The Ford F-150 is the backbone of the Ford Motor Company. It's been the number one selling vehicle in North America for the past 40 years, and the number one selling truck for 45 years straight. Therefore, the F-150 Lightning had some big shoes to fill, as expectations were very high.
We're happy to report that after spending the better part of two days driving various versions of the Lightning on and off-road, pulling trailers, hauling cargo, using Ford Pro Power to recharge a Mustang Mach-E, and learning more about Ford Intelligent Backup Power, we believe the F-150 Lightning is the best overall F-150 ever produced. The biggest problem Ford may have to face is building enough of them.
Gallery: 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning: First Drive
Powerful Is An Understatement
The Lightning is the most powerful F-150 ever produced by Ford. All versions of the Lightning feature dual-motors and all-wheel-drive, and the Extended Range battery versions boast 580 horsepower and 775 pound-feet of torque. Stepping on the accelerator generates an adrenalin rush as you're instantly thrown into the back of your seat. Mashing the throttle at low speeds I was able to get consistent tire chirps up to 38 miles per hour.
Even at highway speeds, the Lightning takes off with authority and pulls from 60 to 90 mph in a matter of seconds. Quite honestly, it's faster than any 6,500-pound pickup truck really ever needs to be. That said, it does put a smile on your face every time you go full-throttle.
Quite honestly, it's faster than any 6,500-pound pickup truck really ever needs to be.
But the power isn't only there for smoking sports cars at traffic lights. The Lightning can haul cargo and tow with the big boys, too. The maximum cargo capacity is 2,235 lbs (for Pro & XLT trims with the standard battery) and vehicles with the $825 towing package, are capable of towing 10,000 lbs (XLT & Lariat with the extended range battery).
The regenerative braking is strong even in the default mode. Checking the one-pedal-driving mode in the vehicle settings increases the lift-off brake regeneration still further, and makes good on a true "one-pedal" effect. The Lightning has a blended braking system that also adds more regeneration when the friction brake pedal is depressed.
Battery & Driving Range
The heart of any electric vehicle is its battery. Ford uses a 400-volt battery system that utilizes pouch-style cells that are produced through a joint venture with SK Innovation. The standard range battery pack has a usable capacity of 98 kilowatt hours, while the extended range pack boosts that to 131 kWh.
Depending on which battery and trim you choose, the EPA range ratings vary from 230 miles to 320 miles per charge.
- Standard Range, Pro, XLT, and Lariat: 230 miles
- Extended Range Platinum: 300 miles
- Extended Range Pro, XLT, and Lariat: 320 miles
I was able to drive a Platinum trim truck on highways and secondary roads for a total of 125 miles. I averaged 2.3 miles per kWh and I wasn't taking it easy on the go-pedal by any means. If you multiply the consumption rate by the 131 kWh usable capacity you get 301 miles; 1 mile more than the EPA range rating for the Platinum, which leads me to believe a real-world driving range of 300 miles is attainable.
However, the driving range under strenuous driving conditions including hauling payload and towing is still to be determined. The good news is that Ford has incorporated an intelligent range estimator that uses onboard scales and can store information on the specific trailers you plan to use. The truck uses all of that information, as well as the topography of your route, to dynamically estimate the range.
Ford told us the goal is for the range estimator to be accurate within five percent, giving its users "range confidence" when hauling and towing. If the destination entered in the navigation system is beyond the estimated range, the system will suggest charging station stops along the route.
The truth is that the driving range will be significantly diminished by hauling heavy loads and towing large trailers. It's not possible to estimate how much because that will depend on a number of factors. But if Ford's intelligent range estimator can be accurate to within the five percent spec, it will be a tremendous help for Lightning owners looking to tow.
Off-roading with the Lightning was almost unremarkable. I wasn't able to navigate an extremely challenging course and the trucks onhand weren't wearing proper tires for serious off-road work. However, all versions of the Lightning come standard with a locking rear differential that worked exceptionally well. One-pedal driving was disabled when we activated the locking diff, and the Lightning doesn't have a hill descent mode, so steep downhills might be an issue. (By comparison, the extremely-strong lift-off regen on the Rivian R1T felt like a better setup for descending.)
How well the Lightning charges depends heavily on which battery pack option you select. The standard range battery can accept 11.3 kilowatts when charging from a 48-amp level 2 charging source. The extended range pack comes with dual 40-amp onboard chargers with a combined input of 19.2 kW.
Customers who opt for the bigger battery pack will also get Ford's Charge Station Pro, an 80-amp bi-directional charging station free with the vehicle. Choose the smaller pack and Ford asks $1,310 for the same equipment.
All Lightning, meanwhile, come standard with Ford's Mobile charger, a 32-amp dual-voltage portable charger. It has an adapter to charge the Lightning from a regular 120-volt household outlet as well as from a 240-volt NEMA 14-50 outlet.
|Charging Times||32 Amp||48 Amp||80 Amp||150 KW (15-80%)|
|Standard Range||14 Hours||10 Hours||10 Hours||44 Minutes|
|Extended Range||19 Hours||13 Hours||8 Hours||41 Minutes|
Ford also sells a 48-amp Connected Charge Station that will deliver up to 11.5 kW and in most instances, fully recharge even the extended range battery when charging overnight.
