Yes, The F-150 Lightning Can Tow
Ford Pro is convinced the F-150 Lightning is capable of replacing a gasoline or diesel pickup truck for the majority of its customers; even those that require the vehicle to be used for towing.
To back up that assertion, the brand released a comprehensive guide that explains the F-150 Lightning’s towing and range capabilities, as well as outside factors that will influence performance and how to mitigate them.
That’s not to say Ford doesn’t recognize there are towing use cases in which a combustion F-150 truck would be a better choice, particularly when it involves towing a large trailer, many hundreds of miles.
However, the reason that’s true is more of an indictment on the state of public high-speed charging of electric vehicles, particularly electric trucks with trailers, than it is of the vehicle’s capabilities. Until pull-through DC fast charge stations are ubiquitous, pulling a trailer long distances with any EV will be challenging, because current stations aren’t trailer-friendly, making it very difficult to plug in and charge up without first dropping the trailer.
In an effort to help its customers better understand just how capable the F-150 Lightning is, Ford Pro has complied and published a guide which was released today and InsideEVs was given the exclusive opportunity to view and report on the information available in the guide.
Ford Pro leveraged more than 145 million miles of telematics data to arrive at what it considered the optimal battery size for the standard range F-150 Lightning Pro. The data revealed that for the average F-150 commercial customer in the U.S., 95% of their daily travel is less than 174 miles.
Therefore, they fitted the F-150 Lightning Pro with a standard range battery pack that has a total capacity of 107.6 kWh (98 kWH usable) and an EPA-rated range of 240 miles. For customers with more demanding driving needs, an extended-range battery (143.4 kWh total / 131 kWh usable) is offered which adds an additional 33% more range and increases the EPA-rated range to 320 miles per charge. Both battery options are covered by a warranty guarantee that the battery will retain at least 70% of its original charging capacity for eight years /100,000 miles, whichever comes first.
In its first year, the F-150 Lightning has been a tremendous success for Ford. Customer orders have outstripped supply by such a wide margin, the company decided to stop accepting new orders until it could catch up. However, that’s not to say the public doesn’t have concerns when it comes to electric trucks.
Despite winning many awards in its first year, there have been a number of reports from various sources condemning the Lightning for its inability to tow as well as a combustion truck, and also so its loss of driving range in winter months, due to the cold weather effects on the battery.
Many of the complaints are fair criticism, however, others seem to be based on a combination of the outlet wanting to promote a sensational story to generate clicks, and the lack of a basic understanding of how electric vehicles work.
The size and shape of the trailer play a very big role in how much effect it will have on the range.
Therefore, to help with the latter, Ford Pro assembled a ton of facts about the F-150 Lightning, its gas and diesel F-150 trucks, and how commercial customers use their vehicles. The effort is aimed at helping the public better understand the capabilities and limitations of the F-150 Lightning.
The guide leads off with a few basic facts that everyone should understand:
- Whether gas or electric, driving distance while towing is similarly impacted by weather,
temperature, and geography. Speed and trailer aerodynamics also play a role: the faster you drive and the larger the frontal area of the trailer, the greater the impact on range.
- A significant difference between gas and electric trucks is that gas trucks can begin with approximately twice the range (or more) compared to the average electric truck,
depending on the configuration.
- Temperature extremes impact electric trucks more than gas, though F-150 Lightning can help mitigate those effects and maximize range by pre-conditioning prior to departure while the vehicle is plugged in. Pre-conditioning uses energy from the vehicle charger or outlet – instead of the battery – to warm or cool the battery and the cabin.
Gasoline and diesel trucks lose a similar percentage of driving range as electric trucks do when towing and hauling, it’s just that they start out with greater range and the refueling process is faster and easier.
Ford Pro explains in the guide that customers that for that have driven gas-powered trucks for years, towing with an F-150 Lightning will likely feel different as the power delivered by dual electric motors provides a smooth and consistent experience with maximum torque available immediately upon request.
The Ford Pro guide demonstrates that payload doesn’t really impact the driving range too much
However, the guide also explains that customers can expect to have to recharge more often than they would refuel. The energy density of fuel allows an F-150 PowerBoost Hybrid to achieve up to 704 miles of EPA-estimated range, more than double the top EPA-estimated range of the F-150 Lightning, which is 320 miles. And currently, there are approximately three times as many gas stations as electric vehicle charging stations in the U.S., further complicating the refueling process while on the road.
