One of the things I wanted to find out about the Ford Lightning is the effect on its real-world (as opposed to indicated) range of pulling a load. This is a truck, after all – and people use trucks for towing.
Ford says the Lightning can pull up to 10,000 lbs.
But how far?
Farther than I dreaded – based on the reports I’ve read and seen, especially the one done by Tyler Hoover, which you may have also seen. But my Lightning did better than his.
That’s the good news.
The bad news is, not much.
I began the test by leaving the truck to fully recharge – at my house, rather than at the “fast” charger, so as to avoid starting the test partially discharged, which it would have been by the time I drove the 25 miles back home (and up the mountain) from the “fast” charger, downtown.
A full charge is important – because even when fully charged, the truck’s indicated range with its highest-performing battery is about 120 miles less than what you’d start out with in the gas-engined equivalent, an F-150 with the 5.0 V8. It has about 442 miles of range in city driving – and 624 on the highway.
After being plugged in to my house for about 15 hours, the Lightning’s range indicator indicated 303 miles of available range. This is just shy of the touted 320 miles of range for the optional – more powerful – 131 kWh battery that my test truck came equipped with. The standard battery’s range is only 230 miles (240 for the ’23 model).
Interestingly, the range dipped slightly before I put the truck in Drive.
This has happened each time I have left the truck unplugged. It’s not a huge loss, but it is a loss – akin to having a pinhole leak in the gas tank of a non-electric vehicle. It could be more than that – over time – which is something to consider if you ever need to leave your electric vehicle unplugged for a week at an airport parking lot.
You might return to a wait.
I also lost about 30 miles of indicated range driving the seven or so miles from my house to my buddy’s shop, which was the fastest/steepest drop I have experienced so far. I don’t know why the drop was so much, so soon. It wasn’t very cold – about 44 degrees – and I hadn’t driven very far.
But there you are.
I arrived at my buddy’s shop with 269 miles of indicated range left. We hooked up his roughly 2,800 lb. trailer – onto which we loaded an older model Nissan Sentra that weighed about 3,100 lbs. – for a total loaded weight of around 6,000 lbs., which is below the rated capacity of the Lightning with the standard battery and far below the 10,000 lb. max capacity of the Lightning equipped with the stronger, optional battery.
So, how did it do?
Or rather, how far did it go?
Well, we drove 56 miles before anxiety about range began to rear its head. The first leg – into town – was on a rural highway (US 221) with a speed limit of 55, us doing 60-ish. The second, home-bound leg was run mostly on the Blue Ridge Parkway, with a speed limit of 45 MPH but some significant elevation gains, which chugged down the range like Eric “Baldlands” Booker downs a gallon of Mountain Dew.
At the end of the trip, back where we started, the Lightning’s range indicator indicated . . . 112 miles remaining.
So we still had some range to spare.
That’s the good news.
The bad news is we started the tow test with 269 miles of indicated range and only had 112 left after 56 miles of towing. That means we lost 157 miles of the indicated range at the start of the test . . . after just 56 miles of actual towing.
If we’d done this test using a Lightning equipped with its standard battery, we’d have just barely made it back to the shop (230 miles of indicated range fully charged; 200 to start the test; 157 consumed during the test – leaving maybe 43 miles of indicated range remaining – which isn’t much of a margin when indicated is often optimistic vs. actual, even without a trailer hooked up).
And what would have happened if we’d hooked up a trailer close to the 10,000 lb. rated capacity of the Lightning with the stronger, optional battery?
My Lightning did have the optional, stronger battery so it could have gone a bit farther – maybe another 20 or so miles – pulling a relatively light 6,000 lb. trailer.
Even so – based on the rate of range loss we experienced during those 56 miles we actually drove – driving another 20 or so miles with the trailer hooked up would almost certainly have resulted in the electric vehicle equivalent of the Lightning’s Low Fuel light coming on. And because it isn’t the equivalent – you can’t just stop for a couple of minutes to refuel and be on your way – you have to think about it in a way you wouldn’t have to if you were pushing it a little in a non-electric tow vehicle.
My buddy Tim – who let me borrow the trailer and the car we loaded on it – regularly uses his non-electric Ram to haul cars he buys at auctions that are often more than 100 miles away, one way. If he needed to pick up a car say 150 miles away, he’d probably need to recharge the Lightning at least once along the way there – and once again, on the way back.
This assumes he began the trip with a full charge, too.
This is why the Range Question is the question when it comes to electric vehicles – because when the range runs low, it takes time to get range back. This might be put better by saying: When you haven’t got the time, range becomes the problem.
If I hadn’t had the time to wait – overnight – for the Lightning to recharge, I might not have been able to tow even the 56 miles I did. And – having towed the 56 miles I did – I had to wait, again – at home – and overnight – for the truck to recover the range it had lost towing those 56 miles, in order to have sufficient range when I needed to drive it, again.
You may not have these problems if you don’t need to tow much – or far. Or you don’t mind the waiting.
But how many of us have the time for that?
. . .
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