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Published on March 26th, 2019 | by Jennifer Sensiba

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Is The Electric Ford Truck Test Mule Really An F-150?

March 26th, 2019 by  


Ford electric car

Yesterday, Motor1 revealed spy shots of what appears to be an electric F-150. Ford is obviously trying to hide that the test vehicle is electric, but there’s plenty of obvious evidence otherwise. The great thing is that this shows Ford is serious about electric vehicles, but it’s possible that this is not actually an F-150 under development.

Ford’s Attempt to Hide

The first obvious thing is that Ford doesn’t want observers to know the test vehicle is electric.

For one, they wrapped the whole body in strange camo just to hide the charge port. Trucks.com caught photos of the vehicle last month plugged into what appears to be DC fast charging (most likely CCS). Thus, we know not only that it’s electric, but that it’s plug is hidden in a strange spot on the front bumper. Had we not seen last month’s spy shots, it might not even be possible to know.

The other more comical thing they did was install a fake exhaust pipe. From a distance and from the right angle, the pipe looks legitimate, but when viewed from the rear, it’s obvious that the pipe doesn’t actually connect to anything but the frame of the truck.

Finally, the truck’s body is obviously lifted from the frame a bit to accommodate the battery pack, but Ford attempted to blend this in with running boards. A closer look makes it pretty obvious that there’s a battery compartment of some kind behind the steps.

The Rear Suspension Tells Us A LOT

Most outlets noticed the independent rear suspension, but didn’t know that it was an off-the-shelf rear suspension from an Expedition. Simple Google search for “Expedition IRS” will give you detailed images that are a dead match for what appears under the EV test truck.

For those unfamiliar with trucks, it’s important to point out that Ford has not released any trucks without a solid rear axle. This video explains the differences and pros/cons of solid axles and independent suspensions. In short, an electric truck or SUV is probably going to get better range with the weight savings of fully independent suspension, but will be weaker for off-road use and heavy towing.

Either way, we can see that Ford is working on a framed vehicle and not a crossover or Tesla-style “skateboard.” The F-150 body isn’t designed to work without an underlying frame, for one. Also, the Expedition is a body-on-frame vehicle with independent rear suspension, so there has to be a frame for those components to all work together.

But is this test mule meant to be an electric F-150, or is it meant to be something else? There’s good evidence for both.

On the one hand, Ford was caught in 2015 testing the next-generation Expedition with a crudely installed F-150 body. This enabled the company to try to throw off spy photographers and journalists just like they’re trying today. Ultimately, though, the independent rear suspension only ended up being released in an SUV and not in any trucks. With that history in mind, it’s quite likely that Ford is testing an SUV like the Expedition for EV duty and may not actually intend to release an electric pickup based on this test platform.

On the other hand, Ford could change its mind and use this for some trucks. There are rumors that Ford intends to release at least one variant of the F-150 with independent rear suspension. The company might decide to have the electric and hybrid variants use independent suspension for lower weight and better aerodynamics to get better electric range, while reserving solid axles for heavier-duty gas versions of the truck.

Why Is This a Big Deal?

The biggest change here is that a big player in the truck market is looking into electrification. Unlike startups like Rivian and Atlis, Ford has big investments in its internal combustion platforms that would be wasted with a transition to electric. This shows that the company is seriously spending time on EVs anyway, and not just paying lip service.

The other big deal here is that an electric F-150 and/or Expedition would be a great vehicle for people who have thus far been opposed to going electric. This would serve the needs of most truck and SUV owners, and most of their wants. Also, truck and SUV enthusiasts could find a lot to like with such a vehicle. Even with independent suspension front and rear, there’s still a lot of off-road capability that you won’t find with something like the Tesla Model Y.

If Ford follows through and releases an EV based on anything remotely similar to this test vehicle, it will give the transition to electric vehicles a very big push, and I’m sure everybody writing for and reading CleanTechnica would LOVE to see that.

As reported in January, Ford says an electric F-150 is indeed coming someday. These spy shots make that statement feel a lot more real.

Related story featuring the Ford F-150:

 
 
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About the Author

Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to explore the Southwest US with her partner, kids, and animals.



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