most powerful F-150 with at least two ponies (at least until the Raptor R drops in a few months). It also happens to be the heaviest, but a curb weight starting at around 6400 pounds isn’t enough mass to make this Lightning slow even from a distance – we expect the hi-po version to hit 60 mph in about 4.5 seconds. That’s fast enough to dethrone the current Raptor as the fastest F-150, but Ford needs a Lightning R to challenge the Rivian R1T for EV pickup supremacy. (We have yet to test a GMC Hummer EV.)
Calling this F-150 “Lightning” isn’t as blatant a sin as the Mustang Mach-E, a name many with blue-oval blood cells consider sacrilegious. Buyers will recognize it as an F-150. But underneath, it’s closer to Mach-e GT than any other F-150. All Lightnings get two motors, one on each axle, and a large battery between the frame rails of a modified F-150 chassis, the biggest mod being the trailing arms that give the Lightning independent rear suspension. The body is almost identical stamped and welded aluminum. The Lightning gets a closed grille with only a small opening for some heat exchangers, a sculpted hood, a flat and armored underbody and several taillights.
While this truck has plenty of parlor tricks—a big frunk that can swallow 400 pounds, an optional tongue scale, and BlueCruise hands-free driving—none is as impressive as how quickly it builds speed from a standstill, thanks to 775-pound-feet of instant torque. Mat the accelerator pedal and the front tires rotate. In fact, the fronts will spin if you press the accelerator at a speed of less than 50 mph or so. The effect is heightened the closer you load the truck to the maximum payload of 2,235 pounds.
It even drives and feels a lot like an F-150. A 50/50 weight distribution contributes to very good handling. The head throw is minimized when unloaded, and almost disappears when you put 1000lbs in the bed. Although, with conventional coil springs and dampers, the ride can’t quite compete with the adaptive hardware we’ve come to expect from pickups at this price. Nobody buys a pickup because it steers well, and the Lightning doesn’t raise the bar, but it drives with confidence on the road. A low center of gravity also keeps the truck relatively flat when cornering.
The vinyl-covered base model Pro starts at $41,769 and comes with a 98.0 kWh battery that’s good for an EPA range of 230 miles, while the upgraded extended-range battery delivers 131.0 kilowatt hours of storage and 320 miles of range. . The larger battery is a $10,000 line item regardless of equipment, but only fleet customers can spec it to the Pro line. In the next-step up XLT, selecting the extended-range battery also requires an additional $9500 312A gear pack, which includes otherwise expensive options such as Pro Power Onboard (9.6 kW of in-bed and frunk outlets). , power seats, a power tailgate, as well as a heated steering wheel and heated seats. So the average Ford customer who wants 320 miles of range is looking at a minimum of $74,269 for an XLT with cloth interior. An extended Lariat, with leather, hands-free BlueCruise and a huge sunroof, costs $5,000 more. The top-spec Platinum comes in at $92,669, but those only have a 300-mile EPA range, in part because of the 22-inch wheels (18s and 20s support other models) and a curb weight that flirts with 7,000 pounds.
The extended-range battery also includes Ford’s Charge Station Pro, a $1310 accessory that serves as a charging and power-off-board connection for your home. You’ll need to pay an electrician to install it (or you should), and to get the Ford Intelligent Backup Power feature that can power your home in the event of a power outage, you’ll also need to install the Home Integration pay and install the $3895 system. Basically, if you want your Lightning to be a home generator proxy, it will cost you.
Another important practical part of the extended range battery is a more powerful built-in charger: 19.2 kilowatts compared to the 11.3 kilowatts of the standard battery. This results in a Level 2 charge time of 80 amps (from 15 to 100 percent) of eight hours versus 10 for the standard configuration.
On the not-so-good front, the Lightning can tow up to 10,000 pounds when spec’d with the Max Trailer Tow pack, but that can’t last long between charges. We towed an 8,300-pound boat and trailer at about 65 mph, and the onboard computer indicated we were getting less than a mile per kilowatt hour. This puts the highway range with a trailer of decent size and mass somewhere around 100 miles. That means you don’t want to travel more than 80 miles between refueling a DC fast charger, as the charging will go as fast as you approach a full battery. With a 150 kW charger, the Lightning can top up its battery from 15 to 80 percent in 44 minutes with the small battery and 41 minutes with the large battery, according to Ford. The Lightning is not overwhelmed while towing, quite the contrary. It tows a load quite well with rain and the integrated trailer brake controller slowing the rig with confidence. It’s just not very practical. We can already imagine the line filled with Lightnings pulling snowmobile trailers at the few charging stations on I-75 this winter.
Ford will no doubt sell a ton of F-150 Lightnings. It claims to have over 200,000 reservations, and quite a few of those are not existing pickup customers. For many people who use a pickup truck as a daily driver, and whose idea of hauling a big load is a $400 Costco run or the golf clubs of a foursome in the six-foot bed, the truck is almost perfect. But if you currently have a pickup and plan to use a good percentage of the Lighting’s capacity on a regular basis, the current infrastructure may be lacking. This is not Ford’s fault. The infrastructure is constantly growing and changing, as is the market for new vehicles. Now don’t hit the Mach 1 nameplate on an electric scooter or make the next GT a return to sedans, okay Ford?
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