As for DC fast charging, the Lightning (with either battery) has a maximum rate of 150 kW, which isn't nearly top-of-class for electric vehicle batteries around this capacity. However, the charging curve is just as important as the maximum charging rate, and Ford has promised that Lightning will have an aggressive charging curve.
The automaker's published specifications state that the extended range Lightning will charge from 15 to 80 percent in 41 minutes. Meanwhile, the standard range truck actually takes two minutes longer to reach the same state of charge. That's because larger battery packs are capable of accepting more power for a longer time, and thus, Lightning with the extended range battery should have a flatter charging curve up to an 80 percent state of charge.
As for DC fast charging, the Lightning (with either battery) has a maximum rate of 150 kW, which isn't nearly top-of-class for electric vehicle batteries around this capacity.
I was able to stop at an Electrify America DC fast charging station and top up the Lightning from 61 to 90 percent. The session took 30 minutes and I observed a charge rate of about 120 kW up until the 80 percent SOC, which is quite good.
As with the Mustang Mach-E, Lightning owners will have access to Ford's BlueOval Charge Network. Ford hasn't actually built out its own charging network, but it did the second-best thing: partnered with major EV charging networks to offer seamless access through the FordPass app.
Ford has even started a program they call the Charge Angels, which sends employees out to test the public charging stations to identify faulty chargers. If a particular charging station is frequently broken, Ford will remove that station from the app so its customers won't show up to a broken charging station.
Power Anything, Anywhere - Even In The Frunk
Just as with the conventionally fueled F-150, the Lightning has Ford's Pro Power Onboard and the standard version has an output of 2.4 kW on the Pro and XLT trims. However, the output is bumped up to 9.6 kW for the Lariat and Platinum models (optional on the Pro & XLT) and that power is accessible from the eleven power outlets that are scattered inside and outside of the Lightning.
Ten of the outlets are standard 120-volt and there's a single 30-amp 240V outlet at the back of the bed. The 240V outlet can deliver up to 7 kW of power, and with an adapter, can be used to recharge an electric vehicle from the Ford Mobile Charger. Ford demonstrated this by using a Lightning to recharge a Mustang Mach-E at the event. There are four outlets inside the Mega Power Frunk, as well as USB-A and USB-C charge ports, enabling the huge 14.0 cubic foot frunk to serve as a functional on-site office if need be.
The Pro Power Onboard is an incredibly useful tool for job sites, campsites, tailgating, and really anywhere you need power. You can even use the feature to power your home during an outage. However, you will need to run a series of extension cords to power appliances. You could also install a transfer switch and connect the 30-amp 240-v outlet to it and run 7 kW of power to the structure if you prefer.
Then there's the Lightning's Intelligent Backup Power system. That system gets installed in your home or business and allows the Lightning to provide 9.6 kW of continuous power when connected to the Ford Charge Station Pro. You can set it to automatically turn on when there's a power interruption or use the manual setting to control the system through the app.
Intelligent Backup Power requires the Ford Charge Station Pro, as well as the Home Integration Kit which can be purchased from SunRun, Ford's partner to the IBP system, for $3,895. You then have to install the system, and that's going to run anywhere from $2,000 and up, depending on your home's unique upgrade requirements.
Still, compared to a stationary energy system, or a whole-home generator, the Intelligent Backup power system looks to be a pretty good value.
Still An F-150 At Heart
Even though the Lightning has a totally different powertrain, and a load of unique features, it's still an F-150. It looks like an F-150 and even feels like one. That's probably because it shares so many components with the regular F-150. Aside from the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and 15.5-inch infotainment system touchscreen (standard on Lariat and Platinum trim and borrowed from the Mustang Mach-E) the interior is the same as the regular F-150. The Pro and XLT trims use the same 12.0-inch center touchscreen as the ICE F-150.
The exterior also shares much of the same look and I doubt that many will even realize the difference. However, those who know the F-150 will quickly notice the unique front end and LED lights, the chargeport on the first left fender, and the Lightning's unique badging.
The Lightning Changes EVerything
I've been saying for a long time that EVs won't gain much public acceptance in the US until there's an electric pickup truck that can work like a pickup truck. I know Rivian was the first electric pickup to hit the streets (by a few months), but as good as the R1T is, it's no work truck. The Lightning is.
Yes, it won't work for every use case. If you're a farmer and need to trailer a couple of horses 800 miles across Montana once a month then perhaps the Lightning isn't the best choice for you. No, it won't work for everybody, but it doesn't have to. It will work for the vast majority of Americans who drive a full-size pickup truck today.
Ford sells 750,000 to 900,000 F-150s per year, but the company can't even make 100,000 Lightning per year, just yet. By the end of 2023, Ford says the annual production rate will be 150,000. The automaker even had to stop taking reservations because the Lightning is sold out through 2023. And that happened without a single customer ever sitting in a Lightning, much less driving one.
For now, Ford doesn't have to worry about the customers and use cases that the Lightning won't serve. By the time manufacturing meets up with demand, it's a good bet that driving range and charging speeds will have improved to the point where the vehicle could serve any use case.
Is America ready for an electric pickup truck; a real electric pickup truck? I'm not sure.
Although, I say that not because I'm afraid it won't live up to customers' expectations. I say it because once people get a chance to drive the Lightning and see how inexpensive it is to fuel and maintain, test out its power and work capabilities, and sample its incredible feature set, they might never want an ICE truck again. Current pickup owners may not be ready for how much they're going to love a real electric pickup.
2022 Ford F-150 Lightning