Photo by Steve Hanley for CleanTechnica

True Confessions Of A Real Ford F-150 Lightning Driver

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My life partner and I are travelling this week and watching the tide cover and then uncover the exquisite beach at Ogunquit, Maine, just as it has done twice daily for millenia. It is a peaceful and wondrous place, one that tends to refocus our minds on the rhythms of the natural world — and how they may be altered by human activity. Writing for CleanTechnica perhaps makes us more aware of how we are affecting the natural world, which is why we often do stories about electric vehicles, which have a more gentle impact on the surroundings than conventional cars. I noticed a Ford F-150 Lightning in the parking lot at our posh and outrageously expensive seaside resort. When the owner appeared, I struck up a conversation with him about his battery-electric truck. It was quite revealing.

I had never seen an F-150 Lightning up close and personal before. As luck would have it, there was a standard F-150 parked right next to it. To the untrained eye, the two trucks looked identical. It took a little while to notice the differences. The front end treatment is quite different, since the Lightning has no grille, and yet the difference may not be immediately apparent to the casual observer. It’s still a massive front end, looking like a large piece of granite sculpted into where the grille would normally be. The cargo box, when viewing both trucks from the side, appears to be a few inches shorter, but if you happened upon one during your daily adventures, the only sure clue the truck was electric would be the word LIGHTNING in tasteful blue letters on either side of the cargo box.

What To Like About The F-150 Lightning

F-150 Lightning
Photo by Steve Hanley for CleanTechnica

I will call the owner of the Ford F-150 Lightning Bob, but in truth we never formally introduced ourselves. He was busy shuttling a small army of children and beach equipment into the truck and our conversation was fairly brief. He told me he loved the power, the silence of the powertrain, and the “feel” of the truck on the road. In days gone by, drivers used to rave about the “road-hugging weight” of big, heavy American cars with their iron V-8 engines. That’s what the F-150 Lightning reminded him of. Big, solid, silent — those were the features he liked best. When it comes to weight, the Ford has plenty of heft. The F-150 Lightning can weigh as little as 6000 or as much as 6.900 pounds. That’s some road-hugging weight right there!

He also told me he was camping with a friend who drives a Tesla. They were in a remote area and his friend didn’t have enough charge in his battery to get to the nearest charger. So they recharged the Tesla using the Ford’s V2L feature. It took a while — several hours, in fact — to give the Tesla enough electrons, but eventually it all worked out. From the description I was given, it seems the charge rate was only 3 to 4 miles per hour, but that’s better than trying to push a Tesla down a dirt road by hand.

What’s Not To Like About The F-150 Lightning

Photo by Steve Hanley for CleanTechnica

I asked Bob if he was happy with his F-150 Lightning and he said yes, he was about 80% satisfied. Not exactly a ringing endorsement, is it? He loves the way it rides and drives, so what is he not happy about? CleanTechnica readers already know the answer to that question. It’s charging. It takes too long, there are not enough high power chargers, and the ones that are out there are often in use when he arrives. There is no way to reserve one in advance.

When I buttonholed Bob in the parking lot, he had just returned from a 3-hour journey to find a Level 3 charger a few towns away. His family was at the beach or in the pool the whole time and he was feeling unhappy about leaving them to go charge the truck. There are actually four ChargePoint Level 2 chargers just a 5-minute walk away, but he didn’t have the ChargePoint app and didn’t know about them until I told him. He also said he was tired of being late to appointments because he had to stop to charge along the way.

Ford has now joined the Tesla Supercharger network, but Bob has yet to receive the adapter he needs to use the Supercharger stations. He also was uninformed about how he would pay Tesla for a charging session once he had the adapter. That is on Ford for not clearly explaining how the process works. Bob also bemoaned the fact that there are very few pull-through sites where people towing a trailer can charge. My colleague Jennifer Sensiba has written about that issue recently.

He also vacations in Florida every winter, but said he would not consider driving the F-150 Lightning to the Sunshine State because he would need to stop to charge every 250 km or so, which would add a day to the journey each way. He has a conventional gasoline-powered truck he uses for that purpose. He told me he would really like it if his truck had a generator that could keep the battery charged while on the highway. He said he had heard about the Ramcharger, which is a plug-in hybrid with a gasoline engine that is coming soon. He’s pretty sure that will be his next vehicle, not another Ford.

Bob also had some complaints about range. He lives in Quebec where it gets cold in the winter. He has noticed his range can drop by almost 50% when the temperature drops, which means even more time spent charging. Also, when the original tires wore out, he replaced them with tires that had a more aggressive tread better suited to digging a path through snow. He says they caused a 15% drop in range after they were mounted, which did not make him happy.

The Takeaway

Readers will notice that Bob is not unhappy with his battery-electric truck. He likes it just fine, in fact. It is the lack of charging infrastructure that he finds distressing, and he is certainly not alone in that regard. We at CleanTechnica are passionate advocates for the EV revolution, but we recognize that if a battery-electric vehicle doesn’t fit your lifestyle, you probably shouldn’t drive one. The Porsche 911 is a great car, but makes a lousy vehicle for taking a family of four on vacation. A pickup truck is perfect for lots of driving chores, but makes a poor autocross vehicle.

The lesson here is that not every electric vehicle will fit the needs of every driver. There are still a lot of myths and mysteries about EVs. Make sure you understand what is needed to make driving an EV a joyous experience. We really want only happy campers on the journey to the electric vehicle future.

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." You can follow him on Substack and LinkedIn but not on Fakebook or any social media platforms controlled by narcissistic yahoos.

Steve Hanley has 5633 posts and counting. See all posts by Steve Hanley