Yesterday, we (and the rest of the Internet) brought you our drive impressions of the all-electric F-150 Lightning, putting it through its paces in a variety of typically trucky situations and finding it to be a largely familiar experience behind the wheel – albeit one powered solely by electricity. If part of the challenge in getting truck customers to make the jump to electric is convincing them the experience will not be totally alien, Ford’s approach with the Lightning will pay dividends.
Here’s the thing about most electric vehicles: That enormous battery deep within its frame can, with some creativity, be used for more than just shoving a 6,000+ pound pickup down the freeway. Ford has a few ideas – some of them slickly integrated into the truck and others costing thousands in expenditure to implement. Let’s dig in.
Ford hoovered up a lot of media attention and goodwill during last year’s power outages in Texas when images of F-150s equipped with a Pro Power Onboard generator served as sources of electricity for residents who’d otherwise be left in the dark. While no one at the Blue Oval will ever say they were glad that weather event happened, you can bet your boots there were some boardroom high-fives when those images started surfacing on social media.
In those scenarios, the battery in an F-150 hybrid provided enough juice to save the day on several different streets. That amount of onboard electricity has been supersized with the Lightning, providing a large bank of power upon which owners can draw. First, like its gasoline-powered PowerBoost brother, the Lightning can be equipped with a yaffle of household-style outlets to power job site tools or party coolers and the like. All trucks get at least a 2.4kW Pro Power generator in their bed, with customers of base model Pro trims and some XLT trucks able to upgrade to a 9.6kW unit for about a grand. The bigger unit is standard on zooty Lariat and Platinum models.
This provides four power outlets in the secure frunk, a great spot to charge up battery-fed power tools, and more outlets in the bed (including a 240V) plus a couple in the cab. Ford says the 9.6kW unit, on a fully charged truck, is enough to power a typical residential construction job site for three days. Or, if you feel the need, cut almost 30 miles of plywood. We’d love to meet the person who tested that figure. And, yes, Pro Power Onboard is usable while the vehicle is in motion; bed-wetting lawyers haven’t figured out a way to scupper that functionality – yet.
Buried in Lightning’s infotainment menus – or the Ford app – is the ability to halt the use of these outlets when the truck’s battery discharges to a certain level. This means you won’t be out of luck after helping to partially recharge your buddy’s electric car, a feat the Lightning can easily accomplish. Gives a whole new meaning to providing a jump for someone, we figure. But the real story, and one in which many are interested, is Lightning’s ability to power an entire house through the Intelligent Backup Power system. Ryan O’Gorman, Ford’s Energy Services manager, walked us through some of the gritty details.
As many of you surmised in the comments yesterday, there is an outlay of cash for some hardware. First, you’ll need the Ford Charge Station Pro, a Level 2 charging station that’s designed to be installed in residential homes. Unlike other chargers of its type, it uses a big Level 3 style connector – that’s the one with a round connector underneath which there is an additional flat connector. Remember that last part; it’ll come in handy later.
This charge station is included gratis with extended range trucks ($1,300 otherwise) where it’ll force-feed about 30 miles of range per charging hour back into the truck from your home’s electricity supply. Note well: This is a brute of a unit, requiring 80 amps in yer panel box, a sum not available in more than a few older homes in which money-fuelled upgrades may be required. You’ll also need to pay someone who knows what they’re doing to install the thing.
With the Charge Station Pro up and running, it can then be paired with the Intelligent Backup Power unit. This is the so-called home integration unit branded by a company called Sunrun, priced at $3,895 and designed to sync up one’s home with their snazzy new F-150 Lightning. Now, recall that bigger-than-necessary connector on the charging station – the reason for this is that it is bi-directional, meaning it can draw power from the truck’s battery instead of just acting like a typical charger.
With the Sunrun unit properly installed and the truck plugged into the system, a transfer switch can trip if the normal residential supply of power from the grid is interrupted. This will cause the truck to stop charging itself and feed power back into the home, converted from DC to AC along the way. According to Ford, a fully charged extended-range Lightning should be able to juice a house for up to three days without any power rationing – using hot water, running the fridge, playing video games, all the essentials. Dialing usage back to Amish levels could stretch reserves to over a week.
There’s potential here to take advantage of time-of-day power rates, too. Imagine you arrive home from work around dinner time, the Lightning roughly 80 percent charged after having it plugged in all day at work. It could be possible to plug the truck into this at-home set up and run your house for the evening off the partially charged truck instead of paying for grid power. Then, when all hands go to bed and electricity is cheaper, the system could flip a switch to put the house back on the public grid – which will then charge the truck for your morning commute. Toss in some solar panels and one’s dependence on the grid could become very light.
Which is part of the Lightning’s appeal, of course. Since it’s more than a battery on wheels, this truck moves beyond being just transportation and becomes part and parcel of a whole-home solution. Suddenly, signing a note at the Ford dealer doesn’t just bring home a new pickup; correctly equipped, it can be an integral part of how your house operates and there is an argument to be made this is all just the beginning of home and vehicle integration. Ford’s veep of electric vehicle programs, Darren Palmer, told this author that when solid-state batteries are ready for prime time it’ll “change the game again”, suggesting the company is looking a lot further into the future than the trucks (and their batteries) you see here.
Ford also knows the majority of EV charging is done at home. These tools leverage that and the cynics (raises hand) will point out it’s all just another way for a company to weave its tentacles into more corners of our daily lives. Knowing one’s EV could act as a supplemental energy source turns the vehicle into a lot more than simple transportation. Turns out the electric revolution could have an impact far beyond just how we get to work.[Images: Ford, © 2022 Matthew Guy/TTAC]
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