Despite claims by other automakers, the Ford F-150 Lightning was actually the first all-electric pickup to hit the market - forgetting of course the somewhat unsuccessful Chevrolet S-10s and Ford Rangers pf the late 1990s. Helping Ford get production going first was the fact that the Lightning is based on the existing F-150. Offered only as a 4-door SuperCrew with 5.5-foot bed, the all-electric Lighting's most intriguing features include a front trunk and the ability to reverse charge in the event of a power outage.
Trim levels include Pro, XLT, Lariat and Platinum. Pro, XLT and Lariat get a 98-kWh battery pack that delivers 452 horsepower and 775 lb-ft of torque and an EPA-estimated range of 230 miles. Standard on the Platinum and optional on XLT and Lariat is a 131-kWh batter pack that boosts output to 580 horsepower and extends the EPA range rating to 320 miles. Towing capacity is limited to 10,000 pounds. Payload capacity is 2,000 pounds.
Prices have seen several increases, but currently start at $48,000 and climb to more than $90,000. Standard safety features include forward-collision warning with automatic-emergency braking, blind-spot warning with rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keeping assist and rear parking sensors. Other standard features include LED headlights, DC fast-charging (up to 155kW), dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, digital instrument cluster, 12-inch infotainment screen, and 8 120-volt household-style power outlets.
Though the F-150 Lightning is a very heavy truck, it accelerates quite briskly. Platinum models will zip from 0 to 60 MPH in a scant 4 seconds and trim the quarter miles trap in just 12.7 seconds. Expect base models to be slightly slower, but still quite impressive given the 6,000-plus-pound curb weight. As is the case with most EVs throttle response is immediate off the line and in mid-range passing situations. Once up to highway speed, acceleration is somewhat less impressive, but still quite good.
Since there is no transmission, there's no shift shock. All models get all-wheel drive. However, it is through the road all-wheel drive, meaning there is no connection between the front and rear axle. Still, though computers, power is directed to the wheels with the most traction and the brakes can be applied to limit wheel spin. There's also no 4WD low range, however, the electric motors provide maximum torque at all speeds, so the Lighting has plenty of power for off-roading.
As stated, EPA range is 230 miles with the smaller battery and 320 with the larger battery. However, that's best-case scenario. Warm and cold weather will negatively affect that range. Though Ford states that Lighting can charge at up to 155 kW, that's only from 0-80 percent. After that, charge speed is greatly reduced, and it takes quite a while to top off the last 20 percent. Charge speeds on wall plug are about 3 miles per hour. At a Level 2 charger, speeds increase to between 15-30 miles per hour. At a DC fast charger, Ford claims F-150 Lighting can go from 15 to 80 percent in about 45 minutes.
Handling isn't the strong suit of any pickup, and the Lightning is no exception. In sharp turns and quick transitions, the sheer size and weight of Lighting quickly remind drivers to slow down. And though the battery pack is placed fairly low, creating a lower center of gravity, it has so much mass that it dulls agility in changes of direction. Steering is typical pickup-truck numb, but at least it is accurate, and the Lightning doesn't wander on the highway. Brakes have a somewhat artificial feeling in hard stops but feel quite natural most of the time.
Because F-150 Lightning is an EV Ford was able to program it with "one-pedal" driving. When selected, this mode allows drivers to all but forget about the brake pedal and modulate speed by pressing and releasing the accelerator. Lift off the throttle a bit and Lightning slows like a traditional gas vehicle, lift all the way and it slows as if you pressed the brakes. This is designed to maximize energy capture during braking and helps to extend range. Though there's a learning curve, one-pedal mode quickly becomes second nature and you end up almost never using the friction brakes.
Another feature available in Lighting is Ford's Blue Cruise semi-autonomous driving system. Like the system found in General Motors products, Blue Cruise allows the driver to take their hands off the wheels when activated and can only be used on registered highways. In practice Blue Cruise works very well to maintain lane centering and appropriate speeds, even in stop-and-go driving.
Because F-150 Lighting is electric, it's very quiet. There's a mild hum in acceleration, but otherwise the electric motors are whisper quiet. Road and wind noise are nicely quelled around town and there's only a hint of wind rush at extra-legal highway speeds.
Much like the regular F-150, the Lightning interior is cavernous, and the layout is intuitive and well organized. Materials vary depending on trim but are always sturdy and price appropriate. The front seats are comfortable and supportive and can be equipped with heating, ventilation, three-level lumbar adjustment and even a massage function. They can also recline to near flat so occupants can take a nap while charging (not sure this is such a great idea). The rear seating area is positively huge with plenty of space for three full-size adults. The interior is also quite versatile, incorporating the fold-down shifter that allows for a center-console workspace.
On the tech side Lightning has it all. The highlight is undoubtedly the available 15.5-inch center touchscreen. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration is standard, and Ford's onboard navigation system is responsive and cleanly designed, and can help find EV charging stations when called upon. The Platinum includes an 18-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system and there is a comprehensive suite of advanced driver aids including high-definition cameras, a built-in scale to help with balancing trailer weight, trailer reversing guidance and an integrated trailer brake controller.
Any discussion about cargo capacity starts with the huge 14 cubic-foot front trunk (frunk). It is designed for wet or dry storage, has a drain plug and even include auxiliary power outlets. At least for now, F-150 Lightning comes only with the 5.5-foot bed, which limits overall payload capacity somewhat. Interior storage space about with lots of covered and open cubbies throughout.
Bottom Line -- F-150 Lighting is an impressive, and, at times, expensive pickup. It maintains nearly all of the strengths of the gas F-150 and throws in additional functionality like the front trunk and reverse charging. Towing takes a hit (and also greatly reduces range) and battery performance in hot and cold weather are somewhat troublesome. Still, Lighting should appeal to traditional pickup buyers looking to make the leap to electrification. Of course you'll have to get in line ...