Contributing Writer: Craig Fitzgerald
- The F-150 Lightning may not be the best truck for all possible truck scenarios, but for people who drive a truck for everyday commutes, it might be the best version of the F-Series.
- Think of the Lightning as an experiment to test what an EV driveline is capable of in a large form factor.
- Unless you’re towing a horse trailer 500 miles every week, this truck will likely do what you need it to.
- Vastly less expensive to drive than a conventional F-150, even with the EcoBoost engine.
- the drivetrain, it’s everything you love about an F-150.
- The frunk offers what few other pickups have up until this point: Lockable storage outside of the passenger cabin.
- The weight of the battery coupled with massive 22-inch low-profile tires feels harsher on the bumps than it should.
- Non-Tesla private charging networks are likely not going to meet your needs.
Who is This Vehicle for?
This vehicle is for the casual private pickup owner who uses a vehicle like this to commute daily.
The F-150 Lightning is all-new for the 2022 model year. Its basic platform is similar to that of the 14th Generation F-Series, which debuted for the 2021 model year. The electric drivetrain is new for the 2022 model year. If you’re one of the people taking advantage of the order banks that opened on August 9, 2022, there are some minor updates to the 2023 model year F-150 Lightning, including:
- A slight boost in range on base battery (about 10 more miles)
- Newly available Pro Trailer Hitch Assist
- 2 new colors: Avalanche Gray and Azure Gray (replacing 3 existing colors)
- A new fleet-only police package called Special Service Vehicle
- A price increase between $6,000 and $8,500 depending on trim
Last summer, before this truck arrived fully formed, I had a chance to talk to Jason Mase, Ford Motor Company’s EV Marketing Manager. “It made people stand up straighter and pay more attention to battery electric vehicles when they saw that Ford was taking its bread-and-butter and putting a no-compromise truck out with payload and towing capability, but with all the goodness of bi-directional power and storage,” he said. “We could’ve taken an all-new nameplate, with an all-new shape, and come out with something, but instead we chose the iconic brand because people know them, and they trust them.”
People know what the F-150 is. They’ve been comfortable and familiar with the F-Series since 1946, and this is nothing more than a means of easing consumers into understanding the capabilities of an electric vehicle.
The truth is that most people who purchase a pickup truck like the IDEA of a truck’s capabilities more than they like those capabilities in real life. In 2019, Strategic Vision told The Drive that just 35 percent of pickup truck owners use their pickup bed for its intended purpose more than once a year. Further, 75 percent of truck owners only tow once a year or less. 70 percent of truck owners use their trucks off-road once a year or less.
With that in mind, Ford developed the F-150 Lightning to be a good balance between what people want out of a pickup, and what people really need in a day-to-day commuter. It’s a truck, and it can do quite a bit – but it’s not necessarily designed to do every possible thing that a diesel-powered truck can do.
There are two major clues to tip you off to the fact that you’re not looking at one of the run-of-the-mill F-150s that Ford churns out every year: The first is the grille, which isn’t a grille at all since the electric motor that powers this beast doesn’t require airflow through a radiator. It’s familiar enough to let you know it’s an F-150, but the wraparound LED light band that covers the front end is dramatic, day and night.
The second major clue is the branding, which is bold and in-your-face American. There are American flags all over the truck. If building an EV at all is some kind of political or nationalistic statement, Ford has taken it to quite a degree with the branding. Beyond that, you’re looking at any other F-150, and there’s a point to that.
So, if it’s the SHAPE of a pickup truck you’re after, this is it. When you whiz silently past people on the highway at 80 miles per hour, it’s going to take a sharp eye to recognize that this massive truck is any different than any other F-150 on the road.
It’s the same story here. If you’re used to the Platinum level of F-150 interior comfort and convenience, there’s literally nothing here that’s any different than any other F-Series trim level, other than the range meter on the dash.
The seats are the same, the dash is the same, the console and gearshift are the same. The only major difference is the cookie-sheet-sized 15.5-inch infotainment screen. The entire point here is familiarity with a product that already exists.
Beneath the skin, one obvious change to the interior is the frunk, where in place of an engine, you get 14.1 cubic feet of lockable, dry cargo space, the size of which no other pickup truck in existence currently offers. Yes, the Ram Box offers storage, but only 8.1 cubic feet of things that need to be long to fit. The Santa Cruz offers dry storage, but the volume of the frunk in the Lightning is more than half the size of the Santa Cruz’s entire bed. To put that into context, it’s about what the Lincoln Corsair, Ford Bronco Sport, Buick Envision, and Toyota Corolla Cross all have behind the rear seats. Suffice it to say that you can fit a family of four’s weekend luggage in here, without issue.
Charging time is the F-150 Lightning’s Achilles Heel. The extended range battery in our test vehicle is massive: 145 kWh. All of Ford’s materials suggest that you can charge from 15% to 80% at a DCFC “Level 3” charger in 41 minutes with the Extended-Range battery. That may well be true, but DCFC chargers are thin on the ground. Even in Greater Boston where you’d expect these things to be everywhere, there are two within a reasonable distance of where I sit right now, and one is at a Nissan dealership.
