I recently had the opportunity to visit Ford's Dearborn Development Center as well as its new Rouge Electric Vehicle Center, to check out the F-150 Lightning up close.
The highlight of the visit was an F-150 test ride with Ford's Global Manager of Electric Vehicles, Darren Palmer as my driver. (And that led to the news at the end of this post) We took a few laps around Ford's Dearborn test track, and Palmer wasn't shy about showing off the F-150's 563 horsepower and 775 lb.-ft. of torque, which happens to be the most torque that any production F-150 has ever had.
Unfortunately, Ford wouldn't allow any pictures or video of the actual test ride, since we were on the secretive testing grounds where there were other yet-to-be-announced Ford vehicles driving around as well. Also, the F-150-lightning we were driving was an early testing prototype, and the fit & finish wasn't even close to production standards, and no auto manufacturer wants to see substandard assembly in pictures or video. This is actually a common ask, and I've had other OEMs make the same requirement when I was able to see a pre-production model.
Powerful Is An Understatement
It's really not possible to get a good feeling for how the vehicle drives without well, actually driving it, but as far as I know, nobody outside of Ford besides President Biden has driven a Lightning yet. The F-150 Lightning I rode in drove had the extended range battery pack, which, in addition to having the longest range, is also the most powerful version.
Ford will offer two battery pack options for the F-150 Lightning; a Standard Range pack which Ford estimates will have a 230-mile EPA-rated range, as well as an Extended Range pack, which is estimated to have an official driving range of 300 miles. Ford hasn't announced the capacity of the battery packs yet (and I tried my best to get someone to slip up and tell me), but we're estimating total pack capacities of 125 kWh (115 kWh usable) and 170 kWh (155 kWh usable) respectively.
All F-150 Lightning will be dual-motor, are all-wheel-drive, and boast 775 pound-feet of torque. That's 205 lb.-ft. more than Ford's new PowerBoost hybrid V-6 has. The powertrain for the Standard Range battery pack will be rated at 426 hp and F-150 Lightning with the Extended Range pack will have 563 hp. Ford claims the F-150 Lightning with the Extended Range pack will go 0 to 60 mph in the mid-4.0 second range.
It felt at least that fast during my time in the passenger seat. The acceleration actually seemed very comparable to my 2021 Tesla Model 3 dual-motor long range.
As for the driving range, according to what Marques Brownlee learned from Ford, the estimated 300 miles (EPA) of range is including 1,000 lbs (454 kg) of cargo. That would indicate that an empty F-150 Lightning should offer a higher range. Although Ford removed the range estimate from the driver's display screen, scrolling through the different screens on the massive 15.5" infotainment screen I found a range estimate of 472 miles with the vehicle fully charged, which confirmed what Brownlee saw on the vehicle he checked out - which was a totally different F-150 Lightning.
I certainly do not expect the F-150 Lightning to have anywhere close to a 472-mile EPA range rating, but I am beginning to think Brownlee may be correct and Ford is under-promising and plans to over-deliver on the range. After all, they have a history of doing so with the Mustang Mach-E.
In all trims of the Mustang Mach-E, Ford voluntarily de-rated the EPA range rating and asked the EPA to publish the official range figures that were lower than what the actual testing delivered. For instance, the Extended Range all-wheel-drive Mustang Mach-E is EPA-range rated at 270 miles per charge, but EPA testing delivered a combined range rating of 276 miles. We realize that's only a 2% voluntary reduction, but it does signal that Ford is willing to de-rate the actual range rating to manage customer's expectations, singe real-world driving range is dependant on a multitude of outside variables.
With the F-150 Lightning, the driving range will have even more outside influences because the truck will often be used to haul up to a ton of cargo and pull trailers of various shapes with up to 10,000 lbs of additional weight. So perhaps Ford is going to be even more conservative and, voluntarily de-rate the Lightning's EPA range rating by more than they did for the Mach-E, perhaps by as much as 10-15%
I tried my best to get Palmer to give me some direction on this but he wasn't offering that information up just yet. What he did tell me is that Ford is working very hard on the range estimator which will use information from the vehicle's onboard scale that weighs the passenger and cargo, as well as the trailer configurator that allows you to store the size and shape of your trailer (I believe up to 4 different trailers) in the system.
Palmer said the goal is to always deliver a range estimate with an accuracy of 5%(+/-), taking into consideration cargo, trailers, the topography of the route, and other driving conditions. He stressed that Ford understands the importance of giving F-150 Lightning customers range confidence, not range anxiety.
Charging Up The F-150 Lightning
I had a chance to check out Ford's new Charge Station Pro which is an 80-amp level 2 charging station and utilizes a CCS1 connector. The CCS1 connector isn't needed for charging the F-150 Lightning, but it is utilized when the Lightning is offloading power with Ford's Intelligent Backup Power. Ford's Charge Station Pro comes standard with the Extended range battery pack, but not with F-150 Lightning that have the standard range pack.
