(Editor’s note: This story has been updated with additional information about Ford’s BlueCruise semi-autonomous technology.)
There’s no place in America more fixated on pickup trucks than Texas, so it seemed the perfect place to go to test out the new Ford F-150 Lightning earlier this month. The battery-powered alternative to Ford’s familiar full-size truck, it’s just getting ready to roll into showrooms around the country in the coming weeks.
Since its debut last year, the Lightning has clearly resonated with consumers, more than 200,000 of them placing orders. That clearly took Ford by surprise. The original plan called for the automaker to produce 25,000 of the trucks annually. It soon doubled that number and has since repeatedly upgraded plans, with an eventual goal of rolling out 150,000 a year.
But can a battery-powered pickup live up to the F-150’s iconic reputation? That’s what I intended to find out as I headed down to San Antonio, grabbing the keys to a 2022 F-150 Lightning Platinum edition for two days of testing in Texas Hill Country.
For the last four decades, the F-150 has been the nameplate to beat in the full-size pickup market — Ford at times selling nearly 1 million of the trucks a year. It’s maintained that lead by delivering a mix of power, performance and capability. Now, Ford hopes to set the benchmark in the emerging market for all-electric pickups, as well.
The 2022 F-150 Lightning borrows heavily from the gas-powered model. In fact, you might have trouble telling the two apart before making a closer inspection. But, if anything, the new truck appears to offer even more of what has made the classic Ford truck so popular. Lightning delivers more power than the vaunted F-150 Raptor.
And, speaking of power, it features a built-in generator capable of delivering up to 9.6 kilowatts of energy, whether at a worksite or to keep your home running in the event of a blackout.
I should point out that I’ve got an order in for my own F-150 Lightning. And, after spending two days driving the all-electric truck, I am all the more eager to take delivery.
If you’re looking for something radically different in a pickup design, you’ve probably already plunked down a deposit on the Tesla Cybertruck — if it ever gets built. With the Lightning, Ford intentionally stuck close to the design of the conventional truck model, which got its last update for the 2021 model year. It was an evolutionary update, with subtle revisions to the grille and headlamps, as well as the front and rear fascia.
As with the gas-powered models, each Lightning trim package, from the basic Pro to the top-line Platinum, feature distinctive design tweaks — mostly to grilles and lights. But the all-electric model can readily distinguished by its blue Lightning badges, front light bar and “grilles” that are actually sealed.
There’s no need to feed air into the engine compartment. In fact, there’s what appears to be the world’s largest frunk under the hood. At 14.1 cubic feet, it’s as big as many an SUV’s cargo compartment and could readily swallow up everything you might stuff into a Costco shopping cart. You even can use it as a mobile cooler and, when done, empty it out by pulling out the drain plug.
There are modest-sized intakes on the Lightning’s lower fascia, but they feed air to the electric drive system mounted below the truck’s load floor. Ford claims the chassis is all-new. It’s more accurate to say the underpinnings of the conventional F-150 have been heavily modified to squeeze Lightning’s battery pack between the frame rails, while adding underbody protection to keep the pack from being damaged by road debris or while off-roading.
The overall dimensions of the 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning closely align with the conventional truck, with an overall length of 232.7 inches, a wheelbase of 145.5 inches, a height of 78.3 inches and a width of 96 inches including mirrors. The big difference is in mass. Where gas-powered models weigh in at anywhere from 4,500 to 5,000 pounds, the electric truck starts at 6,200 for the base Pro model with a standard-range pack, up to more than 6,500 pounds for the long-range Platinum trim.
According to Chief Engineer Linda Zhang, the 131 kilowatt-hour pack itself tips the scales at around 1,500 pounds.
If you’re looking for plenty of interior space, it’s hard to beat a full-size pickup. The Lightning’s frunk only enhances the deal.
The layout of Lightning’s cabin is much the same as gas versions of the F-150 and even the base Pro model is reasonably well appointed. Move up to the higher trims, such as the Lariat and Platinum and you might think you’ve climbed into a high-line luxury sedan. The cabin is about as roomy as a full-size S-Class and here lavished in leather and wood and real metal accents. And they introduce some great new features, like the Max Recline seats that fold down like what you’d find on a Business Class jet.
Another new feature lets the big shift lever fold down into the console so you can open up the cover of the center console. It’s big enough to spread out a meal or lay out a laptop computer and paperwork.
Lightning does get some unique controls, including a button to operate the power-operated frunk cover. And you’ll find a handful of readouts on its digital gauge cluster dedicated to showing your state-of-charge and range.
The base Pro model and other lower trim packages get a 12-inch “productivity screen,” as Ford likes to call the infotainment screen. It’s paired with hard controls for some key vehicle functions, including climate controls.
