David Eckels, VP of Product at Merge
I recently had a chance to take the Ford F-150 Lightning electric pickup truck on a weekend road trip from my home in Salt Lake City to Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. The trip was a learning experience, even for someone like me who has driven electric cars since 2015. The Lightning is the first full-sized electric pickup to hit the market, and this trip gave me confidence in its performance, features, and future success.
On this road trip, the Lightning experienced:
- 700+ miles of driving over 4 days, 370 miles on the longest day
- A combination of 80 mile-per-hour highway driving, 55-65 MPH rural two-lane, winding mountain passes, and slow national park roads
- Several intense afternoon thundershowers
- Camp cooking using the truck as a power source
In planning the weekend, I knew we would have easy charging stops along I-15 to reach the Tetons, but the town of Jackson, WY has just one 50-kilowatt DC fast charger operational, and the national park just a single Level 2 charger.
Here are the 10 things I learned.
1. It’s comfortable and spacious.
While it’s no surprise to long-time pickup owners, the interior of the Lightning is remarkably roomy. It feels like driving while sitting in an easy chair, a real departure from the compact EVs many of us are used to. The couch-like back seat folds up to create a flat floor area perfect for large items like tool boxes or crates of camping gear. The downside? It has the turning radius of at truck, so fitting into a charging station in a garage was a bit challenging.
2. It’s Lightning quick.
The extended range Lightning I drove puts out 580 horsepower and 775 lb-ft of torque. Ford says this offers a 0-60 time around 4 seconds – a second faster than their Raptor. While I didn’t test this on a track, the Lightning has really incredible power, and it doesn’t fall off in thin air at high altitude like combustion engines. Practically, this made it feel effortless and safe to pass slow trailers going up a Teton pass.
3. 50-kilowatt DC chargers aren’t "fast” anymore.
When the Nissan LEAF and Chevy Bolt were introduced, 50 kW fast chargers were game changers, offering a charge in about 30 minutes. Now that larger passenger vehicles and pickups are hitting the market, these chargers feel slow. The Lightning battery pack has 5X the capacity of my first EV, a 2015 LEAF, thus takes significantly longer to charge. EV trucks and SUVs really need 200-350 kW fast charging to make road trips practical. Thankfully, efforts like Electrify America and the new Federal NEVI program are making great progress deploying this infrastructure across the country.
4. The Lightning’s range is truly impressive.
In the rural west, I was able to drive past several fast charging stations without stopping to top up. That’s a new feeling for many EV drivers, and the F-150 Lightning’s range is what makes it possible. While there were significant differences in efficiency for slow park driving vs 80 MPH highway sections, my trip net efficiency matched the EPA rating around 2.4 mi/kWh and 320 mi total range.
5. The “frunk” stole the show.
The Lightning’s “front trunk” or “frunk” was a hit with fellow campers at the national park. Several people stopped to joke, “Hey, someone stole your engine!” It wasn’t only the novelty of the frunk that they noticed; people were impressed with the cargo capacity. I fit my tent, sleeping bags/pads, camp chairs, shade structure, hiking backpacks, and several other camping accessories in it. It’s basically everything I would have packed in my old Subaru Outback’s hatch for the same trip! Tesla did the frunk first, but Ford did it bigger.
6. ProPower is useful (and fun).
The Lightning’s ProPower system allows you to plug in tools or appliances to outlets in the truck’s bed, which came in handy for camp cooking. I made pancakes, quesadillas, and four other meals using an electric induction griddle plugged into the bed. For six meals, it cost about 6 miles of range from the truck’s battery, which I think is a pretty good trade-off. Imagine the possibilities for construction sites, ranching/farming, tailgates, and more.
7. It’s a mobile office.
In addition to the power outlets in the bed, the Lightning boasts an outlet in the dashboard near the passenger seat. My wife used it to power her laptop and get some work done during the drive. The gear shifter even folds down to put the center console in “desk mode” so the laptop can sit flat for typing or taking meetings while parked.
8. It’s quiet.
Grand Teton National Park is renowned for wildlife viewing opportunities, but I hadn’t considered how the quiet electric powertrain would help me spot them. A herd of elk, a young deer, and a beautiful coyote didn’t hear us coming in the truck, and we got to see them closer than we would have in a gas pickup. I’m sure camp neighbors appreciated the quiet ride, too.
9. It’s surprisingly efficient at lower speeds.
I was very impressed with the Lightning’s efficiency at speeds under 45 miles an hour, which helped maximize its range within the national park. It performed very well up to 65 miles an hour, but the efficiency does drop off at higher interstate speeds of 75-80 mph. Drag affects all vehicles, but in a large pickup like the Lightning, it’s especially noticeable. Drivers going longer distances will have to keep this in mind as they plan charging and routes. The low speed, stop-and-go efficiency and regenerative braking will be really beneficial in many fleet applications.
10. It looks "normal."
EV drivers are used to being approached in parking lots by curious people asking questions about range, charging speed, and more. The F-150 Lightning didn’t get as many strange looks and questions as other unusual-looking EVs I’ve driven. Unless they’re looking closely, it really does resemble a standard gas-powered F-150. This could be useful for fleet drivers who need to focus on work instead of dealing with onlookers. It is an F-150, just electric.
My Tetons road trip in the F-150 Lightning was a success, and I’m looking forward to additional testing and using our telematics data to further compare its efficiency and performance to other EVs.