Customers that want that optional Intelligent Backup system will need the Charge Station Pro, as well as an inverter and transfer switch (purchased separately), and have it all installed through Ford's installation partner, solar electric provider, Sunrun. Sunrun will also provide a quote to install a solar electric system if the customer is interested.
Ford revealed charging times from 15 to 100% state-of-charge on a variety of power levels, which enabled our own Mark Kane to make some calculations and estimate the battery capacity.
- AC charging (onboard charger):
Standard-Range Battery (input/output): 11.3 kW/10.5 kW (92.9% efficient)
15-100% SOC at 19.2 kW, 80A Ford Charge Station Pro: 10 hours; 19mi/hr
15-100% SOC at 11.5 kW, 48A Connected Charge Station: 10 hours; 19mi/hr
15-100% SOC at 7.7 kW, 32A Mobile Charger: 14 hours; 14mi/hr
- DC fast charging: up to 150 kW
15-80% SOC at 150 kW charger: 44 minutes; 41 miles added in 10 minutes
15-80% SOC at 50 kW charger: 1 hour and 31 minutes
The Extended Range battery comes with dual onboard chargers that can accept 19.2 kW
- AC charging (onboard charger):
Standard-Range Battery (input/output): 19.2kW/17.6 kW (91.7% efficient)
15-100% SOC at 19.2 kW, 80A Ford Charge Station Pro: 8 hours; 30 mi/hr
15-100% SOC at 11.5 kW, 48A Connected Charge Station: 13 hours; 20mi/hr
15-100% SOC at 7.7 kW, 32A Mobile Charger: 19 hours; 13 mi/hr
- DC fast charging: up to 150 kW
15-80% SOC at 150 kW charger: 41 minutes; 54 miles added in 10 minutes
15-80% SOC at 50 kW charger: 2 hours and 2 minutes
Mega Power Frunk
One of the F-150 Lightning's best features is its enormous Mega-Power Frunk. It's the largest Frunk to date on any electric vehicle and can hold up to 400-lbs of cargo and has 400 liters (about 14 cu ft).
I was able to have Nancy Reppenhagen, the Mega Power Frunk's Feature Process Supervisor give me a tour of its features. Besides the huge volume, the frunk will offer, my favorite part of it is how the grill is integrated into the hood, allowing for easy loading and unloading.
I remember looking into the deep frunk of the Rivian R1T which has 11 cu ft of cargo space and wondering how I could lift heavy items into and out of the space. Ford eliminated that issue by integrating the grill into the hood of the F-150 Lightning, so the load height is comparable to that of the liftgate of a Ford Expedition.
Ford's Rouge Electric Vehicle Center
Ford is building a new factory for the F-150 Lightning and I had the chance to take a tour. It's a 500,000 sq. ft. facility, which isn't extremely large by auto assembly standards. However, Ford representative Chris Skaggs explained that robotics and space optimization in modern plants allow for more production to take place on a much smaller footprint.
The entire assembly line will see F-150 Lightning move along the line on autonomous electric vehicle carriers. These carriers have hydraulic lifts and will automatically lift the vehicles to the exact height that the worker (or robot) needs at each station. The carriers follow a magnetic strip that's embedded into the floor and even recharge autonomously as they move along the line by connecting to the charging apparatus that's set into the floor along the line.
Just the beginning
This may have been our first up-close visit with a Ford F-150 Lightning, but it won't be the last. We'll be covering Ford's progress as close as we have for any EV so far. It's my personal belief that the F-150 Lightning may be the most important electric vehicle to launch since Tesla introduced the Model S. That vehicle proved that EVs could be fast, fun, desirable, charge rapidly, and still serve the needs of a family.
The F-150 likely won't be the first mass-produced electric pick-up truck. That distinction will probably go to the Rivian R1T. But the R1T's base price is nearly double that of the base Pro trim of the F-150 Lightning, and the R1T isn't really going to be a "work truck", it's an "electric adventure vehicle". Therefore, the F-150 Lightning will appeal to a much wider audience and has the potential to change many minds on the viability of EVs for mass adoption.
Will the F-150 prove that EVs are suitable for working applications that include hauling heavy cargo and towing long distances? We'll soon find out. I have an F-150 Lightning on order and should be one of the first customer deliveries, and we'll test it out in every way possible.
So check out the video and let us know what information you'd like us to find out about the F-150 Lightning. Additionally, we have Ford's Global Manager Of Electric Vehicles, Darren Palmer, scheduled to be a guest on the InsideEVs weekly podcast on September 17th, so tune in live at 9:30 am and ask your questions, we'll try to get to as many as we can.