Higher trim packages get the same, 15.5-inch portrait-oriented touchscreen found in the Ford Mustang Mach-E. Here, the display is used to operate virtually all vehicle functions. This package is powered by the latest Ford Sync4 operating system.
The infotainment system adds a number of EV-only features and functions, like 1-Pedal driving and the ability to see just how far you can drive before needing to recharge on the navigation display. It’s fast and well laid out, though I’d prefer to have a few more traditional knobs and switches for functions like climate controls.
Lightning buyers have two powertrain options: a choice of either the standard-range, 98-kWh pack, or the 131-kWh long-range alternative. But what you choose impacts more than just the distance you can travel between charges.
All versions of the Lightning feature all-wheel drive, and the twin motors — one on each axle — are identical. But with the short-range option, the package makes 452 horsepower and 775 pound-feet of torque. The pony count for the long-range package jumps to 580.
Ford has underpromised and overdelivered on almost all key Lightning specs. The SR models come in 26 hp higher than originally announced, the LR versions get an additional 17 ponies.
The larger pack also delivers about 320 miles range in most trims — 300 in the heavier Platinum. That’s a 7% jump over the provisional estimates Ford released last year. Range holds at 230 miles with the 98-kWh pack.
Then there’s payload. It now comes in at a maximum 2,235 pounds, a 235-pound bump. And the all-electric truck now can handle up to a 10,000-pound trailer with the Max Tow package. Otherwise, it handles a still-impressive 7,700 pounds.
Safety and Technology
The infotainment system takes on a much broader role than with a gas-powered F-150. It introduces plenty of new functions, among other things, providing guidance as to how far you can drive and where you can find a charger.
One of the truck’s more novel features is a built-in scale that can tell how much cargo you’re carrying, while also calculating the weight of your trailer. Combined with the cloud-based navigation system — which can take into account the terrain you’ll face along your route — Lightning can instantly adjust your range estimate.
In addition, the Lighting comes equipped with BlueCruise, Ford’s semi-autonomous driving technology. Normally, the Level 2 tech comes with a three-year contract for $600, but Lightning buyers will get it for three years at no extra charge.
Some useful features are borrowed from the conventional F-150, including the trailering package that lets even novices tow like a pro. A small knob on the instrument panel lets you shift into reverse and simply point where you want your trailer to go.
All versions of Lightning can be used as a generator, providing as much as 9.6 kilowatts of power, whether at a worksite, campsite or even to provide backup energy for your home in an event of a blackout. There are numerous 120- and 240-volt outlets all over the truck, even in the frunk.
Ford, meanwhile, has teamed up with SunRun to offer a home power system that can let it automatically switch into generator mode if there is a blackout. The system can add a backup battery and even a solar power array that could let some owners get off the grid entirely.
As for charging, that depends on which battery pack you have, where you plug in, and how much power is available. With an 80-amp Level 2 240-volt charger, you’ll need about 8 hours to replenish a drained battery. With a 32-amp system, it could take up to 19 hours. If you have access to a 150 kW public quick charger, you can add up to 54 miles a range in 10 minutes, Ford claims, with the battery pack going from a 15% to 80% state-of-charge in about 41 minutes.
Buyers may qualify for incentives, not only for purchasing an EV but for adding a home charger. In Michigan, my local utility will kick back $500 in energy rebates. It also offers reduced energy rates when charging in off-peak hours. In parts of Texas, Lightning owners could charge for free if they plug in overnight.
Ford’s Lightning smartphone app lets you program charging to take advantage of the best rates. You also can set it to “precondition” the vehicle, heating up — or cooling — the battery pack and cabin while you’re still plugged in before you head out on the road.
If you’ve not driven one of the new generation of battery-electric vehicles, expect to be pleasantly surprised when you head out in the Lightning. With plenty of horsepower and gobs of instant torque, it takes off like a rocket when you slam the throttle. Here’s another place Ford overdelivers.
The automaker originally estimated the truck would hit 60 in about 4.5 seconds. The long-range model I drove did it in about 4.1 seconds, making it one of the fastest pickups ever built. And on the highway, you’ll find it continues to deliver plenty of passing power well beyond legal speeds.
One of my favorite features is 1-Pedal mode. All modern EVs rely on regenerative braking to recapture energy normally lost during braking and coasting. With some, you can turn up the level of “regen” to the point where the vehicle notably slows down simply by lifting off the throttle — much like what happens when you downshift a manual transmission two or three gears. Except here, you can bring the Lightning to a complete stop without even touching the brake pedal.