Therefore, there F-150 Lightning may not be the best fit for every Ford Pro customer, however, for many, it can be. As the saying goes, use the right tool for the job.
“The F-150 Lightning is an ideal companion for many F-150 customers who want to tow. For customers towing longer distances with payloads nearing the max, Ford has you covered with models like the F-150 PowerBoost Hybrid,” said Darren Palmer, VP, battery electric vehicle programs, Ford Model e, “Your power. Your choice.”
Still, the F-150 Lightning can tow, even cross country. For customers who choose the benefits of an electric truck over trip speed; enter Mark Eakin, an F-150 Lightning owner, and retired oceanographer. Eakin managed to take a towing trip from Maryland to California with his Lightning achievable.
Eakin mentions Ford’s Intelligent Range, a system that collects vehicle data like speed, ambient temperature, available battery energy, driver habits, climate control use, and
route topography to determine how much electrical energy drivers use in real-time, as being very helpful in his journey.
Intelligent Range also uses cloud computing to gauge energy use from other similar types of Ford electric vehicles operating in similar situations, which Ford explains will result in more accurate vehicle range calculations over time, as the system consistently improves.
“As a scientist, I understand that there will be an effect on range because of various factors and wind was a particularly important one during my journey,” he said. “Planning in advance helps and the Ford technology is a big enabler in the planning.”
The ambient temperature also plays a big role in vehicle performance and driving range with any electric vehicle. Most people understand the basics of that fact, but they don’t really know exactly what to expect or how to necessarily mitigate it.
The guide provides detailed information on how temperature extremes affect the driving range which will help potential customers know what to expect before making fleet purchase decisions.
Ford Pro also dedicates a lot of content explaining how important it is to precondition the battery and cabin. The chart below demonstrates that with proper preconditioning, you can add back as much as 17% more range that would have otherwise been lost because of the cold temperatures.
Extreme heat doesn’t affect the driving range quite as much as cold temperatures do, but using the Lightning’s preconditioning feature for one hour before departure can add as much as 6% more driving range when driving in extremely hot climates.
Many new electric vehicle owners aren’t using preconditioning as much as they should, especially in the winter, and that can lead to the F-150 Lightning not performing up to the customer’s expected standards. In many cases the vehicle can perform as needed, it just wasn’t set up properly to succeed.
The guide offers advice to help Lightning customers get the most range in the winter months. Following these five simple tips can greatly improve the ownership experience.
- Precondition your vehicle by scheduling departure times with Ford Pro E-Telematics
software. This will heat the battery ahead of time to help optimize range and also warm up the cabin.
- Keep your vehicle plugged in when parked. The vehicle will use power from the
charger to heat the battery and cabin.
- When away from home, use an indoor parking facility if available. The relative warmth
will help reduce the impacts of extremely cold temperatures.
- If your vehicle is covered in snow, start it remotely or schedule preconditioning to melt
snow, and brush off any remaining snow before driving to reduce weight and drag.
- Instead of heating the entire vehicle cabin, use the standard heated seats in
the vehicle for warmth.
How fast you drive whether towing or not will also determine how far you can go on a single charge. There’s an old saying in the EV community; “You can go fast or you can go far, but you cannot do both”, and that especially holds true with electric trucks and towing.
The guide also demonstrates how speed affects the driving range. At sixty-five miles per hour, the F-150 Lightning only loses three percent of its EPA-rated driving range. However, when you increase your speed by ten miles per hour the range penalty increases to twenty-two percent.
Seeing the numbers on the chart should help fleet managers better understand just how important it is to make sure their drivers know this, and how slowing down just a few miles per hour can be the difference in making the destination or not.
Ford Pro helps customers better understand range
Education is key
We like the direction Ford Pro is taking with the guide. Electric vehicles are different. They require owners to learn new procedures and best practices. None of which is hard or difficult, it’s just different, and often we are adverse to change.
The worst thing for Ford or any company is to sell a customer a vehicle that isn’t the right fit for their needs. For many Ford Pro customers, an F-150 Lightning is perfectly capable of performing every task it’s called upon to do, hauling and towing included.
However, there are use cases that fall outside of the F-150 Lightning’s capabilities, and for those cases, Ford offers other options. The Ford Pro guide will not only help customers understand if an F-150 Lightning will work for the tasks their business needs it to, but it also teaches them how to get the most out of the vehicle, which should be a huge help for new owners.