This week, Ford invited a group of journalists out to Chicago to get an up-close look at the new for 2021 Ford F-150 Hybrid pickup, and — as the first press event many of us had gotten out to since the COVID pandemic kicked off in earnest — we wasted no time in donning the Ford-branded face masks and poking and prodding at the big pickup to try and suss out all its different features.
Full credit to Ford, too, because there are lots of F-150 fun facts and top tips to learn about, if you’re so inclined. I feel like we are, so let’s start with the most obvious question mark of all: the hybrid pickup powertrain.
2021 Ford F-150 Hybrid | Under the Hood
Ford has tucked the hybrid F-150’s electric motor between the ICE and the 10-speed automatic transmission. If you know where the torque converter “goes” in a setup like this, you’ve got the idea. That keeps things relatively simple on the manufacturing side, and ensures a nearly 90% crossover in powertrain parts, too, which allows Ford to employ its economies of scale and keep costs down/profits up.
The view under the hood of this particular Ford F-150 Hybrid “Platinum edition” pickup will be pretty familiar to current F-150 owners at first glance. Sure, there’s a big aluminum cube tucked into the near left corner with a bunch of orange wires hanging out of it, but beyond that, it looks pretty conventional. There’s a big plastic shroud over the Ecoboost V6 that’s covering all the neat bits of that, as ever, but there’s nothing under the hood that screams “Electric Future!” or even “Hybrid!” in the way that, say, the engine bay of Ford’s own CobraJet electric dragster does.
In fact, there’s nothing on the truck at all that screams “Hybrid!” or even whispers it. Walking around the F-150, I counted precisely 0 (zero) “Hybrid” badges, labels, stickers — anything. And that, I think, is an utterly genius marketing move from Ford. Here’s why.
2021 Ford F-150 Hybrid | Mobile Job Site
Ford is positioning the F-150 Hybrid — and the upcoming pure electric F-150 — as work trucks, and the extra batteries and electric motors are being positioned here in a way that is more in service of the job site than it is in service of the planet. Those are the optics, at least, and they make sense for a vehicle that’s marketed as “Ford Tough” and to a set of “core buyers” who view almost anything short of willful and deliberate environmental destruction as “soft.” (“Core buyers,” by the way, is a term I learned from Harley-Davidson that describes its aging, narrow-minded, and troublingly profitable white male customers living in flyover states as neutrally as possible.)
To that end, the hybrid F-150 is a genuine asset to anyone who actually uses their truck for, you know, work! The truck’s tailgate has useful features like pencil holders, built in rulers, and more. The real trick, though, is nestled in the near corner of the bed, and it’s a full suite of electrical sockets ranging from 110 to 220, and even a specialty connector. These outlets allow the new F-150 Hybrid to act as an on-site generator — in “generator mode,” natch — to provide electrical power to drills, table saws, jig saws, and air compressors.
Real man s**t, in other words.
Now, this is just my opinion, but positioning the hybrid and (eventually) electric versions of its new pickup line as not “green” options, but better options for its hardest working customers is something of a masterstroke from Ford. In the same way that the hybrid Honda Civic was always the best Civic, the new Ford F-150 Hybrid is the very best F-150 currently available. It’s the truckiest of all the Ford trucks, in other words, electricity and baby seals be damned. And, while that may not be an approach that’s going to coax a lot of Nissan LEAF or Tesla Model S buyers into Ford showrooms, I think more than a few King Ranch buyers might find themselves drawn to the hybrid pickup — and a few more MPGs times tens of thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of Ford F-150s is more than enough to put a real dent in the F-150 market’s overall gas/oil consumption.
So, you know, any positive change.
2021 Ford F-150 Hybrid | Conclusions are Scarce
The new 2021 Ford F-150 Hybrid is something of an enigma. It’s got some “green” tech, sure, but it’s not really “green,” unless you compare it to the other high-torque V8 monsters from Ford’s lineup. It is definitely an improvement, fuel and emissions-wise, from Ford’s old V10 and Powerstroke diesels, and that is very clearly something when you talk about a vehicle like the Ford F-150, which is an economy in itself. Indeed, the Ford F-series trucks generate more annual revenue than industrial powerhouses like Apple and Samsung, and if those companies reduced emissions by 5% or whatever, that would be news. Which makes this F-150 Hybrid news, I guess.
I still think that’s the wrong approach, though, and Ford has it right. Electricity isn’t just greener and more responsible than internal combustion — it is indisputably better. The hybrid trucks Ford makes and sells over the next few years will make that point, and the electric F-150s and Rivians and Hummers and, yes, Cybertrucks of the world will hammer the final nails into the internal combustion coffin for good.
That’s just my take, though — what’s yours? Do you think Ford is playing a very smart round of chess here with this un-badged hybrid, or are they taking the cowards’ way out, and building this as some sort of CAFE compliance vehicle? Scroll on down to the comments and let us know.