During my long first day of driving I switched on 1-Pedal mode as I headed into Texas Hill Country. During one 32-mile stretch of twisting back roads I found myself tapping the brakes just once — when I came to the T at the end of the road.
Equally impressive was the way the F-150 Lightning handled even the most torturous turns. Sure, it’s got plenty of mass, but by placing the batteries and motors below the load floor, the all-electric truck has a lower center of gravity than any other full-size model in the Ford line-up. The suspension is more than up to the task, keeping body roll to a minimum. Equally impressive was Lightning’s steering which was precise and predictable, with plenty of feedback.
For many owners, Lightning will serve as a daily driver, whether running errands or handling the weekday commute. But the Pro model is specifically targeting commercial and professional users, many of whom might also be tempted to spend for higher trim packages. And they aren’t going to settle for a truck that doesn’t deliver on the utilitarian side.
During my two days with Lightning I had the chance to put various versions of the truck through their paces, among other things hitching up to an 8,500-pound trailer hauling the new electric Arc boat. Pulling out from the Singing Waters Winery, I almost forget there was a trailer in tow. The truck accelerated almost instantly and, on the highway, it proved surprisingly easy to keep up with traffic.
The ride, I found, was much smoother than with a conventional pickup and that, again, reflected the EV’s layout. With its near 50:50 weight distribution, trailers can’t yank the back end around the way they do with a nose-heavy gas model.
Before wrapping up, I took the Lightning out on a long off-road trail through the woods surrounding the winery. No, this isn’t an FX-4. I’m not sure how well you could handle Moab or the Rubicon Trail. But the electric pickup proved more than adept at everything I could throw at it, from rock crawling to splashing through a mud bog.
Lightning boasts 8.4 inches of ground clearance and, with its sealed battery pack and motors, can ford nearly two feet of water. By the numbers, it boasts an approach angle of 24.4 degrees, a breakover of 17.6 degrees and a departure angle of 23.6 degrees.
2022 Ford F-150 Lightning Platinum Specifications
|Dimension||L: 232.7 inches/W: 96 inches/H: 78.3 inches/Wheelbase: 145.5 inches|
|Powertrain||Two 210 kWh permanent magnet synchronous motors; 4WD|
|Fuel Economy||73 mpg city/60 mpg highway/66 mpg combined|
|Performance Specs||580 horsepower and 775 pound-feet of torque|
|Price||Base price: $90,874; As tested: $93,509, including $1,695 delivery fee|
|On-Sale Date||Available now|
After spending several days behind the wheel of the 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning I can tell you that I’m personally looking forward to taking delivery of my own version of the pickup. And I expect that as word gets out, there’ll be even more truckers who’ll see reason to switch from gas to electric. The Lightning does pretty much everything the classic version of the F-150 can manage — only better. It delivers great performance, plenty of cargo and towing capacity and, depending upon the trim, all the features you might expect from a luxury vehicle.
Even better, you can get into the Lightning for a surprisingly affordable price, the Pro package starting at just $39,974. Of course, you can run that figure up fast with more upscale trim packages, the Platinum starting at $90,874. The model I drove came in at $93,509, including $1,695 in delivery fees.
Those looking for an all-electric pickup do have other options. GMC launched the Hummer EV Edition 1, albeit at a price of $112,000, late last year. About the same time, startup Rivian began delivering the new RT1. And we’ll see plenty more battery trucks during the next few years, including the Ram 1500 EV and Chevrolet Silverado EV. Ford CEO Jim Farley recently dropped a hint that a smaller model is in the works, as well.
But, at least for now, the new Ford Lightning clearly sets the benchmark, and it’s changing the way Americans think about battery-electric vehicles.
2022 Ford F-150 Lightning — Frequently Asked Questions
How long will the Ford F-150 Lightning batteries last?
While early EV batteries were prone to failure at as little as 70,000 miles, today’s EV batteries are widely expected to deliver 100,000 miles or more, perhaps twice that much with only moderate degradation in range. They’re warrantied for 8 years and 100,000 miles. You’ll get longer life if you don’t use high-speed public chargers all the time.
What is the range of the Ford F-150 Lightning?
Ford has upgraded the estimates for the extended-range battery pack to a minimum 300 miles for the heaviest model, the Platinum, while other ER trims jump to 320 miles per charge. The EPA estimates for the standard-range pack remains 230 miles.
What’s special about the Ford F-150 Lightning?
Plenty. It delivers significant range — up to 320 miles per charge on some models — more power than the gas-powered F-150 Raptor, up to 2,235 pounds of payload and 10,000 pounds of towing capacity with the optional Max Tow package. The Lightning also can serve as a mobile generator, providing as much as 9.6 kilowatts of power — enough to keep the average home running for up to 10 days.