Much more convenient to me is the Level 2 charger that our local water department uses to charge their two Nissan Leafs, which are open and free to the public. I incorporated an overnight charge on my daily run, dropping the truck off at 7 PM, and picking it up again around 8 the next morning. I pulled in with about 60 miles of range left after a 230-mile trip to Kennebunkport, Maine, and back, on a day when the temperatures hit 103 degrees. Suffice it to say that the AC was blowing ice cold for 100 percent of that trip.
When I picked the truck up in the morning, I had 175 miles of range. That’s much less than the figure Ford cites, suggesting that you can go from 15% (essentially what I had) to 100 percent in 13 hours. I was at 80 percent after that period of time. At home, with a Level 2 charger, you’re looking at the same charging time.
The good news is that this charge cost me $0. If you’re charging at home, you’ll need to check your local electric rates, but here in Massachusetts, we hover pretty close to $.13/kWh, which means that I could fully charge the F-150 for about $18. If I was to put 230 miles of range in the fuel tank of an EcoBoost-powered F-150, I’d be looking at close to $70 at today’s elevated gas prices.
The second question is 0-60 performance, and the F-150 is insane in that regard. Acceleration is instant and eye-opening, which you can’t really even say about the Raptor. You’ll hit 60 miles per hour in four seconds, which no other F-150 can touch. The truck’s quarter-mile time is closer to that of a Mustang Mach 1.
Towing performance is a touchy subject. Will it tow? Absolutely. You can tow 10,000 pounds just the way you would with any other F-150. But it cuts the range significantly, depending on what you’ve got back there. Our friends at EV Pulse towed a Tesla on a dual axle car trailer, and the cut in range was significant, but not half, the way others have reported it. But if you’re towing something like a travel trailer that acts like a sail, you might see a lower towing range.
All of the infotainment and safety technology in the F-150 Lightning is largely what you’ll find in any premium trim of the F-150 lineup with one exception: BlueCruise. This is Ford’s version of Super Cruise in GM vehicles.
I used BlueCruise on I-95 South from the Piscataqua River Bridge on the Maine/New Hampshire border, all the way to the Massachusetts Turnpike exit on I-495 in Massachusetts. There were several areas where the system demanded that I take the wheel, but for the most part, I drove hands-free for approximately 75 miles.
The system is a little nauseating at first, weaving within the lane as it centers itself, but once it figures out its path, it’s rock steady. It follows the car in front, just as you’d expect from any other car with adaptive cruise control. It takes full corners at highway speeds with no input from the driver. It’s pretty amazing. I posted a clip that my son took from the passenger seat, and my brother-in-law noted that he still likes to control the vehicle when he’s driving. I do too, but if someone offered me the ability to not have any control from Hartford, Connecticut, on I-84 to the I-90/495 exit, I’d buy that in a hot second. There’s nothing entertaining about that drive, and I’ve made enough trips from NYC to Boston that I’d turn it over to a robot in a heartbeat.
The other piece of technology worth mentioning is using the battery as a power source. Using the 80A Ford Charge Station Pro, with a full charge, you can power your house for up to three days in an emergency. Even if you don’t have a Charge Station Pro, the frunk has a standard 110V outlet where you can plug in your fridge, a television, and some other smaller appliances to get yourself through an extended power outage.
Note: In this space, we’ll typically have information straight from the Monroney sticker, but in this case, our tester was not yet available to order and the window sticker doesn’t have MSRP listed. We’ve created an estimated price for a 2023 model, based on information from the Ford website.
2023 Ford F-150 Lightning Platinum:
- $98,219 (est. including destination charge) – as tested
- $96,874 (est.) – base price
- How we’d spec it: F-150 Lightning XLT, Extended Range Battery – $83,269 (est. including destination charge)
Yes, $98k is a ton of money for a pickup truck. But we’ve been complaining about the cost of a full-size pickup for a long, long time. You can easily ring an F-Series, Silverado, Sierra, or Ram up to this kind of price and still enjoy 19 MPG out of a diesel. This is a whole new thing, and for a while, the price of an electric drivetrain is going to be expensive.
|2022 Ford F-150 Lightning Platinum||Price:|
For 2023 Model (Not including destination fees or tax credits)
XLT High: $68,474
XLT High / Extended Range: $80,974
Lariat Extended Range: $85,974
Platinum Extended Range: $96,874
Dual eMotor, front/rear transverse-mounted, four-wheel drive, two inboard three-phase fixed magnet AC motors, Lithium-ion pouch with internal battery management, liquid-cooled, 131 kWh of usable energy
|Vehicle Type: Full-size pickup|
Width: 96.0 (including mirrors)
Passenger Volume: (Not Listed)
Trunk Volume: 14.1 cu.ft.
Curb Weight: 6,590 (Ford Source Book)
|Horsepower: 433kW (530hp)||EPA Fuel Economy: N/A|
Basic: 3 year/36,000 miles
Powertrain: 5 yr/60,000 miles
Battery: 8 yr/100,000 miles (federal mandate)
|0-60 mph: 4.0-sec (est.)||Shop Now|
Craig Fitzgerald began his automotive writing career in 1996, at AutoSite.com, one of the first online resources for car buyers. Over the years, he’s written for the Boston Globe, Forbes, and Hagerty. For seven years, he was the editor at Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car, and today, he’s the automotive editor at Drive magazine. He’s dad to a son and daughter, and plays rude guitar in a garage band in Worcester, Massachusetts.