It's a shame we’ll never know the exact number of Americans the Ford F-150 Lightning will introduce to the power of electric vehicles. There have been plenty of EVs released in the last decade, but market penetration still hovers in the low single digits. The great news here is that the F-150, America’s best-selling vehicle for decades, is particularly valuable as an ambassador for zero-emission technology, and America needs more EVs.
There's no question the Lighting will have the chops to impress this new audience, since Ford has made sure to wring it through the same battery of tests it puts all of its new F-150 models through. Part of that testing takes place at Ford's Michigan Proving Grounds, which is where I was able to take a ride in the F-150 Lightning last week. I may have seen it before President Biden did, but we had the same impression. "This sucker's quick," Biden said during a visit to Michigan this week. He's not wrong.
Straight-Line Speed, Capable In Curves
F-150 Lightning chief engineer Linda Zhang was my driver on the speed portion of the media demonstration and while trying to show me how quick it can get from zero to 60 miles per hour, which takes somewhere between 4 and 4.5 seconds, we got up to 80 mph before she realized she'd overshot her target, quietly and without any real effort. She laughed when I joked that a lot of people will be getting tickets in one of these EVs.
Zhang worked on the gas-powered F-150 before tackling the Lightning, so she knows what it takes to make a truck that keeps on being the best-selling vehicle, year after year. That sort of boring repetition doesn't mean her job wasn't enjoyable, though.
Gallery: 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning
"This is probably the most fun product I've worked on," she said. "It's hard to not enjoy 775 foot-pounds of torque and the 0-60 and passing times like we've got."
There will be hold-outs who will die on the hill that trucks need to make powerful, V8-type noises, but the F-150 Lightning will offer a lot of tricks that the gas-powered models simply can't. You can read about the truck's backup home-power option and other features (lockable, water-resistant frunk, anyone?) in our reveal article here.
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For example, compared to SUVs and CUVs, trucks tend to weigh more to deal with heavier loads, and they need massive amounts of torque to move their cargo. Well, more weight and tons of torque is exactly what an electric powertrain offers (a maximum of 775 pound-feet in the F-150 Lightning).
As a bonus, the automaker's FX4 capabilities from its internal combustion trucks are basically built into the Lightning by virtue of the electric powertrain. But, with a low center of gravity and more even weight distribution than in a gas-powered F-150, the Lightning is simply more stable, so you're not jostled as you would be in a standard pick-up truck. An independent rear suspension also helps with roadholding, as well as a ride that's less truck-like and more like a capable CUV.
Truck Stuff, But Electric
I didn't actually get to drive the F-150 Lightning (Biden's got me beat there), but riding through the towing portion of the demonstration it was easy to tell the EV wasn't straining against the 6,000-pound load on the trailer. Instead, acceleration was nearly as effortless as it was without anything behind the truck. You feel the suspension work harder, but there weren’t bigger bounces than you would expect in any other truck with a trailer. The smooth track helped with this admittedly, but the F-150 Lightning has gone through millions of customer-equivalent test miles, so hopefully the towing experience will be okay on bumpy roads too.
The final demonstration featured the F-150 Lightning's off-road chops. While the EV certainly scraped its underside on the top of the same steep moguls that Ford uses to test the ICE F-150s, the skid plate under the entire vehicle – necessary to protect the battery and motors – did admirable double-duty keeping the truck mobile in these kinds of rough bumps. This is how some people use their trucks, and Ford made sure the F-150 Lightning will be able to handle those moments.
Unlike the various off-road drive modes in the conventional F-150, the Lightning version has a single "off-road" mode. Turning this on softens the initial pedal response, giving you more accelerator finesse so you're not spinning tires on loose surfaces. Off-road mode also changes the truck's traction control, stability control, torque delivery, and ABS calibration. The F-150 Lightning calculates wheel slip and then, taking torque, steering angle, and other factors into control, it decides where to send power when. That's what I was told, anyway. From the passenger seat, the truck simply felt overqualified for the test tracks we were on.
Ready To Roll
In short, spending a brief amount of time in the F-150 Lightning's passenger seat made it clear the company's first electric truck has earned the "Built Ford Tough" moniker. There's only so much one can experience in 45 minutes from a passenger seat, so my recommendation now is this: if you're not one of the early adopters who is ready to put down your $100 reservation fee, wait for these things to hit dealer lots and then take a ride – or, better yet, a drive. Whatever your political affiliation, my guess is you'll agree with President Biden's assessment about quick, powerful electric trucks.