It’s interesting that the first electric vehicles of the modern era weren’t trucks – which have a lot more room than cars do for batteries. This matters because electric vehicle batteries take up a lot of space – which means less of that for people and stuff in an electric car.
In the case of the F-150 Lightning, the electric version of Ford’s F-150 pick-up, there’s even more room for stuff because there’s no engine under the hood – which is now an additional storage space.
As for the batteries, they’re tucked out of sight under the truck – where there’s plenty of room for them.
This makes the Lightning more practical in that way than the regular F-150, which doesn’t have a trunk up front. And much more so than electric cars like the Tesla 3, which is a small car without a lot of extra room for cargo because so much available space is taken up by its batteries.
Plus, a Tesla can’t tow 10,000 lbs.
The Lightning can.
But there are things it can’t do – on account of the fact that it’s electric. Such as tow that weight very far without having to stop – and wait. You also can’t charge it very fast at home – and that can mean having to plan around the range you have left. Or the time you have to drive to – and from a “fast” charger.
The Lightning is an electrically-powered version of the best-selling F-150 half-ton pickup.
Unlike the non-electric versions of the F-150, the Lightning comes in only one version: Super Crew cab with a short (5.5 foot) bed. But it does come with your pick of batteries – and ranges – as well as trims.
Prices start at $48,769 for the base Pro trim which comes standard with a liquid-cooled 98 kWh battery pack and a 426 horsepower electric drive system. This version of the Lightning has an estimated full-charge range of 240 miles – up ten from the ’22 model. You can also pull up to 7,700 lbs. – when equipped with the optional Max Trailer Towing Package.
Otherwise, the maximum tow rating is 5,000 lbs.
A more powerful 131 kWh battery pack is available that bumps up the estimated full charge range to 320 miles. This version can also pull up to 10,000 lbs.
A top-of-the-line Platinum trim – which comes standard with the stronger battery and more range – stickers for $96,874.
What’s New 2023
The two big changes for the new model year are a slight uptick in estimated range and a big uptick in price – the latter having to do with the increased cost of the material used to make electric vehicle batteries, which are big batteries that take a lot of material to make them.
The ’22 Lighting’s base price was $7,000 less than the price of this year’s base Pro trim. But you do get an additional 10 miles of estimated range.
More cargo space than non-electric F-150.
More standard power than non-electric F-150.
Can be “refueled” at home.
What’s Not So Good
Short range relative to non-electric F-150.
Long recharge wait – even when “fast” charging.
Even shorter range (and more waiting) when towing.
Under The Hood
There isn’t anything under the hood of this truck – except room, for whatever you’d like to stow there. There are also outlets under there. These can be used to power high-draw electrical equipment and tools. There are more such outlets in the bed.
Under the truck lies the battery pack and a pair of electric motors driving all four wheels.
The Lightning does not need a two-speed transfer case for additional leverage because its electric motors make so much torque – 775 ft.-lbs.
That’s with either battery.
Acceleration is formidable – and silent. With its optional/stronger battery, the Lightning is capable of attaining 60 MPH in 3.8 seconds and running the quarter mile in 12.4 seconds, neck and neck with a V8-powered Mustang GT that weighs half as much.
You can recharge the Lightning either at home – using a standard 120V household appliance outlet or a 240V hook-up, if you have had your home wired for this. You can also charge the battery at commercial “fast” charging stations, where much higher voltage is available. These get you back on the road more quickly – but it costs more to use them than plugging in at home, because you’re paying for the high-load equipment that makes it possible to “fast” charge an electric vehicle.
And there’s a reason for the air fingers quotes, which we’ll get into now.
Speed is not a problem. Nor strength. The Lightning lives up to its name. Like its namesake, you don’t hear anything when it flashes. There is simply a brilliant flash of almost unbelievable acceleration. Without any hesitation. Without any interruption. It goes – fast – as long as you keep your foot in it, seemingly without end.
Because the Lighting is electric, it hasn’t got a transmission. The pair of electric motors (one up front, one out back) drive the wheels, directly. This eliminates not just the need of a transmission but also of shifting. The result of that is a continuous surge of silent thrust whenever you ask for it.
“Effortless” does not convey the ease with which the big fellow gets up to speed. You will find the window you used to need to risk pulling into fast-moving traffic has opened, considerably. It is great fun to pull into the slipstream and be going faster than the slipstream almost before you can blink. Watch others marvel at what looks to them like a suspension of the laws of physics.
Keep in mind this is a half-ton truck that weighs more than three tons, too.
But – in life, it seems there is always a but – if you use the Lightning’s speed (or strength, as to tow) you’ll soon have less of it. Or rather, of the power needed to provide it. Those motors – and all moving all that weight – require a lot of it. The Lightning has a massive battery pack – some 1,500 pounds of its more than 6,200 lb. curb weight. And the pack is powerful. But the power gets drawn down quickly, especially if you don’t drive gingerly. And even if you do, there’s effectively less than you think.
Or rather, than indicated.
During a week-long test drive (more details here) I found the indicated range was about 20 percent higher than the actual range – without a trailer attached. With a trailer attached, the reduction in actual range can be 50 percent or even higher, depending on the weight of the trailer.
Cold – and the use of electrically powered accessories noticeably increases the loss. Also uphill climbs – though if you are able to go back down the hill, you can recover some of what you lost via the good offices of regenerative braking, which converts the kinetic energy of motion back into electricity, use the motors as generators. This can also be used to slow the Lightning without using the brakes, in the manner of engine braking.
Just sans the engine.
The Lightning does not feel as heavy as it is, perhaps because the added weight is spread out evenly over its length. The only noticeable negative of all that weight is the effect on range. Which isn’t a problem, per se – if it didn’t entail such frequent – and long – waits.
A V8 Mustang GT doesn’t have much range, either – especially if you use its available power. But you can run one down to fumes and be back to fully fueled in about five minutes. This you cannot do in the Lightning or an electric vehicle because of the time it takes to put even a partial charge back into an electric vehicle’s battery.
Ford says – and it probably true – that you can “fast” charge the Lightning’s battery to 80 percent capacity in as little as 44 minutes. But that is only 80 percent full – and it isn’t very fast, relative to how quickly you could refill (to full) something like the Mustang GT. Keeping in mind also that those 44 minutes aren’t spent at home. You must spend them at the “fast” charger – and then you can drive home.
PS: The reason you shouldn’t “fast” charge an electric vehicle’s battery beyond 80 percent full is because “fast” charging is hard on the battery (more about this follows below) and there is an increased risk of fire, too.
Also, I found that not all “fast” chargers are created equal. Some are slower than others. I spent an hour and 15 minutes at one that only instilled 100 miles of range – or about a third of the total capacity of the tested Lightning’s extended range battery – after all that waiting.
You can charge at home, but this is even slower. It takes overnight, at least – on standard 120V household power – to bring a battery with about 20 percent capacity remaining to 80-90 percent capacity.
The combination of short-to-begin-with indicated range – less the actual range – means you may be thinking about range, a lot. Because if you use it up, you will have to wait. If you’re home already, that will not be a problem.
At The Curb
The limited range – and lengthy recharge time, even at a “fast” charger – may account for Ford offering the Lightning in Super Crew/short-bed configuration only. That is to say, Ford probably envisioned the Lightning appealing primarily to people who use it to transport people rather than haul 4×8 sheets.
It’s also a great place to work while you wait. You can fold down the gear selector and then fold out the center console storage cover to make a flat table to put your laptop on.
As in the non-electric F-150 Super Crew, there’s more room in back than up front. Unlike the regular F-150, there’s also 14.1 cubic feet of room up farther front – under the hood. This “frunk” endows the Lightning with what no other truck has – that every car does. It’s not just the additional capacity that’s nice. It’s the convenience. A “frunk” is a better place for groceries and such than the back seats – especially if you have people riding back there.
You will also find four household-style 120V AC power outlets in the “frunk” – as well as two more in the bed. These are standard – and can be upgraded to provide 9.6 kW of electricity so you can power higher-draw accessories. You can also us the Lightning to charge another EV with a run-down battery, using a special adapter.
Just be aware that every accessory that uses electricity will drain the battery, costing you range – and possibly time.
The only other giveaway is the grille, which isn’t open to allow air to cool the engine that isn’t there. It’s a sheet of contrast-colored plastic that’s painted to look like a grille.
A Catch 22 about the Lightning (and all electric vehicles) is that regular use of high-voltage “fast” chargers is not good for the long-term health of the battery. Ford says so, in the manual that comes with the Lightning. The reason being that feeding a lot of high voltage into any battery is hard on the battery. This is why it is usually recommended that one trickle charge a battery. And Ford recommends the same – as by charging it at home, on 120V household power.
This will help keep the battery “healthy” – by which is meant its capacity to accept and retain a full charge.
The catch is that doing it that way takes about 15 hours, which is a long time to wait if you need to use your vehicle. But if you use the “fast” charger regularly, you may need a new battery sooner – and electric vehicle batteries are very expensive. So expensive that it may not be worth buying a new battery, relative to the value of the EV after eight years or so.
Ford does offer a mid-way solution called Charge Station Pro – that uses 240V AC electricity to reduce home-charging times 8-10 hours or so. But you’ll need to have an electrician come out to install the Charge Station.
Be aware that it is not possible to “fast” charge any electric vehicle at home, because private homes do not have the commercial high-voltage power (the wiring) necessary to be able to do that.
The Bottom Line
The Lightning lives up to its name. Its performance can be breathtaking. But it’s also gone, after a flash.
. . .
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