It's a well-established fact that electric vehicles don't go as far in cold weather as they do in warm temperatures. Now that Ford F-150 Lightning customers are experiencing their first winter with the electric pickup truck we've seen mixed reviews as far as customer satisfaction with regard to winter driving range.
I own a 2022 F-150 Lighting Lariat with the extended-range battery and have done a fair amount of range testing with it already. However, I haven't really tested it out thoroughly now that the winter months have settled in and the temperatures have dropped significantly in northern New Jersey where I live. Until now, that is.
My F-150 Lightning
I had the perfect opportunity to see just how much the cold will affect the Lightning this weekend, so I did just that. My wife and I always visit her parents up in Vermont For the holidays and this year was no exception, so we packed up the Lightning and headed north, with the intention of trying to make it without having to stop and charge.
The drive is about 205 miles, which is stretching the single-charge limit of the Lightning in cold weather. It was 17° Fahrenheit (-8 Celsius) when we left and about 70% of the trip would be at highway speeds on route 287 in New Jersey and I-87, the New York State Thruway.
To make matters worse, I recently installed BF Goodrich All Terrain KO2 tires on the truck, which most certainly added some rolling resistance and probably shaved off about 10 to 15 miles of range.
F-150 Lightning stock General Grabber tires compared to BF Goodrich All Terrain KO2s
To prepare for the trip, I pulled the lightning into the garage overnight and scheduled the preconditioning feature for our departure time. It hit a low of 10° F (-12 C) overnight so being in the garage helped keep the battery a little warmer so preconditioning didn't have to work as hard to warm it up. When we left it was 17° F (-8 C) but the battery and cabin were nice and warm, The Lightning was 100% charged and was predicting 207 miles of driving range.
That gave us little room to spare (only about 2 miles) so I had a couple of DC fast chargers along the route identified if, during the trip, I decided that we might not make it without charging. I should also point out that I did set the tires to the recommended 42 PSI as the pressure had dropped a couple of pounds recently during this cold snap we're experiencing.
|New Jersey To Vermont||Vermont to New Jersey|
|Total Miles Driven||210.9 mi (339.4 km)||205.8 mi (331.2 km)|
|Consumption Rate||1.7 mi/kWh (36.5 kWh/100km)||1.8 mi/kWh (34.4 kWh/100 km)|
|SOC Upon Arrival||3%||10%|
|Estimated Remaining Range||5 mi (8 km)||17 mi (27 km)|
I limited my speed to 70 mph which is already slightly above the 65 mph speed limits on rt 287 and I-87. However, much of the usual flow of traffic on these roads is usually about 75 mph. Driving a little slower than usual did add about 30 minutes to the usual three-hour and fifteen-minute trip, but we weren't under any deadline to arrive so it really didn't matter.
Plus, if we had driven faster we probably would have had to stop and charge somewhere and that would have taken close to 30 minutes anyway. I knew I had to average at least 1.6 miles per kilowatt hour to make it because the lightning has a 131 kWh battery pack. (1.6 x 131 = 209 miles) The problem was, I also knew the final 30 miles has an elevation change of about 1,000 feet, and that was going to take some extra energy to make the climb.
I wanted to arrive at the base of the climb with a consumption rate of at least 1.7 mi/kWh, so I had a little cushion for the final ascent. That's just what happened. For practically the entire trip I averaged 1.7 mi/kWh and arrived at my in-laws after driving 210.9 miles with 3% state of charge and 5 miles of estimated range remaining.
On the trip home a few days later we averaged 1.8 mi/kWh and arrived home with 10% state of charge and 17 miles of estimated range remaining. It was a little warmer though, as temperatures had risen into the high 20s when we left Vermont and it was 30° F (-1° C) when we arrived home.
I'm certain we only made it because of the preparations we took. Battery preconditioning makes a huge difference in cold weather driving range as does having the proper tire pressure. We had the cabin heat set to 70° and on fan setting one the entire time, but didn't need to have it on higher speeds because the cabin was warm when we started, and we also used the heated seats. If I would have left the Lightning outside overnight and not set the preconditioning, we would have definitely required a charging stop.
Additionally, limiting the speed to 70 mph also contributed to us making it. I'm sure if we had been driving just 5 miles faster that would have been enough to force us to have to stop to charge. If you're trying to maximize your EV driving range, the simplest thing to do is just slow down a little, and you'll notice the difference. Speed is always an enemy of EV range but it's even worse in the winter when the air is denser and there are frequent winds that are adding to the aero drag.
Yes, more preparation is required for long drives in electric vehicles, but with the proper preparation and an understanding of cold weather best practices, your EV can serve you just fine through the winter months.