Lightning Reinforces Strength of Electric Pickups

CHATHAM, Mass. – The sophomore year of the Ford F-150 Lightning continues proving electrification does not diminish the utility and capability, not to mention the comfort and amenities, of the iconic full-size pickup truck.

We drove a top-of-the-range 2022 Ford Lightning Platinum last year and there were very few significant changes for the 2023 model year. These changes were limited to a 10-mile range boost (to 240 miles) for the base-battery specification; the availability of Ford’s Pro Trailer Hitch Assist (a system which controls steering, throttle and brake inputs automatically when towing), and, unfortunately, a higher price.

The base 2023 Lightning received a $12,000 price boost reflecting increased material costs and supply-chain issues. The Lightning’s $55,974 base price still means it is the least expensive electric pickup on the market and Ford still offers the most diverse EV pickup model range.

Our 2023 Ford Lightning Lariat had a $74,474 base price, some $7,000 more than the introductory 2022 version. Comprehensively equipped, including the optional ($10,850) extended-range (320 miles) battery package, the 2023 Ford Lightning Lariat I tested totaled $90,754 – very competitive amongst the few premium-level EV pickups available.

Powertrain up to the task

Unless your needs are for heavy-duty pickup chores, like pulling a really large trailer, the Lightning’s dual-motor powertrain should never leave you hankering for a gasoline or diesel engine . . . except, possibly, when the temperature drops to very frigid levels (more on that in a moment).

Everything I said about the 2022 Lightning Platinum tested last September is true of the 2023 Lariat extended I sampled last week.

A pair of electric motors, transverse-mounted front and rear, provide the F-150 Lightning with full-time four-wheel drive. Equipped with the extended battery, the Lightning is the most powerful F-150 ever produced – a calculated 580 horsepower (433 kW) and 775 pounds-feet of torque (1050 Nm).

This powertrain produces a quick truck, and, since it is an electric, it moves without engine or exhaust noise, a virtual stealth machine. The automotive media which puts a stopwatch on the process reported a performance-car like 0-60 miles-per-hour time of 4.4 seconds for the Lightning. And, thanks to the instantaneous torque generated by electric motors, the oomph is there every time you want it, allowing the Lightning to scoot; not normally a pickup quality.

The Lightning battery, which sits in low in the frame providing a lower center of gravity (and more sure-footed handling) than the other F-150 models, features a liquid-cooled, lithium-ion pouch design with internal management, and 131 kW energy capacity.

Keeping the battery charged is enhanced by Ford’s inclusion of a dual on-board charging system which allows everything from plugging into a standard 110-Volt outlet to using a Level 3 DC fast charger. Using a 240V system at home means adding some 30 miles of range per hour and fully charging from 15 percent to 100 percent in about eight hours.

On the road, Lightning owners have access to the BlueOval™ Charging Network, North America’s largest public charging network through the FordPass smartphone app, with more than 63,000 charging plugs (and growing) across the U.S. On a 150-kilowatt DC fast charger, the extended-range F-150 Lightning is targeted to get up to 54 miles of range in 10 minutes and charge from 15 percent to 80 percent in about 41 minutes.

The F-150 Lightning takes the guesswork out of when and where to re-charge with FordPass Power My Trip, which identifies charging routes before even starting your journey. In the truck, Intelligent Range accurately calculates range while factoring in weather, traffic, payload, towing weights and more. Cloud-connected navigation on SYNC 4 (standard on the Lariat) also identifies public charging locations and prompts owners to charge at convenient points on each drive.

Extreme cold + EV = disappointing operation

I was aware of the impact extreme cold weather could have on battery-operated equipment, one of the reasons for reluctance by those living in America’s northern tier from buying EVs (as well as a limited public-charging network). Thanks to a harsh cold snap during my review period with the Lariat, I experienced this phenomenon first-hand.

Near-record low temperatures hit the Northeast las weekend, with lows of -4° Fahrenheit and windchills of -30° during a frigid 36-hour period. I kept the Lightning plugged into my trusty Autel MaxiCharger AC Wallbox Home unit whenever I was not driving it as per Ford’s instructions.

But the weather’s impact showed itself when I took the Ford for a drive. When I set out, the truck indicated a range of 295 miles on 100-percent charge (normally it indicated between 318-325). Every mile or so I watched this number drop; when I completed my travels, I had gone 65 miles and the indicated range had plummeted to 220 miles – essentially, the actual range was virtually half the indicated range.

Luckily, I only saw this situation when the temperatures were well below 20°; when they were in the 40s, range was what the truck said it would be.

Extremes like I experienced are rare on Cape Cod, but there are parts of the country in which owning an EV means a lot of extra thought.

Amenities, conveniences and features befitting a premium vehicle

The test Lariat was lavishly equipped, both in the mechanical and comfort/amenities categories. Included with the extended-battery package is Ford’s Co-Pilot360 Active 2.0 system and Blue Cruise 1.0 with Active Park Assist 2.0, both part of the Blue Oval’s advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) and semi-autonomous-vehicle capabilities.

These systems combine to make driving the large (231.7-inches long, 79.9 wide, 77.2 high with a 145.4-inch wheelbase) pickup relatively easy. The ADAS list includes blind-spot alert with cross-traffic alert; evasive-steering assist; forward-sensing system; intelligent cruise control; lane-keeping system; post-collision braking; pre-collision assist with automatic-emergency braking; and 360° surround-vision camera.

Fixed running boards makes ingress/egress less difficult and once within the cabin, up to five occupants will find the cavernous interior a quiet, comfortable place for long or short rides (even when the bed is empty, the ride of the Lightning Lariat was smooth, comfortable and never jarring or jittery, the general knock on pickup trucks as passenger vehicles).

The most difficult aspect of storing one’s stuff is remembering which of the many cubbies, bins, compartments and shelves was used; Ford’s engineers find functional use for all of the space inside the Lightning.

They also filled it with amenities like leather seats (electrically adjustable, heated and ventilated up front, heated for the outside two occupants in the rear); heated steering wheel; electrically adjustable pedals; automatic dual-zone climate control, and (again, part of the extended-battery package) dual-pane panoramic moonroof.

Dominating the interior is a vertically oriented (think tablet) 15.5-inch color touch LCD providing controls for the infotainment system – Ford Sync®4A — and a multitude of vehicle settings.

The infotainment system, which projects the sound through an eight-speaker Bang & Olefsun B&O Sound system, includes wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto amongst its many features.

I have barely scratched the surface of the features included with the F-150 Lightning Lariat as more can be found by clicking HERE as well as referring to my review of the 2022 version.

Lightning proves EV pickups are for real

A second week in a Ford Lightning reinforced my belief electrification can work very well in the pickup-truck universe. The F-150 does not lose any of its major capabilities when dual-electric motors replace the more traditional gasoline engine. Towing is still possible with trailers up to 10,000 pounds as well as an onboard capacity of up to 2,000 pounds (with more than 400 of that in a frunk at the truck’s front end).

The Lightning is quieter than any internal-combustion-engined pickup (both inside and out), is more environmentally friendly and, unless long trips are part of the mix (where the question of charging times becomes a concern), easy to live with as long as you have a 240-volt outlet for efficient charging.

The Lightning is a real full-size pickup well deserving its place in the iconic F-Series range.

Next week TBR Drives the RAM Rebel full-size pickup.

Mike Geylin
Mike Geylin

Mike Geylin is the Editor-in-Chief at Hagman Media. Geylin has been in automotive communications for five decades working in all aspects of the industry from OEM to supplier to motorsports as well as reporting for both newspapers and magazines